In December, I wrote a blog post about college scholarships that was prompted by an NPR commentary piece by John U. Bacon: To Get a College Scholarship: Forget The Field, Hit The Books. I then went on to share a personal experience that highlighted some of the points John was iterating in his commentary. The fact of the matter is that sports scholarships aren’t the only way to jumpstart a successful life, they are merely one avenue. Sure, trying to hit the “home-run,” living out your childhood dream, or just believing anything is possible is an exciting prospect, but the fact is athletic scholarships are the least likely of all avenues for financing a college education.

What sports participation can do in regards to a college education is improve your chances at admission into a school that you might not otherwise gain acceptance.  While that coach may not have a scholarship for you, he/she does have significant influence in the admission process.  With thousands and thousands of applicants seeking very limited slots in an entering freshmen class, having a coach promote your application can help set you apart from others.

Our children are much more likely to succeed by studying hard and gaining an academic scholarship or even building a strong network of personal contacts that can help them land that entry job out of school, aid them when the cards are stacked against them or even advocate on their behalf for that “big” promotion.

The lesson here isn’t to quit sports and solely focus on academics, but rather use sports as a tool to help develop our youth into more well-rounded individuals who have a healthy outlook on living their lives. A positive sports environment can help develop an individual that can thrive in even the most pressure-filled or demanding circumstances. Someone who can overcome adversity, build upon relationships/teamwork in order to achieve the ultimate goal, success.  Sports can lead to an individual developing passion and purpose, impart improved decision-making skills and confidence, and instill traits like empathy and persistence. These are all necessary traits and characteristics to succeed in not only sports but everyday situations that arise in life. I am not advocating to give up the “dream” of pursuing athletics but simply encouraging parents to make holistic decisions regarding their children’s future that will lead to the best possible chances for a successful and healthy life.

- Steve Locker

Below is an excerpt from a chapter of Steve’s book Playing for the Long Run regarding college scholarships:

The Great Scholarship Hunt

…Talk to parents and they will tell you that they harbor some hope of securing an athletic scholarship for their children as a justification for their intense involvement in youth sports. Furthermore, most “select” sports programs will brag about how many of their players have secured athletic scholarships at NCAA Division I schools. It’s a highly used form of manipulation to get you to believe that they can better develop your child than their competitors can. Remember, youth sports is big business, and everyone wants to maintain (and enhance) his slice of the pie…

…I hear parents talk all the time about athletic scholarships, but guess what. They have no idea how scholarships are allocated. Here are some simple facts from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA):

* About 7,000,000 children play high-school sports.

* 2% of them will find a roster spot on a college team.

* 1% of them will receive a full athletic scholarship.

We have a program available in the United States that might improve a young athlete's chances of paying for college. It’s called the lottery!

Some additional facts about scholarships as documented by the NCAA include the maximum number of scholarships permissible by NCAA rules. For instance, in the more popular sports in my community--like baseball, lacrosse, hockey and soccer--there are some surprising limits. A NCAA Division I institution may offer only 11.7 scholarships for baseball, 12.6 for lacrosse, 18 for hockey, and 9.9 for soccer. These are numbers for men’s sports. The good news is that the numbers in these sports for women is slightly higher. More important, keep in mind that these are the limits. Not every school has the full compliment of permissible scholarships.

When thinking about roster sizes, it becomes apparent that coaches are splitting up these scholarships in an effort to help as many young athletes as possible. In sports like baseball and track and field, the average scholarship is about $2,000. In thinking about some of our traveling baseball leagues, you quickly realize that many parents are spending much more than that sum for their 10-year-olds to play for one season.

According to the NCAA, the average athletic scholarship is about $8,707 per year. Tuition, room and board often cost as much as $20,000 to $50,000 per year. Interestingly, NCAA Division III schools grant no athletic scholarships. However, eighty-five percent of students attending private colleges do receive academic loans and scholarships. Average tuition discounts for current year freshmen equal about 51%. All of this data makes a compelling case for prioritizing our efforts towards academics, not athletic scholarships. (This data is from The College Solution and the NCAA)

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