Protect Your Kids...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Multiple or Single Sports and Athletic Scholarships

About this time of year, the subject of "single sport vs. multiple sport" seems to come up every year with parents and kids I teach through BALL or various sports leagues.  In essentially all cases, I am in favor of youth experiencing multiple sport, multiple interest development.  Let the kids have fun!  Don't promote the idea that their self worth is defined by how good they are at a particular sport.  If you talk to other college coaches and professional scouts, they will essentially tell you the same thing (like this guy does here...Franco ROCKS).

Here's an idea: instead of playing one sport all year 'round, take 4 months of travel ball expenses and teach the kid how to study the 3 R's and develop emotional intelligence though experiencing multiple sports and multiple interests rather than learning the nuance of throwing a superior curve ball.  In almost all cases, the good grades will get Little Johnny/Jolene a better scholarship than sports ever will.  An example? At our university, a freshman student with a 3.5 GPA can get a $15,000 academic scholarship. That doesn't count any needs-based grants like the Cal grant or the Pell grant.  And it will pay even bigger dividends once they are left to their own devices when they go away to college.

This point of view is often met with chagrin by many folks who have young kids that have a demonstrated talent in a certain sport (baseball, softball, basketball, water polo, etc.).  Invariably, the parent brings up that the reason to play the sport year-round comes down to getting a scholarship.  I cringe at this logic.  They've spent thousands of dollars following the advice of private coaches and "select" or "travel" or "club" coaches, sometimes since the kids were 7 or 8 years old. Added up, that amount can be as much as $50,000 or more.  That's a lot of private education or tutoring.

I've learned to try to respond tactfully about this topic, because it's a sensitive subject.  I truly believe that the parent believes that he/she has the best interest of the kid in mind.  But in all honesty, in 49 out of 50 cases, there needs to be a stronger message sent: many who advise parents about this topic have a vested financial interest in keeping the kid locked into a year-round sport.  And many parents have been conditioned to trust someone they pay versus someone who is on the "outside" for that very reason. And in the mean time, the kid gets inflated expectations, and often burns out of the sport before graduation.

In addition, multiple sports/interests teaches valuable life skills that a single sport mentality cannot.  We, as coaches and scouts, ultimately value that more highly than sports proficiency.  If given the choice between two kids that perform equally-well, coaches generally choose the kid who has the most upside potential.  All other things equal, that usually means that we go with the kid with more raw talent but less polished skills.  In other words, multiple-sport, multiple interest students.

Now, please understand...I'm no big shot in my sport.  But I am a college baseball coach at a school that offers several athletic scholarships in many different sports, not just baseball.  The college is not unlike hundreds of others nationwide.  We all recruit and sell our schools and talk with scouts about our kids and...well, generally dedicate ourselves to the sport and the program.  And by-and-large, the opinions are the same: multiple sport athletes are preferred.

But your kid has another level of competition that you probably haven't considered.,.because it's not as obvious.  The competition? Your kid, but three or four years older.

Here's the flow of logic:
1) Academic and fine arts scholarships are much more lucrative and plentiful than athletic scholarships.
2) Freshmen get better academic scholarships than JuCo transfers.
3) JuCo athletes get MUCH better scholarship opportunities than high school seniors.


First, consider the university's coach.  Ultimately, the coach's goal is to put the best team on the field that also meets the school's stated mission (each school has a different take on this).  And that comes down to recruiting athletes that can help the team perform now, not two years from now.  Attracting these impact players takes scholarship money.  Most top notch high school kids, while dominant at their level, cannot compete against top notch 21 and 22 year old athletes with 4 or 5 more years of experience and the same raw talent.  There is simply a world of difference in physical strength and speed.  And for scholarship purposes, there is a difference between making the college team and being one of the top players on the college team.

Added to this is the level of competition. While travel teams may have a slew of really good high school players on it, that team couldn't hold a candle to an average college team.  So the athletes are unproven at the level of competition at which they will play in the next year.  This makes a high school senior a risky athletic scholarship proposition...especially when there is a viable option (at a higher level) in the JuCo circuit.  Since scholarship money is finite, JuCo transfers are generally more highly sought after.

The bottom line?  Let your kids be kids.  Let them play multiple sports.  And if you're going to make them do anything, make them hit the books.

1 comment:

  1. I think a lot of coaches look for multi-sport athletes because they know those players are the "whole package." They won't burn out as easily, they work on different skills that feed into their various sports and they usually have the best attitudes.