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in light of recent competitive sports threads, i thought i'd share...

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the head coach of my son's swim team sent this out this morning... said to pay very close attention to the last line.... :001_smile:


Athletic Scholarships: Expectations Lose to Reality



At youth sporting events, the sidelines have become the ritual community meeting place, where families sit in rows of folding chairs aligned like church pews. These congregations are diverse in spirit but unified by one gospel: heaven is your child receiving a college athletic scholarship.

But the expectations of parents and athletes can differ sharply from the financial and cultural realities of college athletics, according to an analysis by The New York Times of previously undisclosed data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association and interviews with dozens of college officials.

Excluding the glamour sports of football and basketball, the average N.C.A.A. athletic scholarship is nowhere near a full ride, amounting to $8,707. In sports like baseball or track and field, the number is routinely as low as $2,000. Tuition and room and board for N.C.A.A. institutions often cost between $20,000 and $50,000 a year.

"People run themselves ragged to play on three teams at once so they could always reach the next level," said Margaret Barry of Laurel, Md., whose daughter is a scholarship swimmer at the University of Delaware. "They're going to be disappointed when they learn that if they're very lucky, they will get a scholarship worth 15 percent of the $40,000 college bill. What's that? $6,000?"

Coaches surveyed at Villanova University outside Philadelphia and the University of Delaware — told tales of rejecting top prospects because their parents were obstinate in scholarship negotiations.

"I dropped a good player because her dad was a jerk — all he ever talked to me about was scholarship money," said Joanie Milhous, the field hockey coach at Villanova. "I don't need that in my program. I recruit good, ethical parents as much as good, talented kids because, in the end, there's a connection between the two."

The chase for a scholarship has another side that is rarely discussed. Although those athletes who receive athletic aid are viewed as the ultimate winners, they typically find the demands on their time, minds and bodies in college even more taxing than the long journey to get there.

There are 6 a.m. weight-lifting sessions, exhausting practices, team meetings, study halls and long trips to games. Their varsity commitments often limit the courses they can take. Athletes also share a frustrating feeling of estrangement from the rest of the student body, which views them as the privileged ones. In this setting, it is not uncommon for first- and second-year athletes to relinquish their scholarships.

"Kids who have worked their whole life trying to get a scholarship think the hard part is over when they get the college money," said Tim Poydenis, a senior at Villanova receiving $3,000 a year to play baseball. "They don't know that it's a whole new monster when you get here. Yes, all the hard work paid off. And now you have to work harder."


A Lack of Knowledge


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.

Mrs. Barry remembers how her daughter Cortney rose at 4 a.m. for years so she could attend a private swim practice before school. A second practice followed in the afternoon. Weekends were for competitions. Cortney is now a standout freshman at Delaware after receiving a $10,000 annual athletic scholarship.

"I'm very proud of her and it was worth it on many levels, but not necessarily the ones everybody talks about," Mrs. Barry said. "It can take over your life. Getting up at 4 a.m. was like having another baby again. And the expenses are significant; I know I didn't buy new clothes for a while.

"But the hardest part is that nobody educates the parents on what's really going on or what's going to happen."

When they received the letter from Delaware informing them of Cortney's scholarship, she and her husband, Bob, were thrilled. Later, they shared a quiet laugh, noting that the scholarship might just defray the cost of the last couple of years of Cortney's youth sports swim career.

The paradox has caught the attention of Myles Brand, the president of the N.C.A.A.

"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 over-exaggerated by parents and advisers," Mr. Brand said in a telephone interview. "That can skew behavior and, based on the numbers, lead to unrealistic expectations."

Instead, Mr. Brand said, families should focus on academics.

"The real opportunity is taking advantage of how eager institutions are to reward good students," he said. "In America's colleges, there is a system of discounting for academic achievement. Most people with good academic records aren't paying full sticker price. We don't want people to stop playing sports; it's good for them. But the best opportunity available is to try to improve one's academic qualifications."The math of athletic scholarships is complicated and widely misunderstood.

In 2003-4, N.C.A.A. institutions gave athletic scholarships amounting to about 2 percent of the 6.4 million athletes playing those sports in high school four years earlier. Despite the considerable attention paid to sports, the select group of athletes barely registers statistically among the 5.3 million students at N.C.A.A. colleges and universities.

Scholarships are typically split and distributed to a handful, or even, say, 20, athletes because most institutions do not fully finance the so-called nonrevenue sports like soccer, baseball, golf, lacrosse, volleyball, softball, swimming, and track and field. Colleges offering these sports often pay for only five or six full scholarships, which are often sliced up to cover an entire team. Some sports have one or two full scholarships, or none at all.

A fully financed men's Division I soccer team is restricted to 9.9 full scholarships, for freshmen to seniors. These are typically divvied up among as many as 25 or 30 players. A majority of N.C.A.A. members do not reach those limits and are not fully financed in most of their sports.

Ms. Milhous, whose Villanova field hockey team plays in the competitive Big East Conference, must make tough choices in recruiting. The N.C.A.A. permits Division I field hockey teams to have 12 full scholarships, but her team has fewer.

"I tell parents of recruits I have eight scholarships, and they say: 'Wow, eight a year? That's great,' " she said. "And I say: 'No, eight over four or five years of recruits. And I've got 22 girls on our team.' "

That can mean a $2,000 scholarship, which surprises parents.

"They might argue with me," Ms. Milhous said. "But the fact is I've got girls getting from $2,000 to $20,000, and it all has to add up to eight scholarships. It's very subjective, and remember, what I get to give out is also determined by how many seniors I've got leaving."


Two Brothers, Two Stories


Joe Taylor, a soccer player at Villanova, received a scholarship worth half his roughly $40,000 in college costs when he graduated from a suburban Philadelphia high school three years ago. He had spent years on one of the top travel soccer teams in the country, F.C. Delco, and had several college aid offers.

"It was still a huge dogfight to get whatever you can get," Mr. Taylor said. "Everyone is scrambling. There are so many good players, and nobody understands how few get to keep playing after high school."

In 2003-4, there was the equivalent of one full N.C.A.A. men's soccer scholarship available for about every 145 boys who were playing high school soccer four years earlier.

"There's a lot of luck involved really," Mr. Taylor said. "I can pinpoint a time when I was suddenly heavily recruited. It was after a tournament in Long Island the summer after my junior year. I scored a few goals. The Villanova coach was there, and so were some other college coaches. Within a couple of days, my in-box was full of e-mails. I've wondered, What would have happened if didn't play well that day?"

Mr. Taylor has a younger brother, Pat, who followed in his footsteps, playing on the same national-level travel team and for the same Olympic developmental program.

"He did everything I did, and in some ways I think he's a better player than me," Joe said. "But you know, I think he didn't have the big game when the right college coaches were there. He didn't get the money offers I did."

Pat Taylor is a freshman at Loyola College in Baltimore. Though recruited, he did not make the soccer team during tryouts last fall.

"I feel terrible for him — he worked as hard as I did for all those years," Joe Taylor said.

Pat Taylor, who started playing soccer at 4, said it took him about a month to accept that his dream of playing varsity soccer on scholarship in college would not happen. He looks back fondly on his youth career but also wishes he knew at the start what he knows now about the process.

"The whole thing really is a crapshoot, but no one ever says that out loud," he said. "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 it to do 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."

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This is a very interesting article. Thanks for posting it. I would like to comment about academic scholarships, though. While you can get good scholarships for academic achievement, the schools that give them are not normally the best ranked. When I was a senior I literally got dozens of letters from schools saying that I could get a full ride, but the catch was that they were generally not very selective schools. The Ivy League school I did attend doesn't offer merit scholarships, only financial need based aid. I guess it's still a better shot than sports scholarships, but it's not a perfect solution either.

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Here, here! Thanks so much for posting this! I've been harping on this issue for a while now.


I don't even *want* my son going to college on any sort of sports scholarship. It's just a way for him to be physically used up - and then what? We're told that swim kids go from swimming about 5 miles a day for their teams in high school, to swimming about 10 miles a day for their college swim teams. Many of them blow out shoulders pretty quickly.


I have a nephew in Iowa right now trying to decide where he's going to attend college. He's number one in the state (for his school division? I'm not sure of how the rankings work....) in some area of track (the mile, maybe) and he's not being offered any sort of decent money for that. He has better offers for academics and he wants to study medicine, so why not go that route?


I want my child to go to college to learn. If he's got a full time job as an athlete, I'm not sure how he's going to do that without constant worry about losing that athletic scholarship to something like injury. If he has an academic scholarship, all he has to do is concentrate on studying, which is what he's there for, anyway. Seems like the best of all worlds, to me.....



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Thanks for posting that. I am suffering some guilt of late because of the whole sports thing. My oldest has some athletic giftedness and I worry that we're not utilizing it like we should. She's not top-notch but has some obvious leanings that way. Anyway, it has bothered me that she may not get to do sports and have the scholarship potential, etc. That article was eye-opening. Really, if I was honest, I mostly want her to have the joy and fun of sports. I guess we can do that without worrying about the scholarship.


I have a very wonderful, very athletic niece who has gotten a full-ride for the next four years for volleyball at a university here in TX. I am so very happy for her (and her parents). She wants to be a nurse, and I have worried some about the pressures of keeping up physically while studying something as demanding as nursing. She'll be owned by the school. But wow, what a blessing for her to have that kind of ride. There are up sides and down sides. She is extremely gifted academically (could have gotten a scholarship that way also), so I'm hoping she can handle the load.



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While I wouldn't necessarily encourage a child going to university on an athletic scholarship, it seems that participation in high school athletics might add to the well-rounded student's resume which may increase opportunities for academic scholarships. Does that make sense? So sports may not earn athletic scholarships, even if one wanted one, which there are certainly drawbacks to that as others have pointed out, but may help demonstrate other qualities in the student which would help with university acceptance or scholarships. My brother was a three-sport athlete in high school, but certainly not recruitment material for colleges. But he was able to showcase qualities like leadership (quarterback, team captain, etc.), teamwork skills, balancing academics and athletics, etc. Now there are other ways a student might do this obviously--music, Scouts, 4-H.

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I agree with 100% of what the article said, but a college athletic scholarship was a great thing for me. I didn't really have any academic direction, so if I wasn't on a scholarship I probably would have wasted a lot of my parents' money.


Being on the college gymnastics team gave me direction, it gave me a family away from home, and helped keep me out of (too much) trouble. NCAA rules mandate how many hours a college team can practice, which is a LOT less than I had been working out at the club level. We had athletic trainers and team doctors that took care of our bodies.


On the other hand, I don't think it's a good idea for parents to strive for an athletic scholarship for their children. I think you're better off saving your money and paying the tuition. Also- I want my children to choose a college based on academics, not on where they can get on an athletic team.


Children should do sports for the love of sport, not as a job. I teach gymnastics; I know more gymnasts who went to college on athletic scholarships for other sports (track, diving, volleyball) than gymnastics. So definitely don't make your kid stick with a sport for the scholarship potential!

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It was pointed out to me that I was going to put WAY more money into the sport than dd would ever get out of a swimming scholarship. That if dd wanted to swim that was great, but don't do it because of the $ that would be rolling her way for college. You would get a whole lot more out of the bucks by putting what we were spending on swimming into the bank.


I've always remembered those sentiments. It has really helped to keep things in perspective for me. And, that lady was right. I cannot allow myself to think about how much money we have poured into the pool. But, it is our fun. We do it because we like it. If that ever changes, we're outta there fast.


As far as college demands being even rougher, that isn't necessarily true. The kids from our swim team find the college rigor to be a bit less than what was required of them in high school. The high school level demands (USA swimming which is much different than high school swimming) are astonishing and may give us cause to find another way. It is a long drive to the pool for us, and I just can't quite figure out how to make this work. Of course, that could put scholarship money in jeopardy. Good thing that isn't why dc are swimming...

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"When they received the letter from Delaware informing them of Cortney's scholarship, she and her husband, Bob, were thrilled. Later, they shared a quiet laugh, noting that the scholarship might just defray the cost of the last couple of years of Cortney's youth sports swim career."


My neice has just received a full soccer scholarship from Clemson. For the past 10 years my sister's family life has revolved around neice's soccer schedule. They's forgone vacations, spent weekends split up, spent umpteen thousands of dollars on private coaches, hotels, plane tickets, tournaments, etc.


My sister has never been disillusioned about neice's soccer career. She's made all these sacrifices because neice loves, loves, loves soccer. However, sister recognizes that she and her husband have probably spent more money on neice's soccer than college will ever cost. In fact, sister laughs at parents who pour their life and money into their kids' athletic career expecting a big pay out come college. In most cases, it's just as this article explains; scholarships are limited and rarely if ever come close to covering all the expenses the parents have poured out over the years.



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