Let’s stop calling young athletes “busts”

CARLEEN LONEY/ The Concordian @shloneys

Everything that’s wrong with labelling prospects and rookies as busts

Let’s begin by defining what a bust is.

A bust is a player who was highly touted and drafted professionally at a high position, but who did not meet expectations. The term carries a negative connotation: that someone is a failure.

There have been discussions going on for decades about how long it takes to determine if a player is a bust or not.

I’d say it takes a few years, two at the very least, before it’s somewhat fair to judge whether or not a player has met expectations.

However, that doesn’t mean I like the word. Because I really don’t, especially not for young players.

Saying an athlete is a bust puts the blame entirely on them, as it implies they’re underperforming. But there are other factors around them that affect their play, including the team that drafted them and is developing them. Let’s also not forget about injuries or personal circumstances outside of their control.

The word bust is used very liberally, and that’s another reason I don’t like it.

You can’t call someone who was drafted higher than expected a bust. You also can’t label someone as a bust because their first few professional games went bad, or if it took them a year or two to reach the major leagues.

People often forget that each athlete is different. Some athletes take longer to develop than others, so while some might start in the big leagues directly after getting drafted and have outstanding success, others might need more time to develop, and sometimes that’s in college, or in the minors. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Of course there are expectations and pressures that come with being drafted high, but the athletes don’t pick when they get drafted. They do their best, and the rest is up to the organizations that draft them.

Also, each draft class is different. Take the 2022 NHL draft class, for example, in which a lot of players lost a year of development because they couldn’t play due to COVID shutdowns. Some draft years are stronger than others. That’s just the way it is.

Management and coaching styles vary between organizations. They might have different plans for their players, and the team in general, which can play a big part in how a player’s confidence grows or diminishes, if they play big or small minutes, if they get sent down to the minors, etc.

And of course, let’s not forget about injuries — the worst reason to call an athlete a bust. Saying someone didn’t meet expectations and is a bust because of something that’s completely out of their control is wrong and people should know better.

Just try to keep in mind that athletes are human, and that prospects and rookies are just kids. You can watch and root for them without being mean and hating on them for needing more time to develop. But if you really want to call someone a bust, maybe, just maybe, give it a few years.


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