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Sports scholarships need to be earned

A year ago, when my friend asked me to join him in growing the Baltimore Celtic Soccer organization, I was excited to become part of such a young and storied club with significant success at the national level.

That excitement was justified when our club recently held a National Letter of Intent Signing Day where we placed more than 20 of our top players on many of the top Division I, II and III schools to continue their playing careers. I’m excited about the coming years as kids grow through our club from here in the “Western” region to get the same opportunities as these young men and women.

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The beginning of a sports season brings many new experiences for a player, coach, or parent. There’s making new friends on the field and the sidelines, dusting off last season’s equipment or breaking in new, the smell of the newly cut grass, or the distribution of the all-too-important snack schedule.

The one common thing that transfers from season to season and sport to sport is the ever-present discussion of receiving an athletic scholarship. There aren’t enough fingers in my family of five to count the number of times a parent has made the comment that they want their child to get an athletic scholarship for their chosen sport. And that’s mostly with the kids I’ve worked with under 10!

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How realistic is it for a parent of a budding athlete to expect their 7-year-old to become the next University of Maryland sports star Connor Kelly (men’s lacrosse), Aja Ellison (women’s basketball), or Lizzie Colson (women’s lacrosse)? Should their path to a solid college education be paved with the promised gold of athletic scholarships? Is the time and energy we spend now getting them to practice and games a guarantee of success on the gridiron in the future?

Before you can even begin to think about the possibility of a college scholarship for your child, they first have to rise to the level of an elite athlete that is able to compete at the collegiate level. There are approximately 8 million students participating in high school athletics across the country and of those, only 480,000 of them will be fortunate enough to be able to play their respective sport at the collegiate level. That’s just 6 percent — SIX PERCENT — of our student-athletes keeping the “athletes” in their title at the next level.

Once you’ve crossed the first threshold, you then have to meet the minimal four academic requirements outlined by the NCAA to be eligible to apply for an athletic scholarship — you must be a graduate of high school, take a predetermined core course load (currently 16 required courses), carry a minimum GPA on your classes of 2.0 (C), and your combined SAT/GPA score must meet the grid requirements outlined by the NCAA.

The higher your GPA, the lower your SAT score can be. For example, a GPA of 3.0 only needs an SAT score of 620, while the minimum 2.3 GPA requires a 900 to meet the minimum standards.

Now that your budding athlete has overcome those hurdles, it’s time to award the allocated money to the “best of the best.”

The NCAA breaks their competitive sports divisions into three levels, Divisions I, II and III. D-III cannot offer any athletic scholarships so between Divisions I and II, slightly more than $1 billion in partial or full athletic scholarships is awarded for the elite athlete. This money is divided amongst the many scholar athletes for an average scholarship award of around $ 8,000 per person.

Now, let’s flashback to that 7-year-old and the amount of money that you will spend on her athletic career over the next 10 years to put yourself in the running to be one of the select scholar-athletes across the country.

If you totaled the registration fees, equipment costs, travel expenses, uniforms, outside training like speed and agility coaches, medical costs due to sports injuries, tournament fees, and college showcase expenses, somehow that $ 8,000 just doesn’t seem to add up.

The best athletes and the ones with the passion and drive to do the work on and off the field will always get their opportunities to play at the next level. The majority of our high school athletes will need help to reach their goals.

The next time a parent says that he wants his child to play for a particular team or coach because he wants him to be able to get a scholarship, I’ll repeat the same message that I have been sharing for all of my years of coaching, a message that I personally learned the hard way (twice).

Self-help author Napolean Hill once wrote, “The starting point of all achievement is desire.”

If you want your child to be assured of a college scholarship, take him to the library and teach him the joy of learning.

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