CHAUTAUQUA - Every March, thousands tune into CBS to watch the college basketball March Madness Tournament and usually see Clark Kellogg sitting in front of the camera back at the studio wearing his usual blue suit coat.
On Tuesday, the 6-foot-8 Kellogg stood at the podium of the Amphitheater at Chautauqua Institution not to talk about college basketball or who will be picked in tonight's National Basketball Association draft.
He was there to advocate for the younger generation and the young athletes as well as discuss the troubles they face today.
OBSERVER Photo by Craig Harvey
Clark Kellogg from CBS speaks at the Amphitheater at Chautauqua Institution on Wednesday.
While Kellogg's name is synonymous with college basketball, some may not be aware he was a first-round draft pick (eighth overall) in the NBA draft in 1982. He spent five seasons in the NBA where he was a unanimous pick for the All-Rookie team. At the age of 26, Kellogg was forced to retire due to a knee injury. He finished his career averaging 18.9 points per game and 9.5 rebounds a game.
As Kellogg got ready to give his lecture, "The Young Athlete: A Different Perspective For Students and Parents," he pointed out he does not want to be considered a lecturer.
"I think of an expert as someone that is accomplished in a very important and significant field," he continued. "I would much rather consider myself as a guest speaker if that's ok with you all."
Though being a speaker isn't what he had hoped for in life, everything has worked out well for Kellogg and his wife and their three children.
"My wife would be amused if she knew folks here thought of me as a lecturer," he said. "My wife is always amazed when I get asked to speak somewhere. She finds it hard to believe that simply earning a living through playing basketball or talking about basketball, I have had these unique opportunities. She says, 'Clark, you have been unbelievably blessed. We've done really quite well together considering you've never really had a real job.' "
The graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in marketing spoke about the trends he has seen that is disturbing and bothers him.
He outlined the disturbing events in five parts.
The first point he made was called "Quest for athletic scholarships."
"There is nothing wrong with the desire to dream," he said. "But when kids begin to focus on pursuing a scholarship, I think parents and coaches put undue pressure on them to excel too early. That leads to burnout. Kids get involved because they enjoy it."
The second disturbing trend is what he called earlier specialization. With youth wanting to experiment with different sports, there is pressure from coaches and parents to play one sport year round.
"They are driven by hope to get a scholarship," Kellogg said. "I was a kid that specialized in middle school. Basketball became my love and passion. I locked into basketball. For me that was a good decision. But it was my decision. I have heard of coaches giving two or multi-sport athletes ultimatums when a sport they are participating in conflicts with off-season workouts of another sport. That is ludicrous."
"Specialization isn't always for everybody. If it is forced upon too early, it could be detrimental."
Kellogg also pointed out it is not just sports where this can happen. It can also be in academics.
Thirdly, parents overreaching has been a trend that has been detrimental to young athletes.
"The trend of placing individual success over other consideration is bothersome and troublesome," he said. "Parents have unfair assessments of their kid's ability or passion toward an activity. As a result, it can indirectly short circuit a child reaching potential on athletic ground. Sometimes, it's to the point where they unintentionally put pressure on their kids to over-perform. That is something we have to guard ourselves against."
When parents overreach their child's ability, it leads to inappropriate behavior from parents.
Kellogg points to coaching over the assigned coach or criticizing other players, families and teammates as well as badgering officials.
The fourth point Kellogg drew attention to was the fact competition has become all about just winning.
"This can be very dangerous in youth sports," he said. "I am for winning, but if that's out of balance and that becomes sole target, we do disservice to kids. When its only about titles or championships or scoreboard. When that's the issue, respect for game, coaches, teammate, enjoyment, sportsmanship those things fall down on priority list. That is a huge part of what we want to see develop."
The fifth trend was what he called "professionalization" or trying to make miniature pros. This has been caused by all the new advancements in technology that helps players improve as players - sometimes too early.
"There have been unbelievable advancements," he said. "If they are only used to accelerate young athletes, sometimes prematurely, then those tools are being misused."
Kellogg offered some advice saying, "Check your egos," referring to parents. "There is no greater joy when you play sports. There is no greater joy than to see your kids do well. It's a major ego rush. It makes you feel good. It can't ever be about us. It can't ever be about the coach, or the teacher, or the parent, or the official when we talk about youngsters in sports."
And to the younger athletes, "Set goals in sports, maximize your god-given ability in sports. If it's not fun, if you struggle to do it reasonably well and if there is no passion or enthusiasm for it, you probably need to get into another game. Being a champion is not about what you achieve. It's how you work to improve - how you work to maximize your abilities and opportunities. You can be a champion without having a championship ring. As a matter of fact, most people are. Be the best you can be. But balance that."