Frank Smoll cited in Vice Sports article: "The Rise of HS Basketball Highlight Reel Factories and the Impact on Students"
The Rise of HS Basketball Highlight Reel Factories and the Impact on Students
Many high schools gyms are now flooded with video crews looking to document the next great high school prospect, increasing the pressure on teenagers who are now expected to act like adults.
Alex Shultz, Jul 5 2018, 10:00am
In April 2017, the Bristol Herald Courier, a newspaper in Southwest Virginia, named junior guard Mac McClung its boys basketball player of the year. TheCourier said McClung’s games at Gate City High School “were standing-room only affairs.” In a town of roughly 2,000 people, McClung was afforded big-man-on-campus status while still maintaining a modicum of anonymity, at least beyond his tiny pocket of the state.
Then a curious thing happened. McClung became the poster boy for the burgeoning Internet era of high school basketball, leaping from local star to a national stage shared by other elite adolescent talents who have their every move documented on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. That’s because in May of 2017, someone at Ballislife, the crème de la crème of high school basketball highlights, caught McClung aggressively dunking on everyone in his vicinity at an AAU game. By June of 2017, McClung was hovering around 20,000 Instagram followers. His final year of high school ball turned into a complete circus, with more viral clips than one could possibly count. Now, McClung is headed to Georgetown, with a tad more Instagram followers: roughly 644,000.
It’s nothing new for basketball recruits to have fame bestowed upon them at an early age, though in the prep-to-pro era, most of the footage of future stars was limited to grainy mixtapes. That’s no longer the case. If you Google even fringe players from the classes of 2018 or 2019, you're certain to find a video with tens if not hundreds of thousands of views and an entire comments section dissecting every jump shot. Many of the videos aren't just highlights—they're mini-documentaries showing a day in the life of a 17-year-old.
“These kids are thinking about making sure they have the right Clif Bar in their locker for after practice,” said Dr. Jenelle Gilbert, a professor and graduate program coordinator for the kinesiology department at Fresno State. “They have very high school-centered needs, but they’re being thrust into an adult world very, very quickly.”...
Dr. Frank Smoll, a sports psychologist, declined a formal interview for this piece because at this point, he feels talk is cheap. Instead, he suggested in an email that action is required from a large organization like the National Federation of State High School Associations to examine potential negative effects and put guidelines in place to protect teens. On its website, the NFHS says it’s dedicated to “building awareness and support, improving the participation experience, establishing consistent standards and rules for competition, and helping those who oversee high school sports.” In a statement to Vice, Bruce Howard, the director of communications at NFHS, didn’t indicate any policy positions were imminent.
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