When the whole Deebo Samuel saga started when he asked to be traded by the San Francisco 49ers, my thought process was, “what a diva – get rid of him.”
But after stepping back and speaking with coaches from youth and high school sports, as well as some teachers in Pleasanton, I reached a different point of view. The conclusion was unanimous – there was little to no surprise how the 26-year-old Samuel is handling the situation.
This is not a discussion as to who is right or wrong, or whether Samuel deserves the money – as a fanatical Niners’ fan I want nothing more than to have him on the team – but rather how his type of behavior has become the norm and how that has happened.
Removing all references to the 49ers from his social media platforms, then having members of his friends/family throwing daggers at the Niners has turned into a sign of the times.
Simply, Samuel is a product of how athletes are being raised – and coddled - across the country, and it has hit home regularly in the Tri-Valley.
I see it daily as early as middle school and it certainly has spread into the local high schools, as well as colleges across the country.
Most concerning is with the way younger athletes idolize professional athletes, and the lessons they are being taught by watching these “role models”.
The last 15 years – maybe even longer - have been about the “me first” generation, in large part triggered by how parents are not holding their kids accountable or responsible for their actions.
As I have written before, this is not every parent, nor every athlete, but it is happening more and more. All it takes is a handful to make a big difference.
It is not about the team, but rather the individuals. Teams are the vessel to carry athletes to greater heights, yet being part of a team is the least important thing that matters to some of these athletes.
For example, some I have seen play could care less if their team won as long as they got points.
I will guarantee that if you stop and think about it, you will know people that fit the bill, be it a parent or any athlete.
If you can’t, then it is one of two things – one, you look at the world through rose-colored glasses, or two, you are one of those parents/athletes.
Let me give you some examples and think about who you know that falls into these examples.
One: As far as the family is concerned, their athlete can do no wrong. These are the people who sit in the stands or hang on the sidelines, encouraging their child without cheering for any of the teammates. If the athlete makes a mistake, it is always someone else’s fault. In addition, they encourage their child to do something other than what the coaches are asking.
I have seen this firsthand as a parent, writer and just a fan.
Two: They have almost constant complaints against the coach or coaches.
If their child is not playing, then it’s the coach’s fault. Sometimes this escalates to trying to have the coach removed. I have seen this so many times, it sickens me. The last step comes when it is time to move the athlete to another school.
Does anyone else seem amazed how the college transfer portals are being used so much? What seems lost in the shuffle is that when an athlete moves on to college, they are being faced with a roster of high school superstars. What did they think was going to happen?
Sure, there are times when the geographic angle comes into play. Someone goes across the country and then misses being at home, so they transfer back to a local college. I understand and appreciate that happening.
Then there are the others. I remember a local high school athlete heading off to college and when she wasn’t playing as a freshman, the mother went back and confronted the coach – a college coach. As if you couldn’t see this coming, the mother was told to get her daughter, pack her stuff, and go home.
It is amazing to me that their parents don’t just tell their child to lace up their shoes and compete. I am blessed to be from a generation where we were told the only thing you can control is your effort. I made sure to pass that on to my children, as did my friends with their kids.
You go out, work hard and hope things turn out for the best. If they don’t, that is life. Life is not fair at times and how you deal with adversity makes you the adult you will become. Having someone constantly making excuses for the athlete is doing much more harm than good.
I get that you always want the best for your kids, but as a parent you have the job to prepare your kids for life. By not being realistic, you are not doing them any favors.
Being a parent is always a learning process – the good Lord knows I have made my fair share of mistakes – but you learn from them a move forward. At least realize and admit your mistakes.
Three: It is less about the team and more about the individual. This is what pains me the most and is more where Samuel’s perception as to how to handle the 49ers situation was developed.
I see it locally on a regular basis. I see kids moved to high schools outside of their city because the parents think they have a better chance to be a star at the other school.
Something I have always believed is that if you have the talent, you are going to be discovered whether your team wins the championship or finishes last.
In a lot of these cases, winning or losing does not matter as much as the athletes’ stats. How many carries does the running back get? How many points does the basketball player score? How many goals does the soccer, lacrosse or water polo player rack up? How many hits does the softball or baseball player get? All these questions are far more important than how many wins does the team get.
It is no more evident than college football where more athletes every year are choosing to opt out of a bowl game with their teammates to not risk injury before the NFL Draft.
It is amazing to me that they don’t represent the school that gave the chance to get the exposure to be picked in the draft.
It seems selfish to me, but it is celebrated and embraced by so many.
Four: Travel teams have been a blessing and a curse. In the purest form, travel teams help athletes get exposure that they can’t achieve with local teams.
I had a son battle through travel team lacrosse when he was younger. The first year he was eligible to try out for one of the two travel teams in Norther California, he was the last one cut.
It stung, but over the course of the next year, he put the work in almost every single day. The next year when tryouts came around, he made one of the teams.
No excuses. Work harder and give it your all. Simple to follow, yet seldom acted out.
Along the way, something happened, and happened to travel teams in all sports. If the child didn’t make a team, the parents of the kids that didn’t get a spot, started another travel team.
Since this began happening, travel teams have become more about the checkbook and less about the talent level. Now, there seems to be more travel teams than there are Starbucks.
It is not a bad thing that more young athletes get to experience the travel ball culture, but it comes at a price - the underlying lesson is, write the check and find a team.
Always making an excuse.
In the end, the “I’ve got to get mine” generation has put sports into a different orbit than it was when I was growing up. Sports has become a business – for both the teams and the athletes.
High school sports used to be the last vestige of pure, innocent sports, but that has been corrupted as well. There are high school coaches around the country “requiring” their athletes to play for the club team they coach – at an expense – or risk not making their high school team.
Even middle-school travel teams have become a business. I see these different teams out recruiting players at an alarming rate.
Whether right or wrong, all that matters is it’s the direction society has chosen to move.
It’s easy to see why Samuel has chosen the path he has in searching for a new contract. He knows no better, nor do the people around him. I harbor no ill will against him – it is how he was raised – idolized and coddled.
It’s too bad, but this is what sports has become. The only losers here are the fans and being a big sports fans, this is why it stings so much.