Column (Carolyn Brown): Kevin Hart story reflects unfair pressure on athletes

Carolyn Brown

My column last week explored firsthand the pressure that is placed on Division I athletes. This pressure has followed athletes through their entire lives, so in a sense they have felt this type of pressure before – not to the same extent, but pressure still. For any athlete to make it to the Division I level, they must encounter pressure from many angles throughout their years of competition.

We have all heard of the athlete who works so hard that by the time they even make it to college he or she is completely run down and burned out; the goal of attending a Division I program is no longer in the picture. Or the athlete that works so hard that a Division I program is all he or she ever wanted; the athlete achieves this goal and continues to play the sport, competing at the top level.

Then there is the all star – the athlete who worked hard but had the natural ability to make it in the top from the very beginning, the athlete who has been watched by scouts since high school, maybe even middle school. However, have you ever heard of the athlete that wanted to perform in a top program so badly they lied in order to make people think they were a top recruit?

For Kevin Hart, a high school football player from Nevada, the pressure of athletics reached a point that many may be able to relate. His entire life he dreamed of playing football at a Pac-10 program.

Unfortunately for Hart and his limited skill set, his dream was not becoming a reality. When he realized that a Division I program was not going to be his path, he decided to take matters into his own hands and lied, saying that two huge football programs were looking to sign him to their squads. Hart said that he chose University of California at Berkeley over the University of Oregon – two huge football programs renowned for their football skills in the Pac-10 conference.

At Fenley High School in Northern Nevada, this was huge news. One of their own was recruited to a big-name school. A news conference was held on his behalf. With the coach by his side, Hart told his story of his recruiting process. Reporters asked their questions and then submitted their stories to be published in papers all over Nevada.

When news reached Cal Berkeley, the coach denied ever recruiting Hart. The same response came from the University of Oregon’s head coach. A statement was then released, and Hart admitted to making up his entire intent to sign with a Pac-10 program. He stated to some affect that his dream was not becoming a reality, so when he first said that Cal was looking at him, his dream started to become real. Was there this much pressure on this athlete that lying was the only way?

Hart apologized to many people, including his parents, his coach and his entire high school – only a few of the angles of pressure placed on athletes.

Parents continue to pressure their kids in athletics. Often, this pressure makes it hard to realize what is more important, an education or sports? Every parent wants their kid to be the best, to achieve more than they did themselves and, let’s face it, for bragging rights. We have all heard the news stories over the past few years where parents have gone crazy and even killed for their kids on the playing field.

The pressure is getting ridiculous; we all know that, but will it ever stop? The pressure just seems to be building every year. The playing field is only becoming more and more competitive, which just increases the amount of pressure for athletes at every age.

It is really horrible to think that a kid could feel so pressured by his surroundings that he felt the only way out was to lie to everyone around him, including his parents. Hart may now be out of the running of playing college sports at all, especially at the Division I level. All of the hard work and energy that went into every workout, practice and competition has now taken him to a completely different path.

The pressure that is placed on kids to excel in sports increases every year. Kids are more talented and more focused to succeed than ever before. However, it is instances like this one where we need to take a step back and wonder if the pressure that is placed on kids is too much for them to handle. It has reached the point where athletics is not about the love for the game but about pleasing the people around us – a point that should never have been reached.

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Carolyn Brown is a senior communication major from Oklahoma City, Okla. She can be reached at [email protected]