ESPN and Nike are hyping "freakish athleticism" of high schoolers at The Opening. Should we buy this?
Published: Wednesday, 09 July 2014 11:52
by Zach Barnett
Before becoming Louisiana Tech's strength coach 13 months ago, Kurt Hester spent a decade and a half training athletes as the owner and director of HS2 Athletic Performance in Mandeville, La., and then as the national director of training for the D1 Sports Training Center in Nashville, Tenn. Essentially, Hester made his living helping high school athletes reach college sports, and college athletes reach the professional ranks.
Naturally, Hester spent his Tuesday evening watching ESPN's coverage of The Opening. The biggest recruiting event on the schedule, paid for by Nike and hyped by ESPN, The Opening attracts 162 of the best college prospects in America for 1-on-1 and 7-on-7 competition and combine-like training measurements.
The players run 40's, compete in an agility shuttle, do a vertical leap and complete a kneeling kettle bell toss, and then have those scores combined into a SPARQ rating.
The entire event is designed as one massive competition, so scores are ranked and then publicized on ESPN and on Twitter.
Problem is, many of these scores are inflated - unless you really want to believe that rising high school senior Taj Griffin would have really been the third-fastest person at the 2014 NFL Combine. As a seasoned strength professional, Hester knows an artifically-inflated score when he sees one.
Measurement exaggeration exists on every level of football in varying degrees. College coaches see through these numbers for the same reason NFL personnel people conduct their own measurements at the Combine and during on-campus pro days. But it's something different when ESPN and Nike combine their colossal hype-building power to turn high school athletes into something they're not - unless you truly believe Griffin is nearly a full tenth of a second faster as a high school senior than Sammy Watkins was after three years in the Clemson program.
This can't possibly lead to any unintendend consequences later on down the road, can it?