I'll admit there was a time in my life when transferring for purely athletic reasons sounded like a reasonable thing to do.
It was last Monday at 3:07 p.m. I shudder at the memory.
For about 45 seconds, I allowed myself to buy into the belief that transferring from one high school to another, solely for sports, was OK. That changing schools in order to play for a particular coach or team was fine and dandy, that hop-scotching across the county in the name of athletics was both understandable and prudent.
Fortunately I caught myself in time. A few more seconds and I might have slipped into the same transfer quicksand like everyone else. If you have been around the Orange County sports scene for awhile, you probably have heard the rationalizations:
We had to transfer him. The last coach didn't do enough to get him a scholarship .
This is the '90s. What's the big deal?
Hey, we're only doing what's best for our child.
It's the last response that's particularly suspect. What does a child learn when Mom and Dad encourages him to move to another school on the basis of sports? The lessons can't be all that beneficial. So you didn't make the varsity at School A? Flee to School B. If that doesn't work, try C, D or E. Maneuver, manipulate, weave your way around. Do whatever it takes to attain success.
It's funny. People complain about the lack of commitment in today's society, but many of tomorrow's adults are being taught just that. Moving from one school to another--because of sports --doesn't exactly instill the values of loyalty, hard work and diligence, values that will help them get through life.
But values? C'mon. Values are boring. You'd rather talk scholarships. The free ride, the college ticket, the status symbol of every pedigreed parent. That's why we have our kids transfer from one school to another, is it not? At least it's the reason we hear most often.
Joe Athlete isn't getting enough playing time. Joe Athlete isn't getting a chance to show his stuff. Joe Athlete is never going to get noticed in this lackluster, little program. We had no choice but to get him outta there, blah, blah, blah.
There are other considerations, of course. Other ramifications that are usually ignored. Joe's former teammates might see him as a traitor. Joe's new teammates might be happy to have him join them, but what of the kid whose place he takes on the field? How does he feel? Does anyone care? Probably not Joe.
Perhaps it isn't such a big deal. Perhaps transferring for athletic reasons is just another slice of 1990s reality. Some people believe profanity on the prep sports level is a non-issue. Others feel that way about post-touchdown taunting or throwing a punch between plays. This is sports, they say. Boys will be boys. Just start the game.
Has it really come to that? It seems so. The old days are most definitely over. Rare is the high school athlete who plays only for fun. There are scholarships to earn, scouts to impress, pro contracts up for grabs. It's no wonder some kids give in to the pressure to move on.
Which is why you have to respect the athletes who stay where they are and play hard in spite of it all; who are satisfied with doing their best even if the result was another big loss. They, too, probably had a chance to transfer, to play for a better program. But instead they chose to stay and make the best of it.
Consider El Dorado. Four years ago, the Golden Hawks were one of the county's worst teams. Freshman players probably fantasized about playing at Esperanza, the powerhouse next door. Now El Dorado is entering the second round of the playoffs. Esperanza's season ended last week.
It's the same with San Clemente. Once a team to be trampled, the Tritons are now heading for playoff round No. 2. Guess who's staying home? Traditional powers Mission Viejo and El Toro, not to mention Dana Hills. Think any San Clemente kids ever thought of transferring to those schools as freshmen? You bet. But now their outlook has changed.
Starting in July, students of California schools will no longer need to change residences before transferring. This, thanks to the passage of California State Assembly Bills 1118 and 19, which provides for a policy of open enrollment. The outcome? Some predict transfermania like never before.
Then again, you never know. Perhaps parents and athletes will suddenly consider stability more important than a scholarship. Maybe they'll set their sights on loyalty instead of looking out for No. 1.
Perhaps they'll realize that no place is better than a sense of place. A sense of place that takes root and takes hold.