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When aiming for scholarships, academics are still important

This is the time of the year when senior high school student athletes begin officially announcing the college that they intend to enroll in next fall. It's called the early National Letter of Intent signing period and this year it ran from Nov. 12-19.

I recently saw a list of some of those early signers in the newspaper and, as expected, there were a large number of Howard County seniors listed in a wide variety of sports ranging from swimming to basketball to field hockey. And, from what I saw, those athletes had selected some pretty good colleges to attend the next four years.

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My hope, though, is that the decision to go to this or that school was based first on what that school provides academically — not just athletically. I also hope that the decision by any of those student athletes was not based solely on the coach at that particular college. Coaches tell recruits that they intend to stay for many years to come, only to then leave when the first better offer comes around.

I have read so many instances of recruits deciding to transfer once the coach takes off for a better payday. So I advise parents to make certain that the academics are at the top of the priority list. Good coaching is important, and players should want to play for the best, but your future may rely on what you studied and not how many points you scored.

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Now is the time for a reality check.

According to NCAA research, the chance of a high school athlete in almost any sport making it to the pros is less than one percent.

Men's soccer had the highest rate at .09 based on 2013 statistics. Football was next at .08 percent, and down it goes from there. So that means that you have a better chance in life of taking the academic road first.

That does not mean that you shouldn't try to make the pros if that is your dream. Go for it. Just know that the odds are pretty slim and you should have your academics to back you up in case the professional route doesn't work out.

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One final comment for parents is to take the scandal that is now plaguing the University of North Carolina very seriously.

That is an excellent school, but somebody in the school's administration went off course deciding to send some of its athletes into courses where no exams were given and attendance wasn't mandatory. The athlete would essentially accumulate easy grades for doing nothing.

That is a sure recipe for failure later in life. If your son or daughter comes home for a break without books, you may have a problem. If parents do not check on the academic progress of their children, they may be in for a rude awakening. The school will then hem and haw and blame the whole thing on someone else.

None of their coaches will fess up.

The scariest thing about this scandal is that it raises very real questions about how many other colleges and universities are doing the same thing and just haven't been exposed yet?

River Hill asserts soccer dominance

If I wanted to play it safe, I simply wouldn't ever single out one high school team without mentioning all the others.

I once wrote about how much I enjoyed watching the Glenelg High School marching band at half time of a football game and, before the ink had dried on that comment, I received several "what about us" calls.

Well I've decided that it is time to step into it again, but this time I have numbers on my side. The River Hill High School boys and girls soccer teams won Class 3A state championships on the same day last week. The boys finished with an undefeated record and beat Huntingtown for the program's ninth state championship.

The girls, meanwhile, won their third consecutive state championship, handing Linganore a 2-1 loss in the title game. The girls soccer program has now won 10 state titles.

In all, that now makes a total of 19 state championships between the two squads, and the remarkable thing is that the school is only 17 years old.

Give the Hawks their due.

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