Parents tend to be delusional about their kids’ athletic abilities. A staggering 26% hope their high-school-aged children will become professional athletes one day, according to a recent poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
They are setting themselves up for disappointment. A tiny share of high school athletes in the US go on to play at university, at any of the three divisions in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
These are grim odds for the masses of young athletes hoping to play at a higher level. It’s also bad news for parents hoping that their child’s athletic prowess will merit a scholarship that reduces the bank-busting tuition bill. Indeed, as as KJ Dell’Antonia noted for The New York Times, only around 3% of sporty students receive athletic scholarships, and often these don’t even cover the total cost of tuition.
To maximize these already slim chances of a college-bound athlete getting financial aid, it might pay for parents to think beyond the mainstream. Girls who are speedy on skates and have a mean slap shot are best placed—23% of female ice hockey players go on to play in the NCAA. For boys, the chances are best for lacrosse, with around 12% recruited for competitive play at college.
As if the odds of getting a college athletic scholarship weren’t daunting enough, the chance of getting the payday that comes from graduating into the pros is even worse. Way worse.
Kris Hinz, an independent college counselor, told author Lynn O’Shaughnessy that rather than spending so much time and money on sports for their kids, parents should focus instead on academics, for which far more scholarship money is awarded by universities.
And that way, parents can get back to encouraging their kids to play sports for fun, not money.