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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Scholarships, Scholarships, Scholarships

Last week I had a conversation with a friend who's son was playing flag football. His son is still in grade school. He described that as he was watching the game several mothers of opposing players were jumping up and down, and waving dollar bills in the air. My friend had no idea what was going on. I suggested that maybe they had bet the over/under on the game and were doing well. My friend said,"No, the mothers had promised their sons $1 for every time they pulled out the flags (made the "tackle")."

Earlier this fall I called a friend who I had known since shortly after college. His daughter had participated in a certain sport all through grade school and junior high, and I thought she was pretty good. Whenever ran into the father, he talked about how much his daughter enjoyed that sport. So now that the daughter was high school age, I asked him how she liked the sport in high school. His reply,"Oh, she is not playing that in high school. She loves that sport but the local hs coach of another sport told us that they think our daughter could be DI in the sport she coaches. So we thought it made sense for her to switch sports to try to get a scholarship." I was blown away by this. A kid liked a sport and was good at a sport but chose a new sport because some coach convinced them and their parents they were scholarship material.

A year ago I heard the story about a father's strategy for dealing with an injury. The kid was a basketball player in another community. The player had what I would consider a minor, but nagging injury. It was toward the end of the season when a lot of players have aches and pains. The player's team had about 3-4 big games coming up that would determine whether they could win their conference title. The father and son let the coach know that they thought the son would not play for the next week to ten days. The reason,"With this injury my son is at about 90% and we are afraid if he plays now it is going to negatively impact his stats, and effect college's interest in him." Wow, that blew me away. Which do you  think would impact the college coaches more- The player going from averaging 18ppg to 16ppg, or Finding out when the big games were on the line the player decided to let their teammates down?

I realize all of us have different values but personally I find these kinds of things depressing. I firmly believe that for an athlete to be both successful and happy in sports it has to be a result of the sheer internal joy of competing and performing. Can you imagine how a kid's attitude toward a sport is impacted if at 9 years old after each play he is calculating the days profit? After the game is the kid more likely to remember his earnings or the game score?

I have become aware of parents who have put their high school players on salary too. In a few cases I have heard of a parent rewarding their daughter for rebounds, but most always it is related to points. I heard of one clever parent who recognized if they were going to score points, they needed to shoot. So this parent gave their daughter $1 for each shot taken, and gave her an additional $10 bonus if she shot more than 10 times.

While all of this may seem ridiculous to most adults and even to most parents. Many parents are less apt to recognize the ridiculousness of when the chase for college scholarships takes over their life. I do not remember any of our former Streaks players who got DI scholarships spending time or energy in high school worried about getting a scholarship. The key to success is to focus on the process not on the outcome.

When an athlete and a parent become focused on the drive to get a college scholarship, they don't realize that--

1- This can become a huge source of pressure on an athlete.

2- This can succeed in turning a high school sport from being fun to simply being a business.

3- You don't have to pay lots of money to go all over the country. College coaches find talented players.

4- Some parents don't realize that their obsession about an athletic scholarship may be more important to them as a parent than it is to their child.

5- Major colleges give full scholarships in men's basketball, women's basketball, and football. At some highly successful DI schools they may full scholarships, but most other sports the player is going to receive not a full ride but is going to be given athletic financial aid ranging from $1,000 per year to $10,000 per year.

6- Athletes choosing to go to DIII schools like Augustana, Knox, and Monmouth will generally be receive larger scholarships (based on financial needs or on academic records) than the average kid who goes to DI and says they are getting a scholarship.

7- In choosing a college, an athlete's priority should not be to go to the highest level possible. Too often they seek being able to say they are going to the most competitive level and find they are unhappy. An athlete should try to go to a level they think they are going to be successful.

8- Remember if in order to go to college you need financial aid, there are lots of non-athletic scholarships available.

9- The best way to qualify for an athletic scholarship is to be focused on being a successful high school athlete.

10- Kids don't need cash to be excited about competing.

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