Only about 5 percent of high school athletes continue to play in college. Some get partial scholarships, but no more than 1 percent of high school athletes, representing just the top layer of national-caliber players, get full scholarships.
—Warrior Girls by Michael Sokolove
Age-group sports are a money-making machine. Parents start their kids involved with organized, coach-led sports at a young age with the hopes of the elusive college scholarship being the carrot that directors use to get the big bucks. You can go to most club or AAU websites and there is bound to be a section where their successful “alumni” are showcased…those folks who earned a full ride to a big university. But what of those athletes who spent the same amount of money, but were much lesser skilled and were not able to continue on to earn a college scholarship? How can their parents justify the expense? I’d like to talk to you today about the reasons young kids should play sports…and it’s not because they want to brag to their friends about earning an athletic scholarship.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was a scholarship athlete at a major university and enjoyed my experience immensely. But if that quotation at the opening of the article is true, I was in a pretty small majority, so again I ask…why play sports?
Well rounded: Aside from the small minority who are talented enough to merit intently focusing on one sport, I believe that we need to encourage young folks to play multiple sports. Play field hockey in the fall, basketball in the winter, and run track in the spring. For years and years (before age-group sports became the financial juggernaut that it is now), this was the formula that elite athletes followed…and they were still elite. In order to lessen the repetitive motion injuries that we see, as well as to increase the fun of sports, let’s go back to encouraging our athlete’s participation in multiple sports.
Healthy living: Even if you know that your little one is not bound for glory on the field, they can still receive the benefits of athletics participation. Learning to work with others, goal-setting, and being a part of something bigger than themselves are all hallmarks of sports teams. Beyond that, our children can learn to love working out and eating healthy and to enjoy living life in a balanced manner.
Love it: Some kids just love their sport. It’s how they identify themselves and they truly cannot imagine their lives without it. Many of those kids turn into student-athletes at small, liberal arts colleges where athletes can sometimes make up 25 to 40 percent of the student population. Those colleges don’t offer athletic scholarships, but they do offer a student who loves their sport and values their education a place to compete and excel.
Future success: As I’ve said on this site before, girls who play sports are more likely to be successful in their future endeavors. Sokolove agrees in his book, Warrior Girls. He says that a 2002 survey of female executives revealed that 82 percent of them said that they had played team sports. Learning to lead is just one of the fabulous benefits of sports participation!
I believe Warrior Girls says it best: “We need to encourage parents, coaches, sports leagues, the culture itself to go back to multiple sports participation. And there needs to be real off-seasons with unstructured play. No adults. No rules. No leagues. No registration cards. One of the best sentences a parent can utter is ‘Go outside and play.’ One of the worst is, ‘It’s nine a.m. Get in the car, we’re going to practice.’” There are benefits to playing sports and being on a team that go beyond receiving an athletic scholarship and working like crazy to get it …hopefully I’ve got you thinking about a few of them.
Want to hear more? Check out 3 Reasons Why Sports Are Awesome.