Sports

Commentary: Parents pushing 13-year-old QB too hard

THERE'S NOTHING WITHIN the contradictions and hypocrisies of NCAA law prohibiting a 13-year-old from orally committing to a college football program before he has picked a high school.

David Sills followed the rules.

Sills is a 6-foot-1 middle school quarterback in Delaware, deemed the next football prodigy. He wants to go to Southern Cal. New Trojans coach Lane Kiffin wants him to go there, offering Sills a scholarship that he can't sign for five years.

But permissibility doesn't excuse parents from condoning a stunt like this in a grab for cheap celebrity. The Sills family doesn't understand why this decision attracted national attention. They don't think it's a big deal. But perhaps they could explain the national television talk-show circuit they took last week to tell their motives while bringing more attention to a 13-year-old who should worry about being a kid.

Blame the NCAA, insists Sills' father, David.

But that's like blaming McDonald's for teenage obesity because it offers fatty foods. That doesn't mean that parents should sit by and watch their 13-year-old devour quarter pounders like potato chips.

Blame the parents for this one.

Nobody's suggesting Sills shouldn't pursue a dream or that his parents shouldn't guide him along that path. But when a 13-year-old has a private quarterbacking coach, Steve Clarkson, who's known for steering his young proteges to Southern Cal (former Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart and last year's starting freshman, Matt Barkley), and he has taken physical tests to determine how tall he should become, you can't help but wonder whether the parents are pushing more than prodding.

Nobody wants Sills to become another Todd Marinovich. Parents certain that their kid is destined to be the next great prodigy should hear his story.

Sills truly is a kid.

There's nothing wrong with him dreaming big, preparing for his future and pushing himself within reason. But it's equally important that his parents exercise some restraint, for if they forget he's only 13, that potentially could create serious problems when he gets older.

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