Are sports related to school? If your child plays sports, they most likely have dreams of going pro or at least play in college. I’m sure that you are hoping they get a full ride from sports to play a Division I so that they get that “Free Ride” for college. However, did you know that only 5% – that’s right – FIVE PERCENT of high school athletes play in college and only 1% make it to a Division I school? Almost every sports parent I know – including ME – wants that! Who wouldn’t be like their child to continue playing the sports they love, and our bill for college would be zero. After all those years of carting your child around, spending time working snack stands and fund raisers, getting that scholarship money would be icing on the cake.
However, I was flabbergasted when I read that only 5% made it at all – and that counts for all colleges including community college. Really? Then my sons started looking at colleges and I did the whole nine yards – did the showcases, the tournaments, paid for a recruiting site to help us. I’m not done this journey yet but here’s what I know about playing sports to help tilt the odds in your child’s favor. However, before I get to that part, let’s get realistic with these two facts:
- The likelihood of a full-ride scholarships is hard to get AND keep but not impossible
Division I colleges are always looking to give out scholarships, but there are only a few full rides. First things first, you have to make the team. Few coaches are only looking for your child’s performance on the field/court/whatever – they want to see that your child can get into the school and thrive with the harsh realities of being a student-athlete. A typical student-athlete’s schedule goes like this: up around 5-5:30 am EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. To be in the gym for morning workouts starting at 6 and going to 7:30. Then back to shower and get dressed for 8:00 classes. All classes need to be done by 2:30 (most colleges give preference to athletes to get them into early classes) so they can be at practice or get ready for a game by 3:00. Then dinner at 6:00, then mandatory study sessions, in which you won’t get done all the work, so you go back to your dorm and study until 11 or 12. Then up by 5:00 the next day. Is your child READY for that? Even in Division II and III schools that are forbidden to have this type of schedule, it is “voluntary” and all athletes on the team do it – and we all know what “voluntary” means (in case you haven’t had a coach who has used that word – it means if you don’t do it you will be cut from the team for a totally different reason, but you will be cut without a doubt. )
- The likelihood of getting a PAID sports job out of college is slim to none.
According to the NCAA, around 2% of most college athletes go on to play professionally, which is a HUGE difference of between 52-60% of the students themselves who believe they are going to play pro. If you do plan on playing college, you need to make sure you have a viable back-up plan and pick the college and degree that they will be happy with studying and then doing if their sports dreams do not happen. In lieu of taking an “easy course load”, talk to your child about what they REALLY want to do. How are THEY going to make a difference in the world? Do you really want them to just go and play sports for a 2% chance to make it to the pros – and even then, most athletes barely get a living wage? sure you don’t. Give them a backup plan. If you are afraid of crushing their dreams, you can always word it in a way that it is just a plan in case they get injured – which is a big reality. You want them to be happy for the REST OF THEIR LIVES. No one is happy with a job they hate – with a job they can’t wait for Friday to come. Is that what you want for them? No? Then give them the tools so they can get a career they LOVE instead of just one that they fall into when all else fails.
Knowing that, if your child still wants to play sports, here’s some important
- Your child’s GPA is important
Your child’s GPA is important because each school has a minimum required to get in. If you are below that, you won’t be able to get in to the school, let alone play sports.
- Their transcript is even more important
Once the coach sees the GPA, they then look at what classes your child took. Were they all advanced or honors classes? Or did your child take a lot of fluff classes? A higher GPA with easier classes will get your child passed over for one that took harder classes that challenged them. However, the best would be a high GPA with classes that are advanced or honors. Coaches know that those students will have a higher success rate in college, especially with the demands of being a student-athlete. Coaches are not stupid nor are they looking for an athlete who can help them for one year because then they will be kicked off the team due to poor performance.
- Their SAT or ACT score is crucial
On top of their GPA, coaches need to know what your SAT/ACT score is because if it is lower than required by NCAA your child won’t be considered. If it is higher than the mandated score but lower than the school, your child has a chance to have the coach pull strings but I wouldn’t count on it unless it was very close and their GPA was very good.
- They have other extracurricular activities
This part is small for coaches because once in college they don’t want to you do too many extra things. However, it does show that your child can balance multiple activities which is an important skill for student athletes.
Now that you know what coaches are looking for, how to do you help your child? It depends on their age
- If they are in elementary school
Congratulations! You are a forward looking parent! The best thing to do for your child is to get them to LOVE playing and practicing as well as to LOVE learning new things. This doesn’t mean you just give them everything and tell them “good job” all the time. Give them lots of time with you and when they don’t do as well as they would like, talk to them about how to improve. Do it with them! One of the best teaching tools we use is to do ALL the problems a student has along with them. Then you are working as a team, not as a bossy-know-it-all who gets frustrated because they aren’t perfect (hint: no one is perfect – you can always get better, especially as a parent 🙂 )
- If they are in middle school
Start working on their study skills and address any problems with their studies RIGHT AWAY. Find out what else interests them and get them into clubs or, even better, do the activities as a family. Teach responsibilities come first but always to take time out for fun as a family. Show them what it is like to train and work hard but not to excess. Prove to them you love them for who they are by taking time for them and always finding ways for both of you to get better at all different things. Get them in advanced classes now so they can take the high level classes in high school.
- If they are starting high school
Make sure they take the hardest classes they qualify for and get them the help they need right away. Don’t wait until MAY! Just don’t! Get them into multiple activities they enjoy. Talk to them about what they enjoy doing and how they want to make a difference in the world now and when they are adults. Show them that you make a difference. If you don’t feel that you do, that’s wrong – you are making a difference in your child’s life and nothing is more important.
- If they are almost done with high school
If they haven’t done as well as you had hoped, its not too late. Get them specialized help NOW. Get those scores up. However, don’t do it by bribing, screaming, yelling, or putting them down. It won’t help. I have seen it too many times to know that it won’t help any! Instead, sit with them to see what they want and come up with a plan on how to do it. Write a contract and get them to sign it. Be a good manager and follow up. Don’t just ask, “Did you do your homework?” Ask instead, “Can I see what you did today? Yesterday, I found it interesting/confusing/aggravating when we worked on math/science/writing and I want to see if it is any different today.” Or you can try something like, “What was something boring that you learning today? What was something interesting that you learned today?” Truly talking and taking an interest in their school life will make a huge difference.