Sager on HS Sports: It’s time to save our future

Craig Sager II was born and raised in Atlanta and has grown up in the world of sports. He earned his degree at Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, where he also walked on the football team for three seasons (2008-10). Craig has worked for Score Atlanta since 2012 and has performed the duties of managing editor since the 2014 high school football season. 

Condemning what another human being does with his or her spare time is a line I rarely cross. Critiquing parents and or coaches can be similarly classified by my deeply ingrained avoidances. There is a concerning trend in youth and high school sports, however, that compels me to cross these regarded lines. If we remain silent, kids will undoubtedly have to sacrifice more and more in the name of sports. It is inevitable and it is time for a much-needed reform and awakening.

There is a selfish and ignorant disregard of consequences that is polluting sports and society. The historical amnesia that has wrecked societies time and time again has met its match and courted with the undiscovered bearing we each hold to the world around us.

The amount of adults that remain oblivious to the cause and effects of our actions (or lack there of) confounds me. Indeed, it is much easier to think of the future as a fixed entity waiting for us off in the distance, but it is much more like the next page of a chapter we have already started writing.

Sports will never stop evolving and there is no way of knowing with certainty where they are heading. There are only ways to steer that course. At every moment, each and every one of us shapes the future together, whether we choose to believe that or not. And that is a reality we should embrace if we want a sustainable tomorrow. We must strive towards viable solutions to arrive at a sustainable future, or we will fall into another progress trap.


As athletes become more skilled and morph into bigger, faster and stronger versions of their predecessors, other changes reciprocally occur. Changes that on this current path are not sustainable. As competition escalates, so does the demand for more time. Three days a week turns into four days a week and four days a week becomes five days a week to keep pace with the competition. Weekly film sessions turn into daily film sessions and two camera angles at practice turns into three angles and so on. Virtual reality technology is already in use at Stanford football practices and more revolutionary changes are right around the corner.

Change does not have to be bad. Technology is not necessarily bad either. In fact, advancements can be incredibly beneficial to our lives, but we need to remember that negative consequences at least remain in the realm of possibility. Letting change happen without offering the slightest bit of thought to where we are heading next is a dangerous, but avoidable, fate.  As parents, current athletes, former athletes and as human beings in general, we have to understand that a slippery slope can be a cruel reality and not just a mild fallacy.

Without awareness and a voice of reason, the foxes will be guarding the henhouse.

Coaches are forced to keep up with this race to the top for obvious reasons, but at what cost? It is a coach’s job to win and develop his or her players, but winning can easily become prioritized over a fading balance of life outside of sports and the option of enjoying multiple sports. The praise of winning becomes increasingly deafening, while the importance of what a coach means in a player’s life is taken for granted. The cost of winning increases and so do the salaries. The more money on the table, the more pressure to get the job done.

What frustrates me most with the amount of adults that don’t understand the need to control this progress, is the criticism my generation receives. Millennials are often the butt of the joke, the blame for today’s problems and the bratty ‘participation trophy’ originators. I have never been a fan of the participation trophies either, but I’d much rather my kid come home with a participation trophy, than to hold the belief that he or she is measured by a piece of plastic or score of a game in the first place. This backwards thinking and unquenchable thirst for winning is unhealthy and insulting participation trophies and not the greed and ignorance driving sports down this dangerous path is shameful.

A decade ago, I was enjoying my senior year of high school and I had enough freedom to have a productive summer outside of football. Our two days of workouts a week and our occasional passing league was enough to allow me to put in a full effort and do work outside of practice on my own. I learned how to push myself and I balanced a life of learning and playing the game I love, while stocking shelves at Publix. I was able to play pickup basketball with my friends throughout the summer, without worrying about the squats I would have to do the next morning with a grown man whistling in my ear.

My alma mater recently released its calendar for the summer, and 22 of the first 25 days of June are filled with a summer workout, with a significant amount of those days involving both a morning and afternoon activity.  This is more than a football issue, but I focus on the gridiron because a sport that is only guaranteed 10 games in the Fall is becoming more demanding at an unprecedented rate.

I know that there are people that disagree with me. I know that winning and sports are all that matters to a lot of insecure and misled members of our society. My words, however, are not aimed for them. I know they won’t hear them. I speak to all the parents, coaches and players that understand the negative consequences that this path will have if it continues. We are the ones that must become the voice of reason and protect future generations of athletes as well as the role sports play in society. We are the ones that must ensure that sports remain a special place that teaches us what matters in life, and not that nothing else matters. Remember the joy of just playing the game, before that option is left to the imagination.




3 Responses to “Sager on HS Sports: It’s time to save our future”

  1. Susan Pike
    March 18, 2016 at 7:11 am #

    Totally agree! Almost impossible for HS kids on sports teams to do anything else! Also – coaches do not want kids to play multiple sports either!

  2. Don Startup
    March 18, 2016 at 8:23 am #

    Well said Mr. Sager. Thank you for voicing concern…it is not misplaced. We need parents to take a stand. I love sports dearly…played them…had kids who played them through high school, college and into the professional ranks, but I agree with you. We must protect our kids and teach them that there is more, so much more to life than sports. Thank you.

  3. Lynn Dudley
    March 25, 2016 at 7:30 am #

    Great insight Craig . . . the passion in high school sports has to be for the players and the process not the power and the championships.

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