Despite New Sports Options, College Scholarships Are Long Odds
Even with the introduction of Title IX, which sought to bring parity and greater opportunity for women in the collegiate sports ranks, the odds of a youngster funding their college education on an athletic scholarship remains slim.
“It’s a really small number who get into college that way, compared to the number that of kids that play sports,” said Marilyn Lenggenhager, golf coach and athletic director for Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock. “You’ve got to be that standout athlete, you really do.”
A June 11 article on marketwatch.com underscores the highly competitive nature of collegiate sports scholarships, citing NCAA statistics that of the approximately 8 million high school athletes in the U.S., less than 500,000 will play an intercollegiate sport in college. Fewer still will land a full ride on their athletic talent as these 480,000 collegians divvy up $3.3 billion in available athletic scholarship funds at the Divisions I and II, NAIA and junior college levels.
The Mount generally gets more attention from smaller colleges and last year was no different — despite being the smallest school in Arkansas’ Class 7A and not having a particularly noteworthy year as far as contending for state titles, a handful of athletes were tapped for the next level, headed for Hendrix College in Conway and Lyon College in Batesville.
“Lyon and Hendrix, even though they’re Divison III schools and can’t give ‘athletic money’, find the money in other ways to get them to come up there and play sports. Which is totally legal, there’s nothing against the NCAA rules about that,” Lenggenhager said. “I think our pull for them is, they want a good student and one thing they know about the Mount, our athletes work hard and they know how to compete.”
Intangibles such as the work ethic, character and grades Lenggenhager cites are not insignificant factors to collegiate coaches. Jeff Morgan, who has spent 24 years as head men's basketball coach at Division II Harding University in Searcy, said such factors can often rise above pure athletic talent when evaluating prospects.
“I think more and more coaches nowadays are trying to recruit character,” he said. “If they have two kids that are equal talent and ability or maybe even some that have little bit less talent, less ability, they’re trying to go after the high-character kid. The kid that isn’t going to be an issue on or off the court of the field. The kid that understands what it’s like to be a great teammate. Those are things that we really look at hard.”
Morgan said one of the most discouraging things he’s seen in kids’ and high school athletics is the emphasis on select, all-star leagues, sports specialization and outcomes earlier and earlier in the process.
“I think the thing I wish the most for parents would be to let the kids play, let them enjoy playing, have fun playing,” he said. “They’re going to learn some incredible life lessons from sports like hard work and teamwork and what it means to invest and how do we act when we win or when we lose. But it’s their journey, it’s not the parents’. Try to prepare the kids for the path not the path for the kid.”
Another thing parents should pay attention to, Morgan said, is their conduct at practices and games. You never know who’s watching and taking note of your bad behavior.
“There are times I’ll be watching a player, and it may not be fair to the kid, but I’ll notice someone over in the stands hollering at the coach, hollering at the players, hollering at the officials,” he said. “And I’ll be like, OK, let’s make a connection here, whose parent is that? I’ve scratched kids off the list before because of that. One thing I’ve told parents before is don’t be the parent that keeps your kids from being recruited.”