My football team, the Niagara X-men, was contacted today by a representative of an NCAA Division 3 university asking us to play them at least twice each year. The purpose is to recruit Canadian players. The X-Men would act as a pipeline to their school. At the same time, our players and their junior varsity players would develop, benefitting from the all-important game reps.

One thing he didn’t mention – funding. The taxpayers don’t fund the X-men. We do. We pay for it ourselves. The gym I own, X Fitness, sponsors the team. The X-men cost a fortune. Football is an expensive game. Equipment, insurance, practice field rental, travel, passports. Rising gas prices threw our budget out of whack. So did player fraud – players who didn’t pay registration and who didn’t return equipment. And were too lazy to get a passport. Players seem to forget that not returning hundreds of dollars of equipment that they don’t own is a criminal offence.

The entire purpose of the X-men is to give unrecruited players a second chance to get recruited – to stay in school and extend their playing careers. It worked. Since the X-men started playing exclusively in the USA in 2005, 22 players were recruited by universities and pro teams on both sides of the border. Life-altering opportunities. One player, William Austin, recently played in the East-West Canadian university all-star game. He’s a wide receiver at York University. He spilled his guts for three years with the X-Men. Just ran into another ex-X-men, David Gonzales, who’s doing his master’s degree. He told us his education is because of the X-men. But those 22 represent a fraction of those who wasted their second chance. Less than 10%. Over 90% blew their chance. Threw it away.

Every off-season, I waste time off my life listening to rookies who “want a scholarship” and “love football” and “can’t wait to play in the USA.” Then, about 66% quit during training camp. Can’t handle it because they’re so out of shape. Recently, I witnessed two events with my own eyes that I had never thought was possible: (a) a 19-year old rookie who was a star on his high school team, left a first day practice during a lifting drill, called his mother on his cell phone, waited in the parking lot for mom to pick him up. We called mom later. She said he was out of shape. Didn’t feel well. (b) another rookie who starred on his team, left practice #1 during form running drills. FORM RUNNING. A warm-up. Five minutes into warm-ups, he vomited on the field. He said, and I quote verbatim, “Ahhh man, I’m outta shape bad.” What? Outta shape bad?? You’re 19, blessed with perfect health, and just told me a week ago you were a big-time all-star. And you wanted a scholarship to play at a “big-time American school.” Sounded like a Tom Cochrane ballad. My boy’s gonna play in the big leagues, my boy’s gonna turn some heads. These are just two case studies. I could write a full book on the rest.

Come on…what’s happened? I’ve coached football for 40 seasons and have never seen what I’ve seen during the past decade. A decade of delusion. Student-athletes wanting the biggest rewards with minimal investment. Where does this attitude come from? When did it start? Was there a date, an event, a turning point that changed reality to delusion? And it’s not a small problem. It’s a crisis. Widespread. Ahhh, man, I’m outta shape real bad. The number of players who were hung-over for games and practices was staggering. The number of missed practices was shocking. Some even missed games. For the first time in my life I cut 44 players. FORTY-FOUR in one fell swoop. More than I’ve ever cut in my life. Players cut themselves. I don’t cut players. Until now

This is why I don’t recruit. Never have and never will Players recruit us. I don’t chase after star athletes like Justin Beiber followers. Why? Because life’s too short to waste on fictional stories by uncommitted rookies. I know that 66% will quit. I know that 66% will never invest the work that’s needed to get to the next-level. That’s hardcore evidence. 66% quit when they realize that a starting position will not be handed to them. 66% quit when they realize they have to earn it. 66% quit when they realize that football is a high-risk sport and that high-risk training is not a walk through the park. 66% quit when they realize that will not invest what it takes. I coach those who want it bad enough. Those who don’t are doing their only exercise – free will.

I’m undecided at this moment about whether to invest a fortune for the majority of student-athletes who don’t respect the game, don’t respect opportunity, don’t even respect themselves. I don’t want to become an enabler. I don’t want to reward apathy and lethargy. They’ve got enough time and money for DNA – drugs ‘n alcohol. They’ve got enough time and energy to go in the bar instead of under the bar. But they don’t have enough time and energy to shape themselves physically and mentally. – to be continued

Gino Arcaro has written 12 books. He started his writing career by writing 6 best-selling academic law enforcement textbooks. Then he changed his focus and wrote 6 non-academic books to compete on a new stage. The first book is Soul of a Lifter, available in paperback and e-book. The book is about how lifting is a life-saver – lifting others and lifting weight. Dual-purpose lifting. You can review all Gino’ books them by clicking here at the top of the S.O.A.L. blog.