Help along the way

Published 10:56 pm Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Suffolk has always boasted its share of top athletes, and many of the city’s fastest, strongest, most powerful and most agile have wound up receiving scholarships to continue playing sports at the college level, once they have left high school behind. But the road to intercollegiate athletics is not well marked, and there are many blind alleys along the way, especially for students and their parents who hope to secure a scholarship without a roadmap for how to arrive at that goal.

There’s nothing simple about the path to a college scholarship, whether it’s earned through academic or athletic distinction, and students who hope to get such scholarships often find that they would have had no chance of doing so without the help of a mentor, coach or some other person helping them to navigate the process.

About 125 parents and student-athletes got to spend some quality time with just such a person at Lakeland High School on Monday. Rick Wire, founder and president of Pennsylvania-based Dynamite Sports, visited Suffolk at the invitation of Lakeland activities director Gregory Rountree. Wire, the father of Coy Wire, a nine-year NFL veteran, held a seminar for families with students hoping to play collegiate-level sports. The seminar drew from the experiences the father and son had during their own journey through high school, collegiate and professional sports.

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Some of the information Wire had for the Suffolk crowd was probably not entirely welcome — he suggested, for instance, that teens who don’t resemble college athletes in their physical abilities by their junior year probably don’t have much chance at being recruited by top-level schools. Nonetheless, even hard information — and perhaps especially hard information — can help parents and their teens make important and realistic decisions about their future.

In a society in which kids grow up idolizing sports heroes, it’s not hard to understand why so many develop the desire to pursue those sports into and beyond college. What’s hard for those kids to understand sometimes is the vanishingly small number of athletes who ever receive college scholarships, much less find themselves playing professional sports.

Having solid, realistic information about the process is a gift, not just to those who will ultimately pursue those dreams, but also to those who choose to make high school the end of their playing careers.

Lakeland’s Rountree did a great service to both groups on Monday. His student-athletes and their parents should feel good knowing that he’s helping them find their way along a very confusing path.