Athletics in College: Worth it or Major Regrets?

<p>Fellow Parents,</p>

<p>I am interested in opinions about whether or not sending a son to college to play football, either as a scholarship athlete or a walk-on, is worth it or a big mistake. I have a hard time believing he can get the job done in the classroom and do all the running, lifting, training, practicing, preparing and traveling that athletes must do. </p>

<p>I am talking about being at a school that takes academics seriously where he would be competing in the classroom with extremely bright and motivated kids.</p>

<p>Hey, let's be honest. I know at some schools the jocks can major in Phy Ed and Family studies and all that and get lots of hand holding and support. What a joke. I am not talking about that kind of place for my wink-wink student athlete. I am talking about a place where you don't do well you are gone plain and simple. </p>

<p>I know it depends on the student. My son is typical. If I didn't wake him up in the morning he would sleep until God knows when. He rarely reads unless I force him. He is bright but isn't exact aware of the world around him. He has a very high aptitude (based on the standardized tests he has taken on reading and such) but is in a public high school and the rest of the students are rubbing off on him in the wrong way. He doesn't spend forever on Facebook but he watches too much MTV and/or TV. </p>

<p>Good grades, unweighted/weighted GPA 3.5/4.0; he ranks 115 out of 600 something in his class. Two sport athlete (football/track) and will go out for soccer next year too. He is bilingual and has decent EC's. </p>

<p>I'd be grateful if other parents could cut through the baloney and give me any straight, honest information they might have. My son 100% for sure will never make money playing sports. He will not make the NFL. So playing sports is just for pride and vanity. His future is his brain. It should be obvious but I think we really do love sports and the chance at playing in college means something to us. </p>

<p>But I don't want to bury him either. Is it doable? Seriously? I know other kids do it but I seriously suspect they are majoring in basket weaving not accounting or engineering. I know there are some super bright people that just never sleep or eat -- my kid eats constantly. I hope my question isn't vague. playing sports a nightmare or not so bad........if other parents have any insights having been through it please share. </p>

<p>Thanks in advance.</p>

<p>I know of athletes in my school that are in engineering and do varsity sports. Of course, they don't generally do that well, but that's another story.</p>

<p>Then again, the guys I know who can handle this are pretty damn smart and responsible. I mean they can miss every lecture and still get above average on tests. Is your son one of these guys?</p>

<p>My son was on a varsity team his freshman year at his highly-selective-full-of-overachievers college. His sophomore year he decided it was just taking too much time and he was missing out on all the other things college had to offer. That freshman year he was training or studying, maybe not every waking minute, but too many of them. It ended up not seeming worth it to him, and he was a VERY dedicated athlete to his sport in high school, state champion, etc. He just completed his sophomore year. He had a wonderful time and did much better academically too.</p>

<p>You'll get a lot of valuable responses if you post your question in the Athletic Recruits subforum Athletic</a> Recruits - College Confidential The parent "regulars" there will be happy to chime in with their kids' experiences.</p>

<p>My son is a D1 athlete at an academically rigorous school. He is a student first and an athlete second. The team trains 2 hours/day most of the year with weekend competitions during the 3 month official season. He has been able to handle the competing demands of athletics and academics pretty well.</p>

<p>My son had to make this choice this year. He was recruited for his sport and had the opportunity to play at one of the best math/science schools in the nation. He wants to be an engineer. This was one of the toughest decisions he had to make. He decided to take an academic scholarship at one of the best universities in the nation and forgo playing. In the end, he felt he could not give enough time to his academics while playing his sport. He will be playing at the club level instead. He played his last tounament this past weekend. I could barely see as tears flooded my eyes. It is tough to see this area of his life conclude. However, I do think he made the right decision for him. It's a personal choice. You should talk to your son at length about it and take your lead from him. Best of luck.</p>

<p>Also, to be blunt as you asked, no I don't think it can be done with a tough major. I really don't. Engineering, physics, chemistry, math, etc. - these subjects are just too demanding. I checked the rosters of my son's sport and most were majoring in far less demanding subjects. My son is very, very smart (Class rank #1, 4.8 weighted/4.0 unweighted). His future is his brain. He's also a nationally ranked player. That's why it was hard for him to walk away. But walk away he did. It takes a smart kid to realize his limitations. I think you are right to be concerned. I hope I was blunt enough.</p>

<p>Upon further reflection, I'll say it depends...on the school, the sport, the major, and most of all, the kid.</p>

<p>I'm sure that momfirst's son's decision was best...for him.</p>

<p>But for my son, D1 athletics and Ivy academics mix well. He is excelling in Princeton's Integrated Science program and intends on majoring in either Physics or Molecular Biology, so I'd wouldn't agree that tough majors can't be done by athletes.</p>

<p>I'll repost the original question in the Athlete subforum.</p>

<p>Also for the OP, although my son feels like leaving his sport was the best choice for him, it certainly was not something he had "major regrets" about, as per your original question. He feels like his athlete-years were an amazing experience and are very meaningful to him. It's just that with the demands of college it felt like time to move on. No regrets, but just the chance to broaden his college experience. It wasn't just academic demands that compelled him to leave the team, it was that there were so many things going on that he wanted to be a part of -- cultural things, recreational things, clubs, etc. His particular sport had both morning and late afternoon training committments that ended up taking 5+ hours a day most days. On top of that he also has a workstudy job. It just wasn't worth all the things he had to trade off to keep doing it.</p>

<p>It was bit of a sad passing of that part of his life, for sure, just like Momfirst3 said, but it was right and it was time. He's since gotten involved with a club sport at his college (a different sport) and he's having a blast with that.</p>

<p>I agree that it was a tad sad when I watched him shake hands with his opponent after his last match. I was thinking of his first win at 10, his big wins, his tough losses... What a journey it was. He said it best, "It sucks that it's over and I'm sad, but it's time to move on." It's a personal decision. Everyone is different. I am sure the OP's son will do what is best for him.</p>

<p>A relative of mine went to Princeton and played football freshman year (he had been recruited at USC, but decided on P) By the second year, when he was looking at an Engineering major, he realized that he couldn't do both, his priority was high gpa. He is super smart and disciplined, and was the Sal at a competitive private school.</p>

<p>Thanks to each of you for taking the time and answering and reposting my question. Football is a brutal sport physically and emotionally. You can be a part-time football player even in high school. They train, I swear to God, 10 months out of the year with Spring games and Summer conditioning and weightlifting and all the politics and butt-kissing that goes with it trying to get and keep precious playing time. </p>

<p>I am not sure we will miss it in college if he quite after high school but there is no better advice than follow one's heart and in all honesty it is in our blood. So, we are torn. </p>

<p>I'll follow the link. Thanks a bunch.</p>

<p>"Also, to be blunt as you asked, no I don't think it can be done with a tough major. I really don't."</p>

<p>Not true. Very difficult and rare, but possible. Paul Posluszny, currently playing linebacker in the NFL had a 3.7 in Finance at Smeal, the Penn State Business School. We know a boy who plays basketball at a top LAC with a 3.9 in Math.</p>

<p>S2 played football all through h.s. (m.s. sch. too). He got letters of interest fr. small colleges but decided early on to hang up his cleats. A yr. older friend fr. his h.s. team walked on at a big state u. Div. 1 team. He quit after one year. Said it was brutal, took over his life. Told S, don't do it if you want to have a life in college.<br>
Also the chances of injury playing on the college level increase. </p>

<p>S2 just went through shoulder surgery to repair old football injury and will spend the rest of his summer in physical therapy. I'm glad he decided enough was enough after h.s. </p>

<p>My neice played D1 volleyball all through college. I don't think she regrets it but will say that it was hard missing so much class, traveling all over the country for games and having her life dominated by training.</p>

<p>Rule of thumb for college:</p>

<p>Academics, Athletics, Social life. You may choose any two.</p>

<p>as ou student is a rising sr-- a serious varsity athlete- and competes nationally--
we too have been looking at this question..</p>

<p>does kiddo drop to club level - or play varsity...
the teams kiddo is considering have practices daily--some days doubles--</p>

<p>One thing we are looking at is the rosters and what the majors are--AND are there jr an srs on the roster..</p>

<p>A friend of DH was recruited to Vr Tech (swimming) and is an engineer--the comment was to check our the rosters and see who is handling your major and is still in your sport as a jr/sr..that tells alot of the story for that school</p>

<p>our kiddo had looked at some schools without the sport at all (and had the major)--and we told kiddo that since it was such an important part of kiddo's life--why give it up - there are too many schools with the sport and the major...
hoping to find the right balance</p>

<p>hope that helps</p>

<p>I will offer what appears to be a minority opinion. Play.</p>

<p>Let me qualify that by agreeing with sherpa's statement above that it all depends….on the school, the sport, the major and, most importantly, the kid. Division I sports at any of the big athletic conferences (ACC, Big East, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 10) and even some of the lower level conferences can be very demanding, both physically and mentally. And I certainly wouldn't limit it to football. Something like women's soccer can really be a big commitment. But if the student loves the activity and this really is a big part of their identity, then play. </p>

<p>So why play? Mostly IMO it's about life and experiences. Your child can't decide at age 28 or 38 or 48 (LOL) that he/she really wants to play the sport competitively at a high level. Unless they're part of that tiny minority that can play professionally, that opportunity is available when they're 18-22 and that's it. </p>

<p>I think that there is too much focus on CC (and with some employers) with grades and getting the right internship or graduate school and less on learning (inside and outside of the classroom) and individual development. I guess it's easier to look at grades and make cuts, but I suspect that we all know plenty of folks who knock that model upside down. In my experience, athletes and folks with military experience do it very frequently. Individuals mature at different speeds and are heavily shaped by their experiences. For my part, I care a lot more about who they are and what they've done and why than I care about whether they got a very high GPA or a less high GPA. </p>

<p>The student who challenges himself/herself in some very demanding non-academic classroom activity is very often a heckuva lot more disciplined and resilient and broadly intelligent/balanced than one who spent their four years in the library. This may not be obvious when comparing 21/22-year olds, but the value of these experiences emerges over the course of the student's post-college career. </p>

<p>I try to look at this holistically. What will the competitive sport experience mean to the development of the individual over the course of his/her 20s and beyond? </p>

<p>I think we rush our kids to be experts in this or that academic/work realm and I really doubt that many have the intellectual ability to do it and even fewer have the perspective. I encourage kids to think longer term. They're going to live into their 70s, 80s, maybe even 90s. Life is long and the real world is not going anywhere. It'll be there when you get there. So do what you love now, work hard and develop the individual so that when you look back 10, 20, 30, 50 years from now, there are fond memories…and there are no regrets.</p>

<p>The fact is that many athletes wind up quitting their sport after one season in college. A very strong student/athlete whose mother used to post a lot on this site quit before his freshman season even began!
Of course it can be done (tough majors included), but it is very difficult and MOST do not do both successfully. I am very familiar with the student/athletes at schools such as Vanderbilt and Rice. Some of the athletes are good or decent students but many are not. It's simply a fact of D1 athletics. Now the Ivy/Patriot is a different story since there are not scholarships (yes, I know there are a few in Patriot).</p>

<p>I agree with hawkette that it offers an incredible experience AND can help a great deal in job search/networking. I have a friend who suffered through the practice squad for 4 years at UTexas on the football team and had doors opened for him that he could not have imagined. I am a believer in college athletics, but don't be fooled into thinking a tough major and a D1 team sport is an easy road.</p>

<p>It's not impossible. I'm a Wake Forest alumna - most people here know that Wake is not an easy school by any means. I can think of at least two recent football players that are now in medical school; one is at the top of his class. One was in my major and got better grades than those of us that weren't athletes! These guys weren't benchwarmers either.</p>

<p>Of course, Wake's football program is a little more nurturing than some schools may be; the coach wants the focus to be on academics first.</p>

<p>I was a recruited DI football player back in the dark ages of the late 1970's. Had several options at that level to go along with several options for straight academics (including MIT).</p>

<p>I was heck bent on becoming a Petroleum Engineer, but I did not want to give up football just yet. So I chose a DI school that offered the chance for both.</p>

<p>After my sophomore football season, I dropped football to concentrate on my studies. It wasn't a case of trying to get good grades. It was more a case of trying to get passing grades.</p>

<p>College football is consuming. Especially if you want to be able to compete at the highest level. My biggest problems came from fatigue and time management. My typical class load required a minimum of 3 hours of homework on the average day, and usually more than that. But after working out and eating dinner, it was often 8:00 pm or later before I was able to get to work. The fatigue factor made it difficult to dive right in and be effective.</p>

<p>IMO, a kid should go with his heart. Give it a try and see how it works out. In my case, I will always know that I played and contributed to the football program, and still identify with that program. But my career after college was framed infinitely more by my engineering degree. It's all good.</p>