Monday, March 10, 2008

Putting Youth Sports Into Perspective: Don’t Count on That Athletic Scholarship

A couple of excerpts from an eye-opening page one New York Times story today worth pondering:

-- “Excluding the glamour sports of football and basketball, the average NCAA athletic scholarship is nowhere near a full ride, amounting to $8,707 . . . Even when football and basketball are included, the average is $10,409. Tuition and room and board for NCAA institutions often cost between $20,000 and $50,000 a year.”

-- In 1999-2000, 2.57 million American high school girls played sports, according to the Times. Only 59,763 of them were awarded scholarships, full or partial. During the same period, 3.86 million high school boys played sports, with 78,453 receiving full or partial athletic scholarships.

-- In 2003-4, 330,044 American high school boys played soccer, the newspaper reported. Only 6,047 boys received scholarships, with an average value of $8,533 per recipient. During the same period, 270,273 high school girls played soccer and 9,310 received scholarships, with an average value of $8,404.

-- “Coaches and administrators, the gatekeepers of the recruiting system, said in interviews that parents and athletes who hoped for such [scholarship] money were much too optimistic and that they were unprepared to effectively navigate the system. The athletes, they added, were the ones who ultimately suffered.”

-- “Parents often look back on the many years spent shuttling sons and daughters to practices, camps and games with a changed eye. Swept up in the dizzying pursuit of sports achievement, they realize how little they knew of the process.”

-- The newspaper quoted NCAA President Myles Brand as saying: “The youth sports culture is overly aggressive, and while the opportunity for an athletic scholarship is not trivial, it’s easy for the opportunity to be overexaggerated by parents and advisers. That can skew behavior and, based on the numbers, lead to unrealistic expectations.”

The lengthy story -- accompanied by a large graphic which breaks down the number of high school athletes participating in specific sports and how many of them received some form of a college scholarship – also profiled two Pennsylvania brothers who have played elite-level soccer since they were pre-schoolers and whose father estimates that he shelled out roughly $10,000 per son for soccer training over the years. One brother, Joe Taylor, received a $20,000 athletic scholarship to Villanova, while his brother Pat didn’t make his college’s soccer team. Pat Taylor’s comments were heartbreaking:

“The whole thing really is a crapshoot, but no one ever says that out loud. On every team I played on, every single person there thought for sure that they would play in college. I thought so, too. Just by the numbers, it’s completely unrealistic. And if I had to do it over, I would have skipped a practice every now and then to go to a concert or a movie with my friends. I missed out on a lot of things for soccer. I wish I could have some of that time back.”

Bottom line: Participating in sports can be great fun and can teach children valuable lessons about working hard and being a team player. But, chances are, your kid isn’t going to snag a scholarship, or at least one that will in any way cover the full college tab. Remember, the average scholarship value, excluding football and basketball, is only $8,797. So, for your kids’ sake, keep youth sports in perspective. They only have one childhood.


Mystik Mamma said...

Hello, just found your site trying to find blogging moms from the Boston Area. I am in the process of relocating and would love to here some dish on the area burbs in terms of attitude/culture, schools, safety housing prices, and local ammenities. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Kirk Mango said...

As I ponder the implications of this article, and the New York Times article it references, I cannot help but think of the sheer numbers of young athlete’s that end up participating in their sports for the wrong reasons and/or parents who encourage the same. I am not sure they all started out that way.

I have several articles on my blog, “The Athlete’s Sports Experience: Making a Difference,” that address this issue both directly and indirectly. What is truly sad is how much more young athletes could be gaining from and through their sports experience, however, this loss of perspective (as partially demonstrated in the above article) is tremendously hampering that possibility. I am not saying that scholarships, championships, etc. should not be part of an athlete’s objective or goal but that they need to be kept in the right perspective, as an outcome of the intrinsic reasons why athletes should be playing. There is just so much more for young athletes if they only knew or had proper guidance.

I go much further into this in my blog (and will continue to do so), and in my book “Becoming a True Champion: A Handbook for Young Athletes Aiming for Greatness.” Please feel free to visit and comment on either. My email address is located on the website and comments can be made at the bottom of each article on the blog. The web addresses are located below.

Website - Kirk's Website

Blog - Kirk's blog

Note: Dear Meredith, I appreciate the approval of my comment on the Boston Herald blog website. It did not show right away so I thought there might have been a problem with me having my blog and website addresses in the comment. The comment above is identical, I just thought it appropriate for the article you had written for both areas. Your article was right up my alley, something I am very passionate about. Keep up the good work. I will definitely continue checking your blogs out in both areas. Thanks

All my best

Kirk Mango