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Editor's Blog

Parents, Protect Your Kids

Playing professional football in the Absa Premiership is almost every South African youngster’s dream, but the sad reality is that not everyone will live to realise that dream.
It is this drive that renders these young and unsuspecting youngsters victims of unscrupulous and money-making bogus academy owners, hell-bent on using the youngsters’ dreams against them. These vultures see an opportunity to make easy money at whatever expense. They know that these youngsters and their parents would give anything to see that dream become a reality, therefore their desperation means they will think less and act more. They focus more on emotions than facts, which is a bad thing to do for anyone trying to be logical.   
That’s when the trap is set and people fall victim. We’ve had people complaining about being robbed of their money through bogus academies that demand an upfront payment before they can enrol their kids, only to learn later on that they’ve actually been duped. Every parent will tell you that their kid is the next best player to come out of their neighbourhood and possibly the country. That self-assurance means they will give an arm and a leg to get their kid exposed to the best available academies, but what happens when the dream dissolves right in front of their eyes? What happens when the kid doesn’t fit into any professional development or no coach deems them good enough to even stand a chance? Where does that leave a kid whose only dream was to play professional football? 
Remember, some of these kids who are fortunate enough to make the cut are practically deprived of their childhood as they are all about football, but when they don’t make it to the professional ranks, what becomes of them? That’s where parenting comes in and parents have to be careful with their kids and take a more active role in their development. Parents have to ensure that, as much as their kids are all about football, they realise that they need to balance their lives with education, play another sport, have another interest and don’t forget to be a kid, just in case things don’t work out on the field of play. 
I’ve read of professional team earmarking kids as young as six years old. That’s insane but it is happening. Who knows what the future holds for a six-year-old? How do you tell a player at that age? Some teams even promise a guaranteed contract that will start at the age of 18, to a six-year-old prospect, with a huge salary and that goes straight to the head. Imagine a six-year-old in a football system at a professional club until he’s 18 only to be told that he’s not good enough to make it any further. It can signal the end of the boy’s world, not just the career, because of the investment made into his career. You’re talking about the high expectations to one day progress to the senior team. The reality is that not all development graduates will make it to the professional ranks and it is a rude awakening and a sobering statement that no development player wants to hear.
However, it takes a balanced life for a would-be professional footballer to make it in life after things don’t work out for them in their chosen career. It widens their horizons and provides them with something to fall back on instead of being caught napping after failing to make it.  
Imagine how frustrating and disheartening it is for a professional footballer not to get regular game-time. I’m talking about someone who has already made it into the set-up but can easily get destroyed by lack of game-time. That’s because turning professional is not enough and therefore one wants to play regularly. Can you imagine not making it professional and therefore not playing at all? That’s double the pain and therefore chances of the experience destroying a kid’s life increase dramatically. Some are never the same after that heart-breaking call from the coaches to say they’re being let go. An experience that knows no age as it can turn a grown man into a boy in a matter of seconds.     
The development success rate is incomparable to that of the failure. as mentioned, most of these hopefuls won’t make it far in the beautiful game. As if that is not enough, there’s also the added stress of bogus academies where kids are being molested and robbed of their childhood and dreams. Parents need to take full responsibility for their kids’ future by ensuring their safety and that they enrol at legitimate academy schools. They need to do more to protect their kids.  
There have been reports about young boys being molested and having their lives changed for the worse, all because they wanted to play professional football. Some of these families take their last cents to enrol for their kids at these academies not realising that they were being sold a pipe dream.     
For some of us, playing professional football will remain an unfulfilled dream, but that doesn’t mean the end of the world. It should never be the end of you, as there are so many other avenues to explore out there.    
As a parent, it is very important that you empower your kid and let them know that not all that glitter is gold. They need to know that being part of an academy doesn’t guarantee a successful professional career. They also need to be mentored and exposed to those who have walked the walk before so that they can pick up a thing or two from their experience. The clubs have to continue producing young talent and it is not such a big deal for them to reject your kid after 10 years in their development ranks. The onus is on you to protect your kids so that they are not sold an impossible dream. 

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