Accepting the College Scholarship reality
Xs and Arrows
August 6, 2022
While the culture of year-round travel sports keeps most of us on our toes these days, in my world the official start of the sports season is a few weeks away as football kicks off at various levels. With that kickoff, which for many will include a variety of sports over the next nine to 12 months for their kids, comes undue pressure from adults to punch their ticket to the next level.
Parents, let me save you a lot of heartache, your child is not receiving a full-ride scholarship. There, I said it, now go enjoy the season, whatever the level may be.
Wait, I need to justify that statement? Sure, here goes. The competition for college scholarships, especially at the NCAA Division I level is more competitive than ever. As the NCAA consistently changes rules and regulations for D1 athletes, the spots not only get tougher to come by, but increasingly competitive thanks to the transfer portal.
For example, an NCAA Division I basketball team has 13 scholarships they can award, football has 85 at the FBS level and 63 at the FCS level. Considered "head count sports" each scholarship for the most part is reserved for one individual. Take basketball for example. As a student exiting high school you are competing for those 13 spots with other high schoolers, junior college players looking to move up, international players looking to play in the United States where they can get their education paid for while playing basketball (by the way many have been playing in "academies" for years and have a high level of competition), and now the NCAA transfer portal where other Division I players can find a new home once during their career. So, just in basketball alone, the chances after high school are very slim-and I hate to say this, but tougher coming out of a small school like Tehachapi.
On the football side the same rings true, although the international players are not a factor, but other transfers certainly are. The Division II route offers 36 scholarships, but the average value is around $6,700, and those schools will traditionally split those offers across multiple players. A scholarship is not going to pay the entire bill. Mom and dad take note.
Baseball/softball are sports preyed upon by the youth travel ball industry promising better looks for the purpose of college scholarships. While the competition might help, that does not change the NCAA reality that there are 11.7 baseball scholarships (12 for softball) allowed per Division I team that can be given to a maximum of 27 players (softball 24). A "full-ride" might as well be a unicorn in those sports; coaches must make their money stretch to build a squad. That same competition exists for those exiting the junior college ranks and transferring from other schools. This reality might convince you to consider taking a few additional weekends off the travel tournament schedule if you look at it as an investment in your kid's college future and not just a great opportunity to play ball with their friends.
None of this is meant to deter your kids from playing, quite the opposite, it is meant to encourage you and your kids to "play" the game, to enjoy each snap, shot, at-bat and match. To reap the benefits of the lessons that will be applicable in life and other careers outside of athletics. There of course will be exceptions and along with those opportunities at lower levels to get some financial assistance for an education while playing sports. Point is, do not be disappointed should an opportunity present itself outside the NCAA Division I level. That does not mean failure on anyone's part, just an affirmation of reality of the intercollegiate athletic landscape.
Enjoy the season, enjoy the journey and the experience and if there are a few lookers out there considering your kid for their team, be open to every option, including community colleges as proven student-athletes at those levels have a leg up on the most coveted scholarships due to their experience.
It is important to be armed with the knowledge and the reality of the situation that there is a far better chance that your kid will not receive a college athletics scholarship than be one of the lucky few who will. Believe me, accepting that reality now will either make the confirmation much easier when the last whistle blows, or should things bounce your way, make the rare opportunity that much more gratifying for all involved.
Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter, broadcaster and athletics administrator. He advocates for the value of athletic competition and serves as the President of the Tehachapi Warriors Booster Club. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.