When I was eight years old, I saw the Olympics and dreamt of being the fastest man in the world. I started running track and won races in grade school, went to nationals in middle school and set a state record in high school. I was lucky, and a scholarship helped me continue to compete against future Olympic medalists while getting a great education at Stanford University. Although I never made it to the Olympic podium, the skills of focus, teamwork, and determination helped build my professional career as a Webster Banker.
The 2012 Olympic Games were filled with inspiring athletic performances and stories of perseverance. Michael Phelps swam into history, Gabby Douglas showed poise and artistry in gymnastics, Usain Bolt showcased raw speed in dominating the sprints, and Oscar Pistorius demonstrated will and determination to excel against the odds while competing against the best in the world! If your child is anything like me, watching these performances may have inspired dreams of Olympic gold or athletic greatness.
While only a very few youngsters will actually become Olympians, many more might find that excellence in their chosen sport may be a way to help with college costs. True, the competition is fierce, especially in marquee sports like football, basketball and baseball. But your child’s athletic prowess coupled with excellence in the classroom is a real advantage when applying to college, and may even qualify him or her for scholarship money.
There are Over 20 Sports in the NCAA Including:
|Indoor Track||Outdoor Track|
Each of these sports is competed by Division I, II, and III schools. While not all schools offer scholarships in all sports, many schools in all divisions do offer some form of financial aid to their student athletes. Check out the NCAA Eligibility website for tools and information on their sports and divisions. Countless kids may dream of getting a full scholarship, starting for UConn and sinking that game-winning shot in the Final Four. While few athletes achieve that level of success, there are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy the thrill of competition in college.
Where Do You Start?
Achievement in athletics does have a lot to do with talent but also with focus, drive, determination and teamwork. These skills can be used in all aspects of life and as the NCAA says “most of our athletes will be going pro in something other than sports”. For youngsters, find a sport that your child has a passion for playing and enjoys the competition. Don’t push too hard early on, but as he or she begins to excel, learn as much as you can about your child’s sport and look to find coaches, leagues and competitions to showcase that talent.
Will I Be Good Enough?
When your child reaches middle and high school and continues to excel in sports, it may be time to think about whether he or she might qualify to compete in college. Monitor their stats and do your research to compare them against similar aged student athletes in your area and across the country. While it is the rare child who becomes a breakout high school star and is heavily recruited, the vast majority of kids who play in college aren’t superstars. High school athletes can start introducing themselves to college coaches in their sophomore and junior years by sending letters with their sports, stats, and videos of them in action. As always, be realistic, competition is fierce in Division I but scholarships are available for athletes in Division II and III.
Does an Athletic Scholarship Make Sense?
Full scholarships to play Quarterback for that Bowl bound team are pretty rare, but there are many partial scholarships available at hundreds of schools around the country in all Divisions. In fact, according to US News and World Report “Division III schools, which are typically smaller private colleges, routinely give merit awards for academics and other student accomplishments (like sports). The average merit grant that private colleges are awarding routinely slashes the tuition tab by more than 50 percent.” While athletic performance is key, don’t forget that grades really do matter, not only for eligibility to compete, but also as a deciding factor for college admissions. Schools are looking for student-athletes and would rather offer a scholarship to a less accomplished athlete with good grades than a failing superstar. Read more on how athletic scholarships work here.
Start with Inspiration
Sports are a great way to provide fun and life lessons to youngsters and should be encouraged for kids who have an interest at all levels. Take advantage of your time as a parent to watch a game together or attend a competition. This may inspire your children to take up and excel in their chosen sport.