Pro before puberty?

News has been buzzing around the internet over Manchester United’s signing of soccer prospect Rhain Davis. Normally international soccer contracts don’t get much discussion here in the States, but this one is sort of a unique situation.

Rhain Davis is only nine-years-old.

Davis’ grandfather sent a DVD to Man. U – the Yankees of British Premiere League – showcasing his grandson’s talent. (You can see the video here. I have to admit, the kid’s incredible!) It probably started out as a joke; I mean what proud father wouldn’t be tempted to send a tape of his son’s best Little League performance to Mr. Steinbrenner’s office? But Manchester United took the boy seriously. So seriously in fact that they’ve invited him to come train with the team and signed him to a development contract.

The rules of engagement regarding young athletes seem to vary from sport to sport. The NFL has rules in place which prevent players from entering the league until they’re two years removed from high school. Many of the NBA’s top players were signed to contracts right out of high school, skipping the traditional developmental process of playing NCAA basketball. While most Major League Baseball players don’t take their first at bat in the big leagues until their twenties, they are frequently drafted as young as age fifteen or sixteen. Soccer player Freddy Adu became the youngest American ever to sign a professional contract at age 14.

But nine?

I’m as big a sports fan as the next guy. As I get older I’m starting to realize that I’m a bigger sports fan than most guys. And as much as it pains me to admit it, it’s just fun and games. At least it should be when you’re nine.

I can’t even fathom the kind of pressure Rhain Davis will find himself under now that he has signed a contract with the largest sports franchise in the world. He will never know any sense of normalcy in his childhood. He will likely endure the most awkward years of his life under intense media scrutiny. He has no choice but to succeed. Scratch that – he has to be the absolute best. Because the whole world is watching, and half are rooting for him to fail.

I don’t know any nine-year-olds that could hold up under that kind of pressure. I hope Rhain Davis can.

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8 thoughts on “Pro before puberty?

  1. Developmentally it isn’t good to force kids into adult roles. Sure he may be a prodigy but let the kid grow up first. I don’t think any teams should draft players until they have finished high school at the very least.

  2. I was just talking to my 15 year old son about this right before I clicked here! The pressure will be incredible–what’s crazy is if he is that good, he will turn pro later–let him be a kid now!!

  3. Of course the question that begs asking is “what about female gymnasts?”

    Granted, they’re not professional. However, they are being compensated “full time” for their performance, training at the highest level in their field and being ripped from a “normal life” at an age pretty close to this young fella.

    Any thoughts?

  4. I don’t think it is healthy to force any child into adult situations they aren’t ready to handle. Kids should be involved in sports, music or other activies but there is a limit as to what is healthy. One of the problems with gymnastics, dance and other select teams is the time involved.

    Some of our friends have allowed their children to particpate in differant activies over the years. Their son plays on a select baseball team and enjoys it. Their daughter has been involved in soccer, dance and swimming. She was invited to join very competive teams that required more time. She wasn’t interested in the high pressure situations and dropped the activity because it was no longer fun. However she has stuck with a mime team for about 6 years now. She has become more involved. The mime coach has never pressured her to give up things for mime but rather taken an interest in helping develop the talents of the team members. BTW, the mime coach does keep things fun. We have heard that things aren’t as lively since Nate is no longer helping chaprone trips and driving the van, ah but that is another topic.

    In a nutshell the key is does the child still get to be a child, is it still fun and what life lessons are the child learning.

  5. i like that you call man u the skankees of the english premier league. when i lived in ireland i had to start watching soccer and man u was really popular, and ireland’s best player roy keane was a member. but then another american told me “they’re the yankees of soccer” and i instantly hated them 🙂 go liverpool! and the red sox, too!!!

  6. Man. U is valued at approx. 1.5 billion USD. That’s pretty darn close to the Yanks value.

    If I wasn’t born in NY and bred a Yankees fan, I’d be a Red Sox or Twins fan. However, turning my back on the Yanks would be akin to spitting in my father’s eye, so…

    Plus, we have some home-grown talent coming down the pike.

    Make room for Joba. (Yes, that pronounced Jabba. Saw him in the flesh last weekend here in the Roc) And Ian Kennedy….

    So that’s why Cashman didn’t make a move at the deadline!

    Lead’s four you BoSox mofo! Now what!?!??!

  7. dude, i am inches from just conceding the season. so sad in sox land right now. they just have no fire in their eyes, you can see them just going through the motions. they’ve been a .500 team since june, it’s just depressing 😦

    i still think detroit has the AL though. seattle has shocked me, though.

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