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.
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.