I love that high school sports are so positive. There's no business pressure to meet a monetary bottom line. High school sports are all fun, with athletes playing for the joy of the game. Sure, some of the players have potential scholarships in their future, but most of won't be playing organized sports after high school.
I was shooting the Mitty-Bellarmine boys basketball game last week. As Mitty took the court, a young man sitting near where I was standing on the court started yelling at Monarchs' star Aaron Gordon. What he was yelling doesn't matter as much as the fact it was really negative stuff. This was during warm-ups.
After a few minutes I asked the young man, who was probably 20 years old, why he was hating on my friend Aaron. He really had no answer, except that he was jealous of Aaron's skills and wanted to see him fail. I told him that Aaron is a really good person and deserves some respect.
During the game the young man kept yelling, though the crowd was loud and I don't think Aaron heard most of it. Gordon finished with 28 points in the Mitty win. Throughout the game Gordon was double and triple-teamed, hit hard every time he touched the ball and never complained.
This is what Aaron gets wherever he goes, no matter what he does. He is 17 years old and has the world watching his every move. This is the part of high school sports I don't love. This kind of pressure on a teenager is not fair to him. I spent a day with Aaron last year following him from breakfast at home, to school and to a game. He is genuine, friendly and just plain nice. I hope he can stay that way as he narrows down the list of schools he is considering for his college experience.
For most high school athletes, this pressure off the court is just not there. The next time you're at a Mitty game and someone is giving Aaron a hard time, remind them this is a high school sport being played by teenagers. Gordon might someday be a superstar, but right now he's just another teenager playing for his high school with his buddies.