Let’s stop calling young athletes “busts”

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.


“Be a sponge” Rookie receivers learning from veterans

As the second season of Brad Collinson’s tenure as head coach of the Concordia Stingers begins, a quick look at the team’s roster makes something extremely clear.

There are a lot of new faces on this squad.

The Stingers currently have 22 first-year players on their roster, with 13 more red-shirting. Three of those rookies are receivers.

If you’ve tuned in to the team’s first couple games this season, one of those rookies you’ve probably seen the most is receiver Jeremy Murphy. In the season opener, Murphy caught five passes for 95 yards. In week two against McGill, he caught seven passes for 58 yards. In week three, he added another 24 yards on two receptions. Murphy was last year’s RSEQ Division 3 Offensive Player of the Year thanks to an impressive season at Champlain College Saint-Lambert.

Alongside the first-year receiver are only two fifth-year ones on the team, James Tyrrell and Sam Nadon – both of whom have been relied on to provide on and off field leadership. Collinson spoke about the importance of building a culture of competition between younger and older players.

“Everybody is learning this year because it’s a brand new offense,” said Collinson. “We want to create competition, we want those young guys to learn from the veterans, and to have some of those young guys beat out those veterans [for roster spots].”

Murphy is joined by other first-year receivers like Tristan Mancini and Jean-Simon L’Italien. For Murphy and Mancini, who played together at Cégep, the chance to lean on the veterans around them has been invaluable.

“It’s pretty cool because these guys have been here a while,” said Murphy. “I’m next to (Tyrrell) on the field all the time, he knows what he’s doing and everything he’s taught me has helped me a lot.”

“There’s a vet on my left, there’s a vet on my right,” added Mancini. “As soon as I have a question, I can ask them.”

Tyrrell and Nadon have embraced their roles this year as leaders on the team. When I caught up with Tyrrell, Nadon, Murphy, and Mancini after practice before their match against Laval, the two fifth years were quick to praise their rookie receivers for their eagerness to be a part of the team and learn, including showing up for summer workouts before the season even started.

“It’s pretty cool that we have rookies that come in with talent and willingness to learn and get better,” said Tyrrell. “There’s an immediate trust on the field once the ice is broken off the field.”

“These guys are open-minded,” said Nadon. “When we tell them something, they listen. They’re two guys who fit in real good, real nice guys.”

On the field, the Stingers look to establish themselves as a contender in the RSEQ division alongside the usual powerhouses of Laval and UDEM. Off the field, Tyrrell and Nadon both talked about wanting to teach the younger guys to continue to be as open as possible.

“Be a sponge,” said Tyrrell. “For your first couple of years, it’s just about absorbing as much information as possible.”

As Murphy and Mancini continue to establish themselves on the team, the biggest thing they’ve learned is how much more skilled university game is compared to CEGEP.

“You gotta play with speed,” said Mancini, who caught his first U Sports pass in week three on a long 27-yard reception. “You can’t be hesitant anymore because everyone’s good here.”

“Everyone’s bigger and faster so you really can’t think twice,” added Murphy. “If you’re doing something, just go. Even if you’re messing up, you just have to go.”


Photo by Matthew Coyte

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