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Education, Sports

Sports, Labor and Power: The Damon Harge Edition

Well, I guess this is exactly what you would not do if you were a middle aged privileged white guy telling poor black kids how to get out of poverty…

Damon Harge is being prepped for big time basketball.  He’s ranked nationally, has college scouts drooling, attends all the necessary camps and works tirelessly to improve his game.  Seems pretty normal right?  Only thing is, he’s 12.  Yes…the sixth grade.

[Harge] just happens to be widely regarded as the No. 1 sixth grader in the country.

“It’s pretty cool, I guess,” Harge said of the distinction. “I don’t really pay attention to those things. I just play ball. I don’t worry about being the best. I just want to play.”

Still, with Harge’s level of clout, simply playing ball is unrealistic in today’s “find the next big thing” climate.

Not when you’re the understudy of a recent No. 1 NBA draft pick, not when you’re already being courted by some of the country’s most elite college programs and definitely not when you’re one of the only sixth graders in history to suit up for a varsity squad. (Harge is allowed to play varsity for Christian Faith Center as a sixth grader because it is a private school.)

I struggle with this. I mean, what’s the difference between Harge being ranked and competing at the highest level possible when chess champions, tennis players, and gymnasts do it all the time.  My niece is a gymnast and I know I didn’t really frown on her dedication to the sport that relied on hours of practice everyday, some missed days of school and long trips to such preferred locations as West Virginia for meets. So why does Harge playing basketball strike me as a different case?

I think it’s the assumption, a potentially unfair one I admit, that Harge, and other basketball phenoms, are putting all of their eggs into the NBA basket, that if they fail at becoming a professional basketball player, then they will have nothing to fall back on.  I think that it’s also the reality that, unlike many other young phenoms, basketball is a feeding ground for hangers-on trying to exploit these (pre) teenagers, by hyping them up to make money off of them when they are young, then spitting them out if they don’t make it.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I think it strikes me that it just sets the wrong example for so many kids that will never be in Damon Harge’s situation, with his type of talent.  With so much focus on who the #1 ranked sixth grader is, does that lead more children to pursue that lottery instead of looking towards the books?

That being said, there is one key part of the article which everyone should take notice of, whether other children thinking they can be the next Damon Harge, or people like myself skeptical that there should be one if the first place…

That same focus forces Harge to wake up seven days a week at 4:30 a.m. and put in an hour workout with Damon Sr. before heading off to school. Harge takes 6,500 shots a week.

Say what you will about whether this is healthy or not, but clearly the boy ain’t lazy, which obviously contributes to his success to date.  I damn sure am not waking up at 4:30am to do anything as an adult, much less at 12 years old.

I hope you make it, Damon Harge.

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