Betting on a sports scholarship to pay for kids' college? Don't

Unless you are a truly remarkable athlete, luck is pretty important especially for team sports. There are many, many athletes that are recruitable at the various levels and have the athletic stat’s and recognition. Coaches in the recruiting process have limited opportunity to watch recruits in person and for the “average” recruitable athlete, exposure will be at some camp, showcase, or tournament where coaches are watching sometimes hundreds of prospects, if not dozens. Athletes have good days and bad days. The coaches may be watching you when you make that exceptional play (or when you boot something routine) or they may be off somewhere else watching another group.

20% expected scholarship versus 11% getting some level of scholarship is probably the least delusional thing I’ve seen in college applications or on CC. the 40,000 unhooked kids applying for 400 unhooked slots at Harvard and other T20s seems far more delusional than athletic scholarship chasing based on that stat.

Also, for affluent sports (lacrosse, soccer, field hockey, cross country, etc…) very very few kids (or more likely their parents) are going to let their kids apply to bottom academic D1s just to chase a fractional scholarship. For the team sport I’m most aware of (WSoc) almost no one gets a full scholarship (even at T10 sports schools), and many lower D1 schools have no scholarships or well below NCAA limits (e.g. 3 of 14 for Wsoc; e.g. Davidson) so athletic scholarships are not expected even for the best players that go to those poorly supported D1 schools. Finally, some of the bottom D1 sports are actually worse than top D3 in terms of quality.

Not only is luck a huge component but exposure is as well. Granted my recruitment was in the stone ages but I was very lightly recruited due to lack of exposure. I was from a state that was not a hot bed for my sport and my family did not have the time, money, and inclination to travel the summer competition circuit to gain exposure. As a result the interest I received during the traditional recruiting times (prior to senior year) were mostly schools in my region, not near the top of Div I.

When All-American lists and national ranking were compiled after my senior season suddenly I was ranked as high as #2 in the nation in some sources but by that time most schools had filled their recruiting class. Coincidentally the individual ranked #1 was also from a similar background and in my same situation.

Luck became a factor when the school I had already decided to attend (and not compete) had a spot and some money open up due to a transfer situation. I was able to attend the school I had chosen academically that also happened to be in the top ranked conference for my sport and my coach was a multi-time Olympic team coach. The other top ranked athlete also became lucky as he found a similar situation within the same conference. We came from half a country apart and went to different schools but became good friends based on our recruiting backgrounds and luck.

If not for the luck involved I would have never realized my potential and never made the lifelong friends and connections I now maintain. Luck was the most important piece of the equation for me as I think it is for many athletes.

when there is no financial incentive for something in the US, luck is heavily involved. We will see how the new recruiting calendar affects things but in WSoc top programs were committing freshmen and sophomores in high school. This time period severely disadvantaged kids who did not come from homes who’s parents also played soccer or had a minor physical impediment that might be fixed later. By senior year, there are a lot of high school girls who aren’t readily distuingishable from D1 partial scholarship kids but they missed the timing of female soccer recruiting. (really easy things like elevating fitness and learning tactics (which are not emphasized in club, help players really stand out but don’t indicate future potential)

I mention no incentive to find the best senior/junior soccer players, since I went to a high school baseball game where the pitcher could hit 90 mph on the radar gun, and when he pitched there were typically 8-10 major league scouts in the stands. They are sitting there with radar guns, taking notes/charting pitches, and yelling pitches they’d like to see. Every part of this country will find star baseball players in high school (no club necessary), but non-revenue sports are basically untapped since there’s no financial incentive to find a potentially great women’s soccer player. Similarly even in the most rural parts of this country, alabama and clemson football will find that 6foot 5 defensive end. Not surprisingly, those coaches make 5$ million plus to find those players.

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First, I have no idea where the author got the 11% figure. It isn’t clear in the article and what is more it does not jibe with the stats published yearly by the NCAA. The fact is that in virtually all sports, the percentage of kids who play in high school and go on to compete in college at any level is well below the published admissions stats for almost all schools. When you limit the pool to kids who are competing in D1 and D2, and are hence eligible for scholarship dollars, the percentages are below the admit rates at every school, with the probable exception of women’s ice hockey, where 10.1% of girls who compete in high school go on to compete in D1 or D2. Add in the fact that large numbers of those scholarship kids are receiving minimal aid because of all the scholarship dicing (outside of head count sports) and it is in no way, shape or form rational to build your college plan around making junior or juniorette into a scholarship athlete. That should be the take away here.

Also, and not to pick too many nits, but baseball is not a revenue sport and there is significant differences in high school talent/recruiting/scouting region to region. Also most serious baseball recruiting is done out of travel teams, unless things have changed radically in the last three to five years. But I absolutely agree with your larger point about the revenue sports (and big time football in particular) being much more aggressive in recruiting and going the extra mile to find a kid who may not play in a “hot” area. Even there though there is much more attention put on certain regions of the country.

My D is a scholarship athlete in a full headcount sport at a major D1 university, my S is an Ivy League athlete where there isn’t scholarship money available (in a sport that is not full headcount in any case). If I could ‘Like’ @Ohiodad51 post #16, with a specific emphasis on the second paragraph, a million times, I would.

What are the chances that your kid will get an athletic scholarship at a school where you want them to be academically? It can happen but its more rare than just getting an athletic scholarship somewhere. And there are some athletes with talents that get them above where they should be academically. Though that is very rare. If its your only option for going to college, makes sense though.

And ultimately, I am not sure it makes sense to say that some athlete parents are delusional but there are other non-athlete parents who are also delusional. Delusional is bad. That others are also delusional doesn’t make it less delusional.

My D received a 60% scholarship in track and field. I am a CC anomaly in that our D needed the athletic money, and it turned out that her largest offer was her top choice anyway. And heading into her junior year, she couldn’t be happier with her choice. Recruiting is hard work, especially in non-revenue sports and when many teams are not fully funded.

That said, we also had a son who was the “superstar” pitcher on his baseball team. He was mildly recruited until he tore his UCL and had to have Tommy John surgery. Then he fell off the face of the globe in terms of recruiting. It’s a hard lesson for a kid. Thankfully, he received a D2 offer from a coach willing to take a chance on him.


The 11% is from pg. 8 of the TD Ameritrade Sports Parents Survey, which is referenced in the article the OP linked to initially:

The survey was of parents with at least one child playing a club/travel sport, which presumably is played at a much higher level than the average high school varsity team.

I actually think the parents’ responses to the survey are not that far off from reality. I also found the last slide (pg. 11) interesting: 19% of Gen Z and Young Millennials surveyed wish they had spent more time studying than playing sports; an almost equal number (16-17%) thought sports was a better use of their time than studying in retrospect.

As noted by @Ohiodad51, many elite athletes choose to leverage their athletic desirability to secure LLs at Ivies over scholarships at non-Ivy D1s. The value of all-but-guaranteed admission to a single-digit selectivity school is worth a lot — one need look no further than the recent “Varsity Blues” scandal to see how much some folks would pay for one.

TBH, I think the non-Ivy selective D1 programs may represent the best of both worlds. The Stanfords, Northwesterns, Dukes, etc.

I’m the parent of a scholarship athlete, btw. Non-revenue sport, but Title IX probably a factor. FWIW, I wouldn’t pooh-pooh “fractional” scholarships too quickly. After all, 99/100 is still a fraction. :wink: All kidding aside, that fractional may be the difference between being able to afford a school and not.

Other than my daughter, the only kids I know personally who have gotten athletic scholarships have been the ones whose names were ALWAYS In the paper…the true stars/impact players in our area. I think that’s not a bad reality check for parents.

Regarding luck, I think that certainly plays a factor. But being proactive and having a good network of connections helps too, especially for second-tier prospects.

I think there are a lot of high school athletes (and their parents) who expect to get a college scholarship --and they do! They are the standout athletes in 2 or 3 sports, they are the siblings of college athletes who know the system now and how to get those scholarships (was there any doubt that the last McCaffrey brother would get a football scholarship and have his choice of schools?), they are the kids in sports factory high schools with coaches and counselors with years of experience in getting kids into colleges on athletic scholarships. If I had another athletic kid to send to college, I’d be a lot better at the recruiting the second time around.

A friend was a fantastic high school player, named best in the state. He was below average academically at a very competitive hs, probably had a gpa south of 3.0 and an ACT in the low 20s. With his late recruiting after his decommit to a service academy, he had limited options. He still got 1/2 scholarship for 2 years, full for 2 years. This guy is one of the top 25 players in the country so the coach is happy. There was never a doubt that he’d get a college scholarship. Never. At 16, he looked like a full grown man. At 20, he IS a full grown man but only a sophomore in college.

He has a younger brother who is also a superstar athletically but has quite a few learning disabilities. Are his parents expecting him to get a big scholarship? Yes. Are they expecting him to go to Yale or Notre Dame or Duke? No.

Their high school sends dozens of athletes to top schools every year. Golfers to Stanford, wrestlers to Duke, rowers to Yale and a whole bunch to state schools (but more to elites because it is a high SES school). The school wins multiple state championships every year (won another last night) Of course the parents are counting on getting scholarships or using their sports as hooks at elite schools because their kids are playing on the state championship teams and they are the best. They see the scholarships happen year after year, they see the classmates head off to Yale and Stanford and UCLA. Yes, they expect scholarships but they aren’t all delusional.

I think the parent expectation peaks in middle school. Once the kid gets to HS and through puberty a lot fo things change. Kids burn out, start partying, find other interests, stop improving, etc right in HS plus the parents start talking to parents with older kids. I know I spend a lot of time answering questions when I’m at my middle schooler’s events.

^^ A side note, as far as equivalency sports are concerned for middle class families, Ivies (esp HYP) are amazing options for the athletes who can compete at a D1 level and have the academic chops as the 100% grant FA package, makes those schools the best financial deal possible. For many families, the net cost of going to HYP is lower than getting a partial athletic scholarship even in an in-state school. No wonder those schools can be competitive at the highest D1 levels, hockey and lacrosse most recently, and are no longer a joke in basketball.

@Ohiodad51 I agree that number seems weird but it’s what “admisssions expert” @Dave_Berry posted. IF true it’s better statistical odds than applying to a T30 school that people chase a lot on CC. However, yes personally playing a sport and expecting a scholarship is insane. And fencing has >80% high school fencers, fence in college (I think that’s the highest rate)

And yes - I used revenue sport incorrectly - I meant sports that have lots of revenue for pros. Baseball has a lot of money for the pros (like 300$ million dollars for 10 year contracts). And yes, if you can hit 90 mph as a pitcher professional scouts will come to regular high school baseball games anywhere in the US. kids now just use twitter to advertise their pitching speeds. “bumping” 90 more than once in a game is very, very rare. If any of you have a kid in your school district that throws 90MPH + multiple times a game check out an inning; the amount of resources major league baseball spends on scouting is amazing. Baseball players can go pro after high school something that no other US sport really does currently. It’s quite a difference watching olympic sports where often parents are the only ones in the stands. Seeing 8 grown men diligently charting every pitch some 16/17 year old throws and travels the country looking for those kids often at high schools is something to ponder.

but yes you better have a natural gift (like being a 6’6’’ female volleyball player or 6’10’’ basketball male player to expect a scholarship.

And yet my 5’2" kid got a scholarship.

@BKSquared, absolutely correct. DS got way more in FinAid than he would have anywhere else for athletics. Luckily, CC clued me in on this when he was still in high school. THANKS CC! You would think the kid might keep this to himself considering it kind of broadcasts the family financial situation, but he told me the other day that no one can believe how little we pay. :blush:

S22 is currently a strong player in an interesting environment. He is the second youngest player on his club team. Three of his teammates have already committed to D1 programs as juniors. Every class of 2019 player on the team the next age group above is committed to a college program, from top 15 D1s to more local D1s as well as Ivies, NESCACs and top D3s.

At no point have I ever expected he’ll earn a scholarship. Am I hopeful that he’ll earn a roster spot at a school he’d love to attend? Of course, but I don’t expect that to happen either.

The next 24-36 months will be interesting for him. Next year, as a sophomore, he will continue to watch current teammates commit in their junior year as well as former teammates that moved up a year that are seniors. As you might expect, none of the parents are forthcoming about scholarships in general. They certainly don’t discuss any financial information.

I’ve never really asked him if he thinks he’ll earn a scholarship. I’m certain he expects to play in college though. I’ll ask him his thoughts on the way home from practice tonight.

I’m just along for the ride when you get right down to it. I simply hope he stays healthy and continues to work as hard in school as he does on the field.

Men’s soccer only has 9.9 scholarships compared to women’s 14. also there are hundreds of more D1 girls soccer teams than men’s. Men’s soccer for D1 is brutally competitive. Some top programs also take internationals much more so in men’s game (although FSU women (and more recently UNC) does it in women’s).

What the maximum roster size for Men’s D1 soccer? I think it’s 29, but I might be wrong. So that’s 9.9 for 29 spots.

For baseball there is a max of 11.7 scholarships for 35 man roster. Of the 35, only 27 can receive athletic money, and the minimum they must receive is 25% of a scholarship. That means by rule at least 8 guys are getting no athletic money, usually more. And that’s for schools that fully fund their baseball scholarships, most don’t.

yes @nhparent9 for D1 men’s there are a total of 9.9 scholarships that can be divided for EVERYONE. It’s a title 9 thing where football gets 85 scholarships (which are all used at places like alabama) so to balance out the number in many non-revenue sports the mens teams are both fewer in number and fewer in scholarships. I don’t think there’s actual caps on soccer roster sizes, however there are caps on travel rosters which I think is 22 and can be set by conference. (i believe not 100% sure). UNC women typically have 30 kids on their women’s team for soccer and “making the travel roster” is the first goal for those kids.