VAN WADE — High School athletes should play for love, not money

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, June 29, 2022

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There has already been such a great debate over NCAA athletes making money and getting involved with endorsement deals.

After the NCAA approved that, it has been a slippery slope as far as what schools various college recruits end up attending and how much “dough” they can bring in.

Just look up the Jimbo Fisher-Nick Saban controversy.

Now, it seems in several states, they want to allow high school athletes to earn the same type of benefits.

In a handful of states, high school athletes have started making endorsement deals with pizza parlors, apparel companies and smartphone apps — cashing in on their status as star players.

Throughout much of the country, such deals would still cause students to forfeit their athletic eligibility. But the landscape is shifting quickly, and to me, personally, that would be a crying shame.

Some officials in other states, not Texas, feel athletes should be free to capitalize on the earning opportunities their talents generate, just like their peers in school band or theater programs. Many high schoolers, including athletes, have amassed large followings on social media.

Of course, we live in a social media world these days. No doubt, social media has a firm grip across our country, both positively and negatively.

There’s a lot of money being made by teenagers who may have followers on a YouTube channel or TikTok. So, why should athletes be restricted in those activities that their peers have, just because they play sports?

Amateur athletes should be playing sports for the physical, mental, social, pleasure and educational values they get from this.

Very simply, the privilege afforded millions of boys and girls to play sports in high school, but also to participate in other activities such as speech, debate, band and theater, is not work. It is a part of the overall high school experience, which, when combined with academic studies, prepares these students for life as adults in their chosen careers.

I’m an avid college sports fan, but it dampens my watching spirit more and more each and every year.

To me, our society is becoming more and more a “Me” society, instead of a “We” society. It has certainly trickled down into college sports.

You have players leaving early to go pro, especially in football and basketball. It gets harder and harder for the routine fan to latch on to a team or a player, knowing they will be moving on to “greener” pastures as soon as possible, whether it is going pro or to another college institution.

Then there is this crazy transfer portal nonsense taking place. If a player is not happy where he signed to play, they can just move on to wherever he or she wants to go.

I just continue to have high hopes that the University Interscholastic League and our state will never go for paying our high school kids.

I venture to all of our schools during the summer. All of the kids are working extremely hard and they are all doing it together.

High school sports are about playing together as team, not using the experience to profit individually and put yourself ahead of team.

Of course, many reading this are probably thinking, “Man, that Van Wade is so old-school.”

Maybe so. If I was still eligible to play high school sports, I wonder how much Orangefield and Coach Josh Smalley would pay me to be a deep-snapper. I would love to play on that old grass field. Suit me up Coach, as long as I get $100 a week to dine at K-Dans.

Van Wade is the Orange Leader sports editor. He can be reached at