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Sebastian (a lady)

Article: "The Myth of the Sports Scholarship"

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https://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Myth-of-the-Sports/238453?fbclid=IwAR0e5-vajLmSYElVIQlWbeJ6AelRSjlXvV8Auwl4eyzKH6SgnhI0j5D9r8Y

I thought this was an interesting read. 

It talks about the availability of scholarships and what it can look like to be a high school athlete being courted by coaches.

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Interesting. I have one niece that has a "very good" (says BIL) swimming scholarship to her college (Division 2). 

I noted that no where in the article did the girl worry about getting admitted to any of the colleges she was talking to. It was left unsaid (in the article) that if she committed, she'd be accepted. I wonder if that unmentioned perk plays into any of the decisions.

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17 minutes ago, RootAnn said:

Interesting. I have one niece that has a "very good" (says BIL) swimming scholarship to her college (Division 2). 

I noted that no where in the article did the girl worry about getting admitted to any of the colleges she was talking to. It was left unsaid (in the article) that if she committed, she'd be accepted. I wonder if that unmentioned perk plays into any of the decisions.

 

There was this paragraph: 

Many coaches opened conversations by asking about Allison’s academic credentials. She has a 4.1 grade-point average and scored a 31 on the ACT. Those numbers would qualify her for an academic scholarship at most of the colleges she was considering. Several coaches, including Bill Dorenkott, head coach at Ohio State, told her how much academic money she could get. Even before any athletic consideration, she would qualify for $12,000 in merit aid, covering about a third of her Ohio State education.

So I think that she was a competitive applicant at most of the schools she was looking at.  Yes, being a recruit on the team implies admission for many students.  But to be fair to her, she isn't out of range of the school averages mentioned.  (UCLA's middle 50% of ACT is 29-34)  It could also be that being accepted was something she did think about, but that the article author chose not to focus on.

 

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23 minutes ago, RootAnn said:

Interesting. I have one niece that has a "very good" (says BIL) swimming scholarship to her college (Division 2). 

I noted that no where in the article did the girl worry about getting admitted to any of the colleges she was talking to. It was left unsaid (in the article) that if she committed, she'd be accepted. I wonder if that unmentioned perk plays into any of the decisions.

Female athletes tend to be high achievers.  Not all of them, but a very high percentage.    

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That article was spot on for recruiting at the major conference D1 level. Understanding equivalencies and being able to be REALLY honest about your times (most girls don't get much faster from 17- don't expect to be an exception) and where you fit into a roster, as well as knowing what you can afford is the first step. My oldest daughter dealt with nearly every program mentioned and the experiences were spot on. She went to VT- had a terrible first year, coaching turmoil and change, plus an injury. She went to school year round, worked harder than should be allowed, and is graduating in three years this spring. 

My second daughter had a front row seat to the pressure cooker and disaster that the coach who resigned left in his wake. She had the money talk with coaches BEFORE taking visits and does have a full offer at one school- not fast, mid-major, slow conference. With two junior national times, she could have been at the bottom of the major conference rosters- but she needs money to go out-of-state to those schools. Like at least 70 percent (30 percent of most out-state schools still leaves you on the hook for about 30, 000 a year). She is not big enough or fast enough to command the same amount of money. So she had to look at slower schools in smaller conferences. And it is fine- she is going to be able to go to school, swim near the top of the roster and graduate without debt. That is what she wants. She has three visits this month and plans to commit by May 1.

This is in marked contrast (we live in a fairly wealthy area) with other girls she knows. They are going to be swimming at major schools (both of these girls are slower than dd2), one going to be almost the slowest one on the team, one is the slowest on the team- but they don't care. They got a roster spot and are paying full price.

In Dd1's words- "It's like paying to be an indentured servant." And the critical observation "coaches only care about you if they are giving you money." 

There are scholarships out there- but it is like adding a part-time job where all you do is talk to coaches ON TOP of the school/swim schedule. It is worth it- but it is much, much harder than most people think. Coaches ask about grades (they don't care about test scores as much) because a team can't carry too many low performers. Especially major conferences where they pull in foreign "ringers." American girls are expected to get the grades to keep the team average up. And most coaches weight grades (ability to time manage and get the work done) over test scores (just being smart doesn't help the team).

 

 

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One thing I found interesting was how she kept saying the money wasn't really the most important part.  It was basically the ONLY thing my sister considered when she was looking at her offers.  She basically told them she was going to go where the offer was good enough for her to not have to pay a thing.  And that's what she did.  She didn't go to college to play softball, she played softball to pay for college.

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Money aside, I think the high school student athletes often have a really hard time with the idea of giving up their sport and the camaraderie of a team when they go to college, which leads to them prioritizing sports in the school search, which may not be in their best interest. I know my current college student mourned terribly for a year, and is still a little sad that she is not a part of the school team. She does club sports, but it's not the same. There's a thought too that you will never know what you might have been able to achieve athletically.

Logically though, signing on for a college team really is taking on a job and there is huge insecurity when your college financing is dependent on your being able to remain injury free. Even if she had Div 1 times, I cannot imagine her fitting in a college sports schedule to her academic load. Div 3 would have probably been a nice environment, but there were other factors that made those schools not the ideal choice.

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Thanks for sharing. I had my 8th grader in training for an ultimate  D-1 golf scholarship. But, every year we go to a major golf tournament and speak with the coaches.   And every year, all the  d-1 golf coaches said  that if your are on a  golf scholarship,  you can't be pre-med, pre-law, etc.  You are there to golf.  But, not one ever said we probably won't get a full ride. Fortunately/amazingly he earned a scholarship (not a typo)  that has allowed us to instead aim for a walk-on at a d-2 school , 

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35 minutes ago, GoodGrief1 said:

Money aside, I think the high school student athletes often have a really hard time with the idea of giving up their sport and the camaraderie of a team when they go to college, which leads to them prioritizing sports in the school search, which may not be in their best interest. I know my current college student mourned terribly for a year, and is still a little sad that she is not a part of the school team. She does club sports, but it's not the same. There's a thought too that you will never know what you might have been able to achieve athletically.

Logically though, signing on for a college team really is taking on a job and there is huge insecurity when your college financing is dependent on your being able to remain injury free. Even if she had Div 1 times, I cannot imagine her fitting in a college sports schedule to her academic load. Div 3 would have probably been a nice environment, but there were other factors that made those schools not the ideal choice.

 

We moved a couple times late in my oldest son's high school years.  He went from a wonderful, high level and supportive swim team to teams that were run by a single coach, didn't communicate well, and didn't really care about him (as a swimmer or as a person).  It was a tough transition to go from swimming most days a week (some two a days) to not swimming much at all.  I hope that eventually he will go back to swimming as a life fitness sport, but right now he doesn't have much time for it as a student in a demanding degree program.

One thing I didn't see addressed was the effect of sport time demands on student academic choices.  I don't know how students balance a training schedule, a travel competition schedule, and an academic load that requires hours of homework or intensive projects.  

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Balancing practice, weights, team meetings, classes, travel, group projects, homework requires serious executive function and hard work and sacrifice. The old saying is that "of school, swimming, and socializing, you can do two," is pretty true.

It is not a "regular" college life. Lots of people leave or get kicked off teams for all kinds of reasons. Parents absolutely cannot force college athletics. Every step from junior year onward needs to come from the student. That is why coaches don't really want to talk to parents- they want to talk to the athletes to gauge desire, burnout, etc. It is why grades matter- they are the indicator of time management ability. Parents who don't step back really hinder their athlete's progress. 

My oldest girl would, in fact, do it again- though probably at a different program. But she was near giddy at the end of conferences and "retirement." Getting the last two months of school without any swimming (though she still goes to rehab) is eye-opening for her. She cannot believe all the time she has. Like watch a movie on Friday night time or go to a party on Saturday night and not be so tired she comes home before ten.

 

 

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We have never looked at my kids' sports (or activities) as a method to gain scholarships -- but as a way to hopefully set them apart at admission time.  All five schools my oldest son applied to (and was accepted by) gave generous Merit Aid.  The only D3 school DS applied to, he received a full-tuition scholarship due to swimming, school and scouts.  The swim coach there claims to have really pushed for him to receive the scholarship.  DS chose the school that he had no idea if he could swim there, but made the decision based upon his cost to attend and their offerings in his areas of interest.  He will be swimming D1 this fall -- they had roster spots available and I believe expect that he will help keep their GPA up.  He will be the slowest on the team at the start -- but probably will catch up and be pretty competitive.  He will have a work-study job, swim, and go to school.  That will be his life.  There will be little or no time for anything else.  DS is still dropping significant amounts of time, and the coaches expect that he will explode this fall.  I'm excited for him.

PonyGirl is currently going through this.  The money conversation will come early and often.  Her advanced coursework and test scores (PSAT/SAT/ACT) guarantee a fair amount of merit aid at most schools she's applying to.  There are others (Princeton/Dartmouth/Swarthmore, etc.) that have different ways to evaluate, but should still be competitive -- assuming DD is attractive to them.  DD is a child who is perfectly happy doing nothing but school, work and swim.  She is beating the odds, dropping significant time after age 17 -- but mostly because her training over the past 6 years has been at a much LOWER level than the girls she is competing against. Coaches who have spoken to her about her training schedule are pretty impressed with her times given the fact she practices an average of 8.5 hours a week during the competitive season and little dryland  (12 hours during the off season, with 1 hour of dryland/day which is 6 months out of the year).  Most of her friends swim an average of 15 hours during the competitive season with about 5-6 hours of dryland a week, and more during breaks.  The expectation is that she will explode when we return stateside to a more rigorous training schedule (it will be nice not to have to fight for water, and for her to have other kids pushing her).  I am excited to compete again in 8 weeks 😄  Even more excited to swim long course for practices.  

Academics were the first thing the coaches looked at -- kids still have to apply, but most of the coaches (for both DS and DD) were more focused on what they had been doing academically.  I've tried to stay out of the conversations except for things like NCAA eligibility and really just focused on explaining the financial issues to my kids, going through CLEP/AP/DE credit transfer issues, aspects of the schools they might like/dislike, scholarships/cost to attend.  I expect my kids to work at advocating for themselves, talking to the coaches, and the university/college people.  It's hard -- but vital.  Because things can easily go wrong, and they need the ability to communicate what they need.  I'm here to run ideas by, vent, or otherwise advise -- but in the end they have to be in charge of this decision process.

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1 hour ago, GoodGrief1 said:

I think the ideal situation is one where financial aid is not dependent on continuing the sport.

Sure, in an ideal world.

But Division 1 major conference sports are a machine. Thousands of peoples' livelihoods depend on the training, performance, and academic grades of athletes. Sports scholarships ensure that the machine is fed and continues. These young people, even in non-revenue sports, are treated as de facto professional athletes. Failure to perform might not take your scholarship, but coaches are fired- entire staffs lose their jobs for performance failures. Failure to make grades, break team rules, new coach with new ideas, people lose their roster spot and their scholarship and it is devastating, even if they can afford to stay at the school. In the Ivies, lots of kids get in using their sport- and drop out later. No penalty because there is no scholarship. 

In Division 3 with no athletic scholarships given, there are student-athletes.

In Division 1 with sports scholarships (and some schools do not offer academic money for athletes at all), there are athlete-students. 

Kids and parents need to understand what they are taking on- and if it will be worth it to them. Just because someone performs at a high level doesn't mean D1 is a good fit for them. In tracking the girls we know- about 50 percent transferred or failed to return for a second year in major conferences. 

As in all college searches, the best advice is the oldest advice, "know thyself."

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27 minutes ago, MysteryJen said:

Kids and parents need to understand what they are taking on- and if it will be worth it to them. Just because someone performs at a high level doesn't mean D1 is a good fit for them. In tracking the girls we know- about 50 percent transferred or failed to return for a second year in major conferences. 

As in all college searches, the best advice is the oldest advice, "know thyself."

 

Absolutely.

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My niece is in Div 1 swimming, and her scholarships are not substantial.  It was definitely enough to be very thankful for.  She also has the perk of the free training, fame and fun, travel around the country and even out of the country and all the awesome gear.

But the actual scholarship was nothing amazing, not even 1/4 of one of the academic scholarships my son received.  And, to be honest, a lot less blood sweat and tears went into that 🙂 (Granted not every kid is academic, but it's just a fact that it was a more natural, less stressful process.)

My niece is a very good student, so she wasn't worried about that aspect, so I'm not sure that was a big problem or a big factor either way.  

Edited by Calming Tea
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I've always wondered: What happens when a student is recruited but doesn't really earn their college any points or win anything the first year?  Do they improve with training year by year because they're now with excellent trainers?  Do they kick out athletes if they don't do as well as the coach though they would?

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Athletes can lose their roster spots and have scholarships cut  or reduced for poor performance. Usually a cut is part of multiple problems- athletic/academic/team rules issues.

When a new coach comes in- they can make a lot of changes- including reducing a roster, holding back scholarships or eliminating walk in positions. 

There is a lot of flexibility (power) that coaches have in handing out scholarships in equivalency sports.

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Cheer isn’t an NCAA sport, and only a handful of schools are able to give significant money (usually D1 football schools that have strong alumni support and are able to spend some of that on having a D1/D1A competitive cheer team), but it’s the same. I do think that it can increase chances of admissions, especially for men, but you are not going to get the money out of it that you put into training for years to get to that level-particularly since gymnasts who are not NCAA D1 level can often train cheer for a year or two at the end of high school focusing on stunting, and get those roster slots (the typical college D1 female cheerleader is under 5’0” and 100 lbs. This is not the case for most high school/club cheerleaders-all girl cheer requires a variety of body types on each team, so usually only about 3-4 girls on a high school team would even have a prayer of D1 college cheer. Most all girl teams are at DII or DIII schools, which won’t give money (but can be a really fun college cheer experience). 

DD gets targeted advertising due to having an athlete profile with USASF so that she can compete (which includes submitting transcripts, so they have grades/test scores in their database) close to competition venues-there are about a dozen big competitions, and I think she has gotten at least one college near each that mailed out invitations to her to come and visit while she was in the area to compete and offered special events for the girls while they were there, but that’s as far as it’s gone so far-and as far as it would ever be likely to go, because she definitely doesn’t fit the recruited athlete profile otherwise. 

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12 hours ago, Calming Tea said:

I've always wondered: What happens when a student is recruited but doesn't really earn their college any points or win anything the first year?  Do they improve with training year by year because they're now with excellent trainers?  Do they kick out athletes if they don't do as well as the coach though they would?

That first year is often not great for freshman swimmers at least -- due to the often tremendous changes in training philosophies and programs, the kids take awhile to adapt and progress.  I follow Cassidy Bayer (3rd in fly in 2016 Olympic Trials at 16, and hadn't hit 5'5" yet), she didn't have a great season at Cal Berkley (not awful, but not incredible).  Her story is fairly familiar as far as freshman seasons go.  Each swimmer is different in how they respond to the training, and much depends upon what they were doing previously.  Coaches I talk to often ask college coaches to please communicate dryland needs/program needs for their recruited freshmen, because we can help prepare these young men and women for the lifting programs and have them ready (and reduce injuries!!).  I'm working with my son's D1 coach to create a prep program for LEGOManiac -- so he can arrive ready to jump into the program.  

No, kids aren't normally kicked off the team for "not performing" how they thought they were (at least not in swimming).  They could get kicked off the team for not attending practice, attitude, grades, or other things, but I've never heard of a swimmer getting dumped for not dropping time.  Now, other sports -- like football or basketball -- where they are supposed to do X and can't make the jump to college ball vs. high school ball, yes.  

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On 4/5/2019 at 7:02 PM, Calming Tea said:

I've always wondered: What happens when a student is recruited but doesn't really earn their college any points or win anything the first year?  Do they improve with training year by year because they're now with excellent trainers?  Do they kick out athletes if they don't do as well as the coach though they would?

The 65 D1 schools in the "Power 5" conferences (Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, ACC, SEC + Notre Dame) have a policy of no cuts to athletic scholarships for athletic reasons (poor performance, bad attitude, team disciplinary problems, etc.). Anyone who signs a National Letter of Intent and receives an athletic scholarship at one of those schools is guaranteed all four years unless they have academic or nonathletic disciplinary problems.

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On 4/4/2019 at 12:41 PM, Sebastian (a lady) said:

One thing I didn't see addressed was the effect of sport time demands on student academic choices.  I don't know how students balance a training schedule, a travel competition schedule, and an academic load that requires hours of homework or intensive projects.  

The combination of college academics and D1 training is a really big step up from what most kids are used to in HS, even if they are serious competitors who travel a lot, and it really does make for a very different "college experience." In my son's case, he has practice all morning 5 days/wk, so he cannot take any classes before 12:45. And he really can't take more than one MWF class, because competition travel means missing several Friday classes per semester, and sometimes both Friday and Monday, so that would be a lot of classes to miss and work to make up. That severely restricts the courses that you can take, if you're trying to cram as many as possible into Tue/Thu afternoons. One of the main reasons DS chose his school was because they are top 10 in his major, with tons of resources, research groups, visiting lecture series, etc., and so far this year he hasn't had time to get involved in any of that. 😕 And with multiple 3-day competition trips each semester, trying to cram a full week's worth of work into 4 half-days is pretty stressful. 

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On 4/4/2019 at 11:02 AM, RootAnn said:

I noted that no where in the article did the girl worry about getting admitted to any of the colleges she was talking to. It was left unsaid (in the article) that if she committed, she'd be accepted. I wonder if that unmentioned perk plays into any of the decisions.

For many athletes targeting elite schools, the admissions guarantee is the grail, not the scholarship. Probably 85% of the athletic recruiting threads on College Confidential are focused on getting into Ivies and elite LACs. None of those even offer scholarships, the goal is just to increase the odds of admission from an unhooked 5-15% to a coach-supported 85-99%. And in many cases the students (and/or parents) are mostly looking to get into the highest ranked school they can, with much less consideration as to whether the school & major program are really the best fit. A lot of people were shocked that DS (#3 recruit in the country, with academics well within Ivy range), turned down several Top 20 schools, including an Ivy, for $32K/yr (academic + athletic money) and a major department that's higher ranked than most of the Ivies. He is definitely an anomaly in his sport.

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1 hour ago, Corraleno said:

The combination of college academics and D1 training is a really big step up from what most kids are used to in HS, even if they are serious competitors who travel a lot, and it really does make for a very different "college experience." In my son's case, he has practice all morning 5 days/wk, so he cannot take any classes before 12:45. And he really can't take more than one MWF class, because competition travel means missing several Friday classes per semester, and sometimes both Friday and Monday, so that would be a lot of classes to miss and work to make up. That severely restricts the courses that you can take, if you're trying to cram as many as possible into Tue/Thu afternoons. One of the main reasons DS chose his school was because they are top 10 in his major, with tons of resources, research groups, visiting lecture series, etc., and so far this year he hasn't had time to get involved in any of that. 😕 And with multiple 3-day competition trips each semester, trying to cram a full week's worth of work into 4 half-days is pretty stressful. 

 

Both of my kids have non-athletic situations that have time drains. What seems low impact on paper can feel very different in practice. 

One can't take any classes on Thursday afternoon because he commutes to another school for courses there. It's 3 hours of travel each week, plus the time on the other campus.  It effectively rules out Tu-Thur afternoon courses.

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On 4/5/2019 at 6:30 PM, MysteryJen said:

Sure, in an ideal world.

But Division 1 major conference sports are a machine. Thousands of peoples' livelihoods depend on the training, performance, and academic grades of athletes. Sports scholarships ensure that the machine is fed and continues. These young people, even in non-revenue sports, are treated as de facto professional athletes. Failure to perform might not take your scholarship, but coaches are fired- entire staffs lose their jobs for performance failures. Failure to make grades, break team rules, new coach with new ideas, people lose their roster spot and their scholarship and it is devastating, even if they can afford to stay at the school. In the Ivies, lots of kids get in using their sport- and drop out later. No penalty because there is no scholarship. 

In Division 3 with no athletic scholarships given, there are student-athletes.

In Division 1 with sports scholarships (and some schools do not offer academic money for athletes at all), there are athlete-students. 

Kids and parents need to understand what they are taking on- and if it will be worth it to them. Just because someone performs at a high level doesn't mean D1 is a good fit for them. In tracking the girls we know- about 50 percent transferred or failed to return for a second year in major conferences. 

As in all college searches, the best advice is the oldest advice, "know thyself."


DH had a sports scholarship at the big state U of a large state.    One thing that I learned recently, they controlled what the athletes ate.  They had their own cafeteria and their cards were programmed with their individualized food plan.   If they tried to get something not on their meal plan, it wouldn't let them.   It wasn't a problem for DH because he was on a 'gain weight' diet.   So, he got as many carbs and calories as he wanted.  But, other athletes grumbled.    DH even had one coach of not-his-sport walk by and challenge what he was eating.   DH did say that they could get steaks for breakfast.   But, I found that level of control creepy.   

 


 

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2 hours ago, shawthorne44 said:


DH had a sports scholarship at the big state U of a large state.    One thing that I learned recently, they controlled what the athletes ate.  They had their own cafeteria and their cards were programmed with their individualized food plan.   If they tried to get something not on their meal plan, it wouldn't let them.   It wasn't a problem for DH because he was on a 'gain weight' diet.   So, he got as many carbs and calories as he wanted.  But, other athletes grumbled.    DH even had one coach of not-his-sport walk by and challenge what he was eating.   DH did say that they could get steaks for breakfast.   But, I found that level of control creepy.   

 


 

My brother also had a sports scholarship at a big state U.  In addition to the food monitoring, he was required to take the nutritional supplement creatine.  I was shocked to see how much muscle mass he added on (and he was pretty big to begin with) when he came home for Thanksgiving his first semester.   (I know studies say creatine is safe, but I would still worry about unknown long-term effects and would not be happy with not having a choice on whether or not to take it if one of my kids were in this situation.)

My brother definitely felt like the coaches owned him, especially since he was attending on an athletic scholarship.  While the NCAA has set a limit on the maximum hours an athlete can spend each week, that regulation (at least when my brother played) is a joke as teams are easily able to get around the limit by holding "voluntary" practices and "voluntary" work-out sessions, etc.  The team definitely came before the academics and when there was a conflict between the two, my brother had to miss the class.

My middle son went through the recruiting process a few years ago now.  In my son's sport, the vast majority of the kids at my son's level play D1.  My son determined early on in the recruiting process that even the level of time commitment needed at an Ivy (which is D1, but league restrictions make it less demanding than other D1 programs) was too much for him (Ivy coaches told him to plan on 4 hours a day).  His friends (and their parents) were shocked that he elected to play for a D3 school, but it was the best choice for him.  His college team spends 10 days in California each spring break, and all of the other matches when school is in session are on the weekends against opponents that are all in the same geographic area.  

HIs experience hasn't been perfect, though.  The facilities at his D3 school pale in comparison to what he would have had at a D1, which has been frustrating for him at times.  But, he has time to conduct research with a professor, and next year he will also add being a junior advisor to the mix.  Had he chosen D1, he would not have had time to fit these activities in and would not be able to double major in two STEM fields.   

With a few exceptions, his friends who are playing for D1 teams are also having a great experience.  None of them, however, are majoring in STEM fields.

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I'm not posting because I have it out for athletes.  My oldest was a competitive swimmer in high school.  He knew he was not going to be recruited by a high level school, but he loved the swim team and the hard work in the pool helped keep him steady.  Many of his team mates did go on to swim in college.  One reason the original article caught my eye is because the swimmer in it was from the same area where my son swam.  I would have timed at many of the meets she swam in.

I know from posts over the years that many families here are incredibly deliberative and intentional about sports and sports recruiting.  They try to weigh the pros and cons.  I do find myself wondering just how much discussion there is of the potential downsides of what our students choose to put into their rucksack when they go to college.  It can all look so maneagable on paper.  Just juggle a little faster.

One of my kids attends Stanford, where this top cyclist was a graduate student.  She wrote the following in February.

===

https://www.velonews.com/2019/02/rider-journal/kelly-catlin-journal-trying-to-balance-grad-school-and-pro-racing_483774

Kelly Catlin journal: Trying to balance grad school and pro racing

Team pursuit world champion and Olympic silver medalist Kelly Catlin explains how finding balance in her life is like juggling with knives.

The crowds cheered. The flags waved. As our team stepped off the podium, pupils dilated from adrenaline, faces beaming, it was hard to imagine a better outcome. We had just finished second at the Berlin World Cup, which marked our first team pursuit podium of the 2018-2019 season. Just in time for the run-in to the 2020 Olympics, things were finally looking up.

Or so it seemed.

I began to feel a bit apprehensive when we stepped to the side for pictures because our U.S. National Team coach, Gary Sutton, was white as a sheet. And he was looking at me. Dang.

“Gary, what is it?”

Uh oh. He took a step closer and put a hand on my shoulder like he was bracing to tell me my parents had died or something. “Kelly … I got an email from Stanford … something was wrong with the Statistical Analysis test.”

Oh no.

“I’m afraid, well, it looks like you’ll have to take it again.”

And that was when I died a little on the inside.

Being a graduate student in Computational Mathematics is easy. Being a graduate student while simultaneously competing for the National Team on the track is often more difficult. It’s most difficult when you have to retake a three-hour final exam the moment you step out of the final round of a team pursuit. Being a graduate student, track cyclist, and professional road cyclist can instead feel like I need to time-travel to get everything done. And things still slip through the cracks.

This is probably the point when you’ll expect me to say something cliché like, “Time management is everything.” Or perhaps you’re expecting a nice, encouraging slogan like, “Being a student only makes me a better athlete!” After all, I somehow make everything work, right? Sure. Yeah, that’s somewhat accurate. But the truth is that most of the time, I don’t make everything work. It’s like juggling with knives, but I really am dropping a lot of them. It’s just that most of them hit the floor and not me.

So how do I balance three competing (no pun intended) careers?

Easy. I don’t balance them.

Every masters cyclist in the world knows this. When you go out to train after a long day at work, you’re not really “balancing” your cycling and your work. Rather, you are prioritizing your cycling (possibly against your significant other’s wishes!) ahead of the myriad other tasks you could pursue in the evenings. When you’re cycling, you’re not doing your 9-to-5, and when you’re at your job you’re certainly not cycling. Each day you’re breaking the hours down into discrete chunks of 100 percent. During you’re work day, you’re ideally working 100 percent on your job. After quitting time, you’re 100 percent committed to cycling.

I do exactly the same thing, only instead of breaking down the hours, I break down the days. From November through mid-December I had a 40-day track camp with two World Cups mixed in. Those 40 days were 100 percent committed to track cycling. Then, when I got back, I was 100 percent committed to graduate student duties for the two weeks until we departed again. And on and on it went, with the only bumps in the road occurring when certain major tests and projects had to be turned in while I was on the road.

But things go wrong, no matter the time management or organization or discipline. Life happens, and of course, cycling and Murphy’s Law are practically synonymous. Broken arms, concussions, mechanicals, lost books, bad Internet speeds, you name it. You cannot plan for the unplannable, and — to go back to the juggling analogy — sometimes those knives will hit you. What do you do when that happens?

Now I am going to say something cliché: The greatest strength you will ever develop is the ability to recognize your own weaknesses, and to learn to ask for help when you need it. This is a lesson I have only just begun learning, slowly and painfully, these first few months as a graduate student. I still fail. As athletes, we are all socially programmed to be stoic with our pain, to bear our burdens and not complain, even when such stoicism reaches the point of stupidity and those burdens begin to damage us. These are hard habits to break.

Do you want an example? I once studied for 12 hours during my recovery day, only to realize I needed a recovery day from that “recovery” day.

So, remember: Just as with your muscles, your mind can only repair itself and get stronger with rest. Ask for a rest day, or, if you’re fortunate to be your own taskmaster (er, coach), give yourself a rest day.

Unlike everything else in life, it cannot possibly do you harm.

===

I went looking for the above article, because it was mentioned in another article about her in March, that sadly announced her death by suicide.   https://patch.com/california/paloalto/olympic-medalist-stanford-student-kelly-catlin-dies-suicide

Around a third of college students say that they are struggling with depression and mental health.  Athletics and academics could each be a full load on their own.  Academics and working can put a heavy strain on students.  Academics and ROTC or campus internships, or even just academics alone can be a heavy burden.  

Again, I'm not attempting to point a finger at anyone, especially not parents with current or hopeful athletes.  I just don't remember this kind of pressure being something that was talked about when my son was swimming with what is a highly ranked club.  I considered, and still consider his coaches to have been people who cared about him deeply.  But there was also a sense that good swimmers just work harder and juggle faster and more elegantly.  I suspect that many other sports have a similar "suck it up" "pain makes you stronger" approach.  

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3 hours ago, alewife said:

 

My brother definitely felt like the coaches owned him, especially since he was attending on an athletic scholarship.  While the NCAA has set a limit on the maximum hours an athlete can spend each week, that regulation (at least when my brother played) is a joke as teams are easily able to get around the limit by holding "voluntary" practices and "voluntary" work-out sessions, etc.  The team definitely came before the academics and when there was a conflict between the two, my brother had to miss the class.

 

1

Still a joke. The limit on practice is "coach run" practices. This does not include "trainer run" session in the weight room, team meetings led by captains, trainers or nutritionists. This also does not count mandatory "fun" like volunteer things, athletic department banquets or recruiting activities.

dd1 counted up hours one week last year- 37 hours of team things. On a non-travel week. For a non-revenue sport.

Classes are scheduled around team requirements. Period.

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My ds plays baseball at a D3 school. Growing up on the travel ball circuit we knew most of the best players in the area and followed where they went to school. 

One thing we noticed over and over was kids and their families going anywhere they could play ball without looking at the rest of the school. Having a conversation with one mom was mind blowing to me. She was telling me excitedly how her graduating senior was going to play baseball at a good D2 school in our state. No scholarship but a roster spot had been offered.  He had accepted and they were all thrilled. I congratulated her and was making chit chat and asking her about the school. She knew nothing about the school- including where it was located! She did not even know what part of the state the school was in. I am not kidding. Another mom had a kid get a D1 spot 10 hours from home and he didn’t like the school. She said they had no idea until he got there but it turns out it is a liberal arts school and he hates writing and reading. But he stayed because it was D1. And he did not even have a sizable scholarship and the family was well off. But it was D1!

So many stories. Party kids who have no religious inclination at all going to conservative Christian schools. Kids going to schools that don’t have their major. Etc etc. And of course kids going to expensive schools they wouldn’t otherwise have chosen. 

In full disclosure, my ds was never good enough to play D1 in the south and he didn’t want to go far or go north where he would have been more competitive. His peers who were at his level of play did go to D2 schools but the D2 schools in our region just made zero sense for him academically or otherwise. 

He has loved his college baseball experience but he is truly a student first. He missed a whole off season to take an internship he was interested in. He lost playing time but he was comfortable with that choice. A couple times he did not travel midweek because of academic demands.  He has always had an understanding with his coaches that he is committed to ball but he is a student first. They would love him to be 100% baseball committed but they all understand his career will end at graduation and he is trying to set up his real life.

But even at the D3 level- when these kids are not going to go pro- so many athletes and their parents are so focused on the sport. After ds joined his team the kid that hosted him on his visit told him he was the strangest visit he ever hosted. It was because he asked all about academics and internships and job placement. Haha. So many players come to his school that are terrible fits. The school is tiny and the academics are harder than people expect because it isn’t that hard to get admitted. And it is super expensive without scholarships. I think there were 20 kids come in with his freshman class and I think there are six or seven left two years later. That is typical.

It’s pretty wild. I used to love sports but I’ve soured on it after so many years and so many misplaced priorities. I’m glad my two still left at home have different interests. 

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It's funny, my dad just brought up this topic when we were on the phone yesterday. He played football at a now Div 1 school (I think the designations were different back then). He is quite opposed to college athletics now, at least for his grandchildren. Nephew is going to play football now at a Div 2 school, and truly his primary interest in the place is that they would take him on the team. It's a sport with a high rate of catastrophic injury, and there's no way he will be pro. So it does seem an odd choice. But, as I think I said earlier, I do understand that it can be really emotionally difficult to end involvement with a sport when you have put years of effort into it. The colleges make the kids feel like celebrities for a time too with the signing ceremonies and such.

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On 4/5/2019 at 7:00 PM, Calming Tea said:

My niece is in Div 1 swimming, and her scholarships are not substantial... not even 1/4 of one of the academic scholarships my son received.  And, to be honest, a lot less blood sweat and tears went into that 🙂

 


Check out the stats for the average sports scholarship -- it's not much. Certainly not when you think of how many hours go in to earning that scholarship. I wonder if some students would have much less stress and earn more $$ by getting a part time job flipping burgers or making/serving coffee...

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6 hours ago, Sebastian (a lady) said:

(snip)

Around a third of college students say that they are struggling with depression and mental health.  Athletics and academics could each be a full load on their own.  Academics and working can put a heavy strain on students.  Academics and ROTC or campus internships, or even just academics alone can be a heavy burden.  

Again, I'm not attempting to point a finger at anyone, especially not parents with current or hopeful athletes.  I just don't remember this kind of pressure being something that was talked about when my son was swimming with what is a highly ranked club.  I considered, and still consider his coaches to have been people who cared about him deeply.  But there was also a sense that good swimmers just work harder and juggle faster and more elegantly.  I suspect that many other sports have a similar "suck it up" "pain makes you stronger" approach.  

I will point a finger at some of the parents with current or hopeful athletes in my kids' sport.   Some of these parents have completely lost their minds.  These parents have forced their kids to play since the time they were able to hit a ball.  They won't let their kids quit.  The vast majority of these abusive parents are not interested in their kids turning pro or even a college scholarship - they are interested in admission to a T20 school.  In my 15 years involved in the sport, I have seen many parent/child relationships damaged beyond repair.  

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21 minutes ago, Lori D. said:


Check out the stats for the average sports scholarship -- it's not much. Certainly not when you think of how many hours go in to earning that scholarship.

And those stats are artificially high because they lump together the "headcount" sports (football, basketball, and women's gymnastics, volleyball, and tennis) where D1 scholarships are all full ride, with all the other sports, where the vast majority of athletes get partial scholarships, many of which are just a few thousand. If they separated out the head count sports, and just averaged the other sports, it would be more obvious just how few full rides there are and how small the average athletic scholarship really is.

 

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8 hours ago, teachermom2834 said:

My ds plays baseball at a D3 school. Growing up on the travel ball circuit we knew most of the best players in the area and followed where they went to school. 

One thing we noticed over and over was kids and their families going anywhere they could play ball without looking at the rest of the school. Having a conversation with one mom was mind blowing to me. She was telling me excitedly how her graduating senior was going to play baseball at a good D2 school in our state. No scholarship but a roster spot had been offered.  He had accepted and they were all thrilled. I congratulated her and was making chit chat and asking her about the school. She knew nothing about the school- including where it was located! She did not even know what part of the state the school was in. I am not kidding. Another mom had a kid get a D1 spot 10 hours from home and he didn’t like the school. She said they had no idea until he got there but it turns out it is a liberal arts school and he hates writing and reading. But he stayed because it was D1. And he did not even have a sizable scholarship and the family was well off. But it was D1!

So many stories. Party kids who have no religious inclination at all going to conservative Christian schools. Kids going to schools that don’t have their major. Etc etc. And of course kids going to expensive schools they wouldn’t otherwise have chosen. 

In full disclosure, my ds was never good enough to play D1 in the south and he didn’t want to go far or go north where he would have been more competitive. His peers who were at his level of play did go to D2 schools but the D2 schools in our region just made zero sense for him academically or otherwise. 

He has loved his college baseball experience but he is truly a student first. He missed a whole off season to take an internship he was interested in. He lost playing time but he was comfortable with that choice. A couple times he did not travel midweek because of academic demands.  He has always had an understanding with his coaches that he is committed to ball but he is a student first. They would love him to be 100% baseball committed but they all understand his career will end at graduation and he is trying to set up his real life.

But even at the D3 level- when these kids are not going to go pro- so many athletes and their parents are so focused on the sport. After ds joined his team the kid that hosted him on his visit told him he was the strangest visit he ever hosted. It was because he asked all about academics and internships and job placement. Haha. So many players come to his school that are terrible fits. The school is tiny and the academics are harder than people expect because it isn’t that hard to get admitted. And it is super expensive without scholarships. I think there were 20 kids come in with his freshman class and I think there are six or seven left two years later. That is typical.

It’s pretty wild. I used to love sports but I’ve soured on it after so many years and so many misplaced priorities. I’m glad my two still left at home have different interests. 

Honestly, it's not just sports -- I run into so many families whose parents have no clue about the college search in general.  They rely on school Guidance Counselors and their kids to "do" this.  When the parents here want to know things about SAT/ACT/PSAT, college apps, researching college, AP classes, whether to take AP Chem or Honors Physics, AP Stats or AP Calc,, etc., recruiting for swim, etc -- I'm the go-to.  The GC at the school basically say, "let me know if you need a rec for the college of your choice" and that's where it dies.  Numbers of non-athlete kids go to colleges with bad fits, don't have major areas of interest, or are just not prepared for college life in general.  

The sports angle makes it much more complicated -- but the lack of education about college attendance in general is woefully poor (even among homeschool families -- as this could be expanded to the myth that going to CC for 2 years is always cheaper, or that CLEP will guarantee you graduate college early, or all colleges are equal, or fill in with whatever other myth we face on a regular basis).  Most of my kids (it seems) will probably attend lower-tier schools in the honors colleges -- not because they can't get into more highly respected institutions, but because they prefer school X over school Z and/or the cost to attend at school X is wildly lower than the cost to attend school Z, even with the most generous scholarship offered by the school.

Just like everything -- we have to share our experience and our knowledge with those around us.  It's frustrating to repeat yourself again and again -- mostly because I had to figure out a lot for myself (and when I couldn't find answers... ask).  I suppose that's why I insist my kids look for answers to what they don't know or don't understand instead of just telling them (age-appropriately, of course).  So many people don't realize what they don't know, and/or don't know how to find the answers themselves to so many BASIC things.

 

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12 hours ago, Lori D. said:


Check out the stats for the average sports scholarship -- it's not much. Certainly not when you think of how many hours go in to earning that scholarship. I wonder if some students would have much less stress and earn more $$ by getting a part time job flipping burgers or making/serving coffee...


I equate playing club sports to get a scholarship with doing beauty pageants for the scholarships.  
Yeah, you will probably get some scholarships, but the Return On Investment is a little better than lottery tickets.  

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39 minutes ago, shawthorne44 said:


I equate playing club sports to get a scholarship with doing beauty pageants for the scholarships.  
Yeah, you will probably get some scholarships, but the Return On Investment is a little better than lottery tickets.  

This very much depends on your gender, the sport, and your talent level. And your decisions in recruiting. Girls in swimming with sectional times and above can find serious money. But they have to look around for it and work for it and make compromises on schools. Major conferences have many people swimming for a pittance or "books" (think under $500)- but they made that trade-off. Of the girls we know personally, scholarships have ranged from 100% to 0% at major conferences, 100% to 40% at mid-major conferences, and 100% to 75% at D2 schools. Academic money goes on top of those percentages if available.

We never thought of a return on investment- merely following children's talents and passions. But frankly, it has paid off. One child with a serious scholarship helps everyone in the family. And she is graduating without any debt. The next swimmer coming up has taken note.

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I think it's important, as with anything to let it be a passion and a hobby that is not an obsession, especially if it's the parents' obsession rather than the students.  I feel like very few athletes will be able (just by physical limitation even if all the effort is put forth) to achieve the kind of swimming that would earn that type of scholarship.  Using swimming as the example just because I did it in high school, the student gives up all of their mornings, all of their afternoons, many weekends during the season and often will not have the time to pursue too many other clubs or hobbies. If the kid enjoys her team mates and feels cared for and loved by her coach and the parents and other siblings have time to spend with the sibling to work around the schedule AND the swimmer isn't desperate to try something else, then it's great and the scholarships are of course super awesome benefit.

BUT it's the working TOWARD the scholarship that is the problem, because many times they just won't come.

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2 hours ago, Calming Tea said:

BUT it's the working TOWARD the scholarship that is the problem, because many times they just won't come.

Fencing is a sport where there are very very few scholarships (and very few varsity programs at all), yet so many parents with young kids in the sport are convinced they're going to get a full ride somewhere. There is a graphic floating around that I see reposted all the time that shows how many HS students there are in each sport and how many college scholarships there are, and it makes fencing look like a slam dunk for sports scholarships. The problem is that the graphic only counts students who fence on a high school team, which excludes about 90% of actual HS-age fencers, who fence for a club. It also assumes that all D1/D2 fencing programs are fully funded and offer the maximum number of scholarships that the NCAA allows, which is far from true. But there are a lot of parents of 12 year old fencers who think their kid is either going to get a full ride to Duke or Notre Dame or they're going to be a shoo-in at an Ivy.

The mom of one of DS's club-mates always used to tout fencing as a great way to impress colleges and get sports scholarships, despite the fact that her kid was really not that into it, and she was really angry when he eventually quit. I think anyone who isn't absolutely passionate about their sport in HS is just not going to be able to keep it up in college, because the sacrifice is so much greater in college. There's no surer way to make a kid hate a sport than sending them to a college that's not a good fit, that was chosen purely for the scholarship money, and then forcing them to keep training 30 hrs/wk at something they no longer care about just to be able to afford to stay there.

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Exactly. And that is why everything should be driven by the kid. If they don't want to go to practice at 13 because it has gotten harder. Let them not go. My girls had their bags packed and handed me the keys and said, time to go. I have not woken a kid up for morning practice, ever. They are up and ready to leave on time because this is what they want.

Working hard to improve and working for a scholarship need to come from within. And yes, the kid has to sacrifice. The kids I know who have walked this road made these decisions: party or sleep? hangout with friends or practice? on their own. It is an awesome and sometimes scary thing to see that kind of drive in your child.

If a girl has that drive and works like that- almost every girl can find a spot swimming collegiately. And most can find some $ if they want. It might not be the school of their dreams, but they can find a place.

 

 

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