Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Posts Tagged ‘travel team

College scholarships: harder to win than the lottery

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In advance of Feb. 3’s National Signing Day, college football’s orgasm to the child porn that is the recruiting watch, the Houston Chronicle’s Jenny Dial asked a question. Just what are your kid’s chances of getting a scholarship, anyway?

If you didn’t read her story (or see it on Youth Sports Parents — hat tip your way), then in the afterglow of signing day, with the sweet throb of the fax machine still faintly pulsating, you’ll get an instant cold shower from her answer: almost nil.

You would think it’s generally understood that the odds are long. But Dial’s excellent piece makes you wonder if, as a means of future earnings potential, parents should buy lottery tickets instead of paying big bucks for travel teams and private lessons. The chance of success is about the same, and so is the usual justification — you can’t win if you don’t play.

How do we know the odds are so long? Dial took numbers from the National Federation of State High School Associations on school sports participation, then took numbers from the NCAA on the number of scholarships awarded to Division I athletes, and did the math. The numbers might not be 100 percent accurate: they don’t count kids who play at elite club levels only (increasingly common), and they don’t count kids who might have gotten scholarships to NCAA Division II or NAIA institutions. But those figures would probably not move the needle much one way or the other.

So, without further adieu, the percentage of high school athletes in the class of 2008 (the latest figures available) who got Division I athletic scholarships nationwide, in alphabetical order by sport:

Baseball: 0.6

Boys basketball: 0.7

Girls basketball: 0.9

Boys cross country/track and field: 0.5

Girls cross country/track and field: 0.9

Football: 1.4

Boys golf: 0.6

Girls golf: 1.6

Boys soccer: 0.4

Girls soccer: 1

Softball: 0.7

Boys swimming and diving: 0.8

Girls swimming and diving: 1.2

Boys tennis: 0.6

Girls tennis: 1.1

Volleyball: 0.8

Boys wrestling: 0.3

Man, I think you get better odds from the lottery ticket.

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Your odds are 1 in 300 for this lottery.

Dial also talked to parents to see what they spent on sports. Golf parents spent the most: about $11,000 per year. A lot of sports fell in the $2,000-$5,000 range. Football parents spent the least, about $300 a year for offseason expenses. Football is relatively cheap because, unlike every other high school sport, you’re also not duty-bound to join a travel or elite team in addition to your school team in order to get college recruiters’ attention. However, you can rack up expenses paying for all-star camps and Nike-sponsored combines that require you to jet around nationwide to get the attention of your top football schools.

And for what? Not only are the chances of a scholarship tiny, but Dial’s survey included partial scholarships. Every athlete is not getting a four-year free ride. In most sports (mainly, outside of football and basketball), just about everyone is getting only half, or one-quarter, or less covered in tuition expenses — if they’re getting a scholarship at all to play.

This is not to say that you should immediately dump your kid’s golf clubs in the nearest water hazard. If you and your child love the youth sports lifestyle, and you’ve got the money to spend, then have fun. But if you’ve got a hard-on for a college scholarship, chances are that on National Signing Day, you’re going to be limp with disappointment.

Youth sports isn't totally full of crazy people. Really.

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If you were to look at media reports, Twitter feeds and this here blog, it might be easy for you to come to the conclusion that everyone involved in youth sports is either a child molester, a thief, or generally a crazy person, and that the kids are out for blood, too. However, loyal readers of, the official blog of the Porter Health (Valparaiso, Ind.) hospital system — and you are a loyal reader, aren’t you? — are getting a different, radical message: that, generally speaking, kids are having fun in youth sports, and adults are helping them in that pursuit.

I’ll wait a minute for you to compose yourself before I go on.

Anyway, here is the evidence is citing to reach its conclusion:

The Rutgers Youth Sports Research Council recently completed a study of over 5,000 publications keying in on the phrases “youth sports” and “violence.” Going back over 20 years, the results yielded over 1,000 citations, but many were “false positives” that focused on an unrelated topic and only passively mentioned violence in youth sports. “The investigation failed to produce any evidence to substantiate the belief that violence in youth sports had reached epidemic proportions in recent year,” wrote study author Gregg S. Heinzmann, Director of the Youth Sports Research Council.

The even better news, according to the article is that there are still “millions of volunteers and parents involved in youth sports that are doing all the right things, teaching valuable skill lessons, and providing fun and healthy environments where young athletes can compete and create lifetime memories.”

In my experience as a coach and parent, it’s an unusual day when a parent confronts a coach, or a fight breaks out, or a parent or relative in the stands is screaming at the ref full-bore. But the definition of news is something unusual, and it is unusual, believe it or not, when a coach is a child molester. You don’t hear breathless reports about the planes that landed safely that day. You only hear about the ones that crash.

Not to say that everyone is holding hands and celebrating how wonderful we all are to our children. The caveat in’s sunny picture of youth sports is how money changes the dynamic. If we’re all noticing parents getting more ornery, it might be as much as protecting their investment as protecting their child. And with more school districts going with pay-to-play in sports, parents are going to, probably rightly, demand more from coaches and the whole sports experience. After all, you have a $3 T-shirt rip, it’s a minor annoyance. If that T-shirt is $100 — and you didn’t have a lot of spare cash lying around even when you bought it — that becomes a very big deal.

Indiana University professor and chair of the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies Lynn Jamieson agrees that while the data doesn’t suggest any epidemic of violence, the negative influence of financial pressure has.

“I know a woman who worked two full-time jobs so her child could compete with a traveling team,” said Jamieson. “When your life revolves around the sport and competition, the stress and frustration can manifest itself in the player and parents.”

Over 99-percent of high school athletes will complete their athletic career on the prep stage. A tiny percentage will be able to leverage their athletic prowess into a scholarship or professional contract; yet there remains an unreasonable pressure by some parents to push their children beyond a logical point in pursuit of athletic greatness with hopes of financial gain.

Jamieson suggests a better alternative for parents is to leverage a portion of the dollars spent on athletics in a college savings plan. “Every dollar spent on leisure could be saved for higher education,” said Jamieson.

Wait a minute — taking your travel team money and putting it toward college? Now there’s a radical idea.

Written by rkcookjr

January 29, 2010 at 2:20 pm

In which I throw my 10-year-old daughter to the youth sports-industrial complex

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As I believe I’ve mentioned multiple times, my 10-year-old daughter is a three-time All-Star (as in, every year she’s played) in softball, though so far she has eschewed (to my delight) travel ball. The intensity of the parents and the cliquishness of the girls scared me, as well as the $900 price tag (not including actual travel). Plus, I’m not sure I can be involved, particularly as a coach, because I don’t have a goatee.

Despite my hesitance about getting too deep into the youth sports-industrial complex (go figure, with what I named this site), I couldn’t help but get excited when I found out one of the local travel softball teams was sponsoring two clinics at Dwyane Wade High, my local school. And, those clinics featured college coaches. Plus it was only $30 for two Sundays, and I didn’t have to grow a goatee for my daughter to join.

Anybody remotely sentient understands that clinics and camps serve a purpose higher (or lower) than teaching your child. Here is what all the participants involved in my daughter’s camp get out of it:

Oak Lawn Ice, the sponsoring organization. It spreads its names to the girls and their families, so when it comes to time to shell out the travel team bucks, they will think of the Ice first. Also, the Ice makes more contacts with the high school coach and, more importantly, the college coaches that are coming by and might want to recruit some Ice players, thus getting more families willing to shell out for the team.

— Julie Folliard, the Dwyane Wade High softball coach. Though it’s a public school, it has to recruit against at least three nearby all-girls’ Catholic high schools and one coed Catholic high school, all of which are sizable and have their own strong athletic traditions. By hosting the clinic on the T-Mobile D-Wade Court, she makes contact with a slew of potential high school players, strengthens her contacts with a local club team, and strengthens her contacts with college coaches who might someday want her players, thus giving Folliard a feather in her visor when she’s coming back to young kids to get them to her school, thus building a tradition so smart-asses like me say she coaches at Richards High, not Dwyane Wade High. Also, I’ve heard her complain (in a coaches’ clinic I attended when I coached my daughter’s team) about the lack of fundamentals of a lot of players, so Folliard gets some hope that maybe a few players coming up will know what they’re doing.

— The college coaches. Specifically, Illinois-Chicago assistant Amanda Scott, DePaul assistant Liz Jagielski, and Northwestern head coach Kate Drohan, the attending coaches. They get a very early line on talent, and they get to give that talent a very early line on them. They strengthen their contacts with a high school coach. They strengthen their contacts with a travel organization. They get to plant the seeds of knowledge early, before they have to get players to unlearn what they did wrong at earlier levels.

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Amanda Scott’s pitching drills were pretty much what you see in this clip. Except that my daughter tells me she also taught them how to throw a changeup.

— The girls themselves. They get to showcase themselves to a prominent local travel organization, and put themselves on the radar of at least one high school coach, and if they show inordinate talent, some college coaches.

However, for my daughter, I figure the advantages are more prosaic. By getting cheap access to quality high school and college coaches, she can learn more in two Sundays than she’s learned in three years under volunteer moms and dads. No offense to them, especially because for two years that limited-knowledge parent was me.

Whatever the undercurrent of semi-professionalism running throughout the camp, as long as my daughter can learn how to control her pitches, field consistently, and figure out the new lefthanded-batting stance she today decided to adopt while at the clinic, I don’t care what everybody else in the youth sports food chain gets out of it.

What you aren't told at sports registration, or Travels with Hockey-playing Charley

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The blog Travel With Teens recently had a few thoughts about a common form of, of course, travel with teens: youth sports. The blog, written by one Mary T, went through the history of how the first sports sign-up turned into a lifetime of Ramada Inns, as if the kid was a guitar player for the Gin Blossoms.

As I headed out the door at 6:15 am for one of the eight youth ice hockey games I expect to attend during this school winter vacation week, I reflected on how the seemingly innocent choice to sign the kids up for “learn-to-skate” at age 5 has shaped our family’s travel choices for the last 10 years.   Over the years, as I have watched friends jet off to the tropics for school vacation week while we packed for yet another holiday hockey tournament in Lake Placid, Rochester NY, Cape Cod, Connecticut, Ottawa or wherever, I have wondered about the road we have chosen.  I will say up front, I wouldn’t change a thing because the confidence, friendships, tenacity and character our kids have garnered from their sports activities, and the family friends we have made, have been worth the trips postponed.  Yet, for those whose kids are still young, here are 5 thoughts to consider as you approach your first youth sports registration table:

And what would those five things be? What dastardly secrets are the kindly volunteers at the OfficeMax-purchased banquet table keeping from you?

  • (1) If your child sticks with a sport for more than a year or two they may likely end up on a travel team.  …
  • (2)  Tournaments are rarely in locations you would choose for a family vacation at that time of year.  Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard are great places, but the hockey tournaments are there in November not July.  The upside is that you will almost always get a break on hotel rates!
  • (3) The more passionate your kid becomes about the sport, the more likely they are to participate in vacation week and summer camps.  Day camps when they are 9, 10 or 11 become sleep away camps as they turn 12, 13 or older.
  • (4) If they play sports in high school, remember that fall sports such as football and field hockey start up several weeks before school, eroding opportunities for late summer family travel
  • (5) The chances of getting a division 1 “free ride” to college in almost any sport is very low so don’t expect that 12 years of deferred travel will be repaid with a scholarship

First, I’m glad Mary T has a good perspective on this. At least she’s enjoying the ride, rather than wondering why she’s pissing away all of her hard-earned money for nothing. Second, I asked my 10-year-old daughter, a three-time All-Star in her house league, whether she was interested in travel softball. She said no. And I am eternally grateful.

That reminds me of the sixth thing they don’t tell you at youth sports registration: that even if your kid shows a little talent, turning over your weekends, holidays and bankbook to a sport is not required — the kid might not be interested, and the parent might not be able.

Written by rkcookjr

January 5, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Are you a crazy sports parent?

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Maybe you’ve never attacked a hockey ref or inspired a coach to come into the stands after you. But you might be a crazy sports parent and not even know it.

imageGood job today, son! Just for that, we’ll let you sleep inside tonight!

I am defining “crazy sports parent” as someone who is a little bit too into what his or her child is doing athletically, and is at risk for popping off at a moment’s notice, thus earning worldwide Internet ridicule. I recommend to you sports parents that you take this quiz to see if you might have a problem. This is not a complete run of all the possible disturbing behavior that lies beneath, but this should give you a good start at identifying whether you have a problem. Or whether it’s one of those OTHER parents. Can’t be you. Not at all.

1. How many T-shirts do you own that match your child’s travel team uniform?

A. None.

B. One to three.

C. I have a walk-in closet devoted to them.

2. How many picture buttons of your children are on your jacket?

A. None

B. One for each child.

C. Just my jacket? Not counting the ones in my cubicle, on the bulletin board in the kitchen and pasted to my dashboard? And you don’t mean just for my oldest, right?

3. When your child seems to be losing interest in a sport, you:

A. Support the child’s decision to leave it, and see what else there might be of interest.

B. Have a talk to get the child to give the sport another chance, just to be sure it’s not a temporary feeling

C. Force your child to stay in, what with the cold sweats you’re getting over the possibility of your social life falling apart.

4. You get pumped when:

A. Your child shows enjoyment and improvement.

B. Your child appears to be playing better than others.

C. It’s the Fort Wayne Lees Inn & Suites this weekend!

5. You’re not sure you like your child’s coach. You:

A. Stay quiet. Unless the coach is doing actual harm, no sense getting involved.

B. Make arrangements to talk to the coach, calmly, about your concerns.

C. Start a gossip campaign to get him fired.

6. You don’t like the referee’s calls. You:

A. Stay quiet. It’s just a kid’s game, after all.

B. Grumble to yourself, and remind yourself it’s a kid’s game, after all.

C. Start a gossip campaign to get him fired.

7. Your interaction with other sports parents is:

A. Limited. A hello or occassional remark suffices.

B. Friendly. You chat a little during games.

C. You size up who is “in” and who is “out,” and make sure you set the parameters of all interaction. You start a gossip campaign to get any threats knocked to the “out” column.

8. You have a child who excels at a sport. Your other children are:

A. Special in their unique way, and equally lovable.

B. Not as likely to take care of you financially in your old age.

C. Joining the same sport as that sibling in a desperate bid for your attention.

9. A doctor says your child has an injury that carries a risk of permanent damage should he or she continue playing. You react by:

A. Telling your child, with great understanding for the disappointment that might be involved, that it’s time to stop playing.

B. Getting a second opinion, just to be sure.

C. Dismissing the doctor as a sports-hating quack who probably got wedgies in junior high. Then you give him a wedgie.

10. In taking this quiz, you feel:

A. Like you have a healthy relationship with your child and sports.

B. Smug satisfaction.

C. “Are you trying to imply something? Because I’ll make sure the other parents NEVER talk to you AGAIN!”