Editor’s note: This is a story by Bob Gardner, Executive Director of the National Federation of State High School Associations and Julian Tackett, Commissioner of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.
By BOB GARDENER and JULIAN TACKETT
Unfortunately today many parents are trying to live out a dream through their sons and daughters – the dream of landing a college athletic scholarship by specializing in a sport year-round. Equally unfortunately, most of these dreams are never realized.
The odds of a sports scholarship paying for even a portion of a student’s college education are minuscule.
The College Board, a not-for-profit organization comprised of 6,000 of the world’s leading educational institutions, reports that a moderate cost for college students who attend a public university in their state of residence is $25,290 per year. The annual cost at a private college averages around $50,900.
Meanwhile, the most recent data from the NCAA reveals that the average Division I athletic scholarship is worth only $10,400. More significantly, the same study shows that fewer than two percent of all high school athletes (1 in 54) ever wear the uniform of an NCAA Division I school.
Even if the dream is realized, parents likely will spend more money for club sports than they ever regain through college athletic scholarships. Thanks to the costs of club fees, equipment, summer camps, playing in out-of-state tournaments and private coaching, youth sport has become a $15 billion-per-year industry.
Put in real terms, many families sacrifice far too much for what is commonly called the “cocktail party scholarship.” That is the years of work and sacrifice for the student to be rewarded with a $1,000 scholarship to a $15,000 school. In the end, the only benefit is being able to stand at the next cocktail party and say “my child got a scholarship.”
There is an option, and it’s a financially viable one: Encourage your sons and daughters to play sports at their high school.
In education-based high school sports, student-athletes are taught, as the term implies, that grades come first. The real-life lessons that students experientially learn offer insights into leadership, overcoming adversity and mutual respect that cannot be learned anywhere else. Unlike most club sports, coaches in an education-based school setting are held accountable by the guiding principles and goals of the administrators in their school district. And the cost of participating in high school sports is minimal in most cases, especially when compared to travel organizations.
While there is a belief that the only way to get noticed by college coaches is to play on non-school travel teams year-round, many Division I football and basketball coaches recently have stated that they are committed to recruiting students who have played multiple sports within the high school setting.
In addition, by focusing on academics while playing sports within the school setting, students can earn scholarships for academics and other talents—skill sets oftentimes nurtured while participating in high school activities. These scholarships are more accessible and worth more money than athletic scholarships. While $3 billion per year is available for athletic scholarships, more than $11 billion is awarded for academic scholarships and other financial assistance.
Without a doubt, your sons and daughters will have more fun, make more friends and be better prepared for life beyond sport by participating in multiple sports and activities offered by the high school in your community.