Sports scholarships are something of a holy grail among parents of young athletes. Dreams of full rides and Division I teams send families racing to recruiting events, signing up for specialty coaching and training, and sometimes even spending thousands of dollars in equipment and travel expenses before the student even arrives at her college campus.

That’s not to mention the hours spent in games, practices, and travel, by both parent and child. Is all that sacrifice worth it? We’re taking a closer look at the myths behind college sports scholarships, how to know if they’re right for your child, and how to help your kid land one.

What You May Not Know About Sport Scholarships

Contrary to what is often very popular opinion, college scholarships are actually not very common. According to the NCAA, the National Collegiate Athletic Association that regulates the amateur athletic programs at more than 1200 conferences and institutions, only about two percent of high school athletes receive an athletic scholarship.

While a whopping $2.9 billion is handed out annually to student-athletes, unfortunately, those billions are handed out to a paltry 150,000 young men and women among Division I and II schools (no athletic scholarships are offered at Division III schools).

Still think your child is a shoe-in for a full ride? Here’s more sad news: of the 150,000 students that receive scholarships, very few actually receive full rides for all four years. In fact, the average athletic scholarship amount in 2015 awarded to male athletes was just under $5,500, while females athletes received just over $6,600. When you consider that the price of tuition in 2017 at a public college for in-state students was over $14,000, the odds aren’t looking too hot.

How Thin Can You Slice That Pie?

Why does so much money seem to not go very far? Apart from the extremely high cost of college tuition, room and board, books, and so forth, colleges are limited in the amount of money they can give out per sport. Often, coaches will divide the available budget up among a wide array of athletes in order to lure the best possible talent.

The stats may feel depressing, but if you’re like most parents, you’ve zeroed in on the fact that 150,000 students do receive sports scholarships–and yours might be one! With that in mind, we’re taking a deeper dive into the kinds of programs available whether your student is just beginning her athletic career or looking for recruiting tips before graduating next year.

What Kinds of Scholarships Are Available?

Ready to learn what sports can get you a scholarship? Precise information will vary from school to school, however, there are a number of sports sponsored by the NCAA. These include the following:

Men’s Sports

  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Cross Country
  • Fencing
  • Football
  • Golf
  • Gymnastics
  • Ice Hockey
  • Lacrosse
  • Rifle
  • Skiing
  • Soccer
  • Swimming and Diving
  • Tennis
  • Track and Field (Indoor and Outdoor)
  • Volleyball
  • Water Polo
  • Wrestling

Women’s Sports 

  • Basketball
  • Beach Volleyball
  • Bowling
  • Cross Country
  • Fencing
  • Field Hockey
  • Golf
  • Gymnastics
  • Ice Hockey
  • Lacrosse
  • Rifle
  • Rowing
  • Skiing
  • Soccer
  • Softball
  • Swimming and Diving
  • Tennis
  • Track and Field (Indoor and Outdoor)
  • Volleyball
  • Water Polo

Of these sports, the biggest–and often the most lucrative in terms of revenue creations for colleges and monies handed out to athletes–include men’s and women’s basketball and football. Last year, over 16,000 women played in NCAA sponsored women’s basketball teams, while almost 19,000 men played basketball. A full 73,000 men played football.

Biggest isn’t always better, however, which is way high school athletes are often pointed towards less popular fields. The stats mean you just don’t have to beat out as many fellow players for the spot on the playing field–or the scholarship.

Football, Basketball, and Baseball

Football, basketball, and baseball are extremely competitive NCAA sports, but their gloried traditions are incredibly appealing. The lure of going pro isn’t half bad, either, but keep in mind only 1.5% of college football players, for example, will ever play professionally. That said, players who are good enough to play with a Division I team in baseball, basketball, or football will find over 500 scholarships available (though it’s worth noting that most of those are for basketball).

Over 300 scholarships can be divided among as many or more players in Division II teams for men’s basketball, baseball, and football. Division III teams don’t offer sports scholarships, but that shouldn’t stop you from expressing interest. Often, these schools provide other kinds of financial aid packages which might even be better than what D I and D II schools can offer.

Are There Other Options?

None of this sound appealing? If you’re worried about your child not being able to compete at the DI, II, or III levels, another option with better odds for playing and receiving money are playing for an NAIA or NJCAA team. NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) football programs, for example, get 24 scholarships per team and are often much more relaxed in terms of recruiting.

The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) school are two-year junior or community colleges and offer over 600 scholarships for men’s basketball, baseball, and football (against, the bulk of those go to basketball). Since tuition is usually significantly lower at these schools, these are often great opportunities for those who want to play but don’t necessarily want to go pro, who want to leave school with as little debt as possible, or who want to gain more experience and exposure in the hopes of getting picked up by a four-year school.

Hidden Gems

Again, scholarships available by school and sport vary, but most breakdown in a similar fashion to baseball, football, and basketball. There are some hidden gems, however, in that mix. Some sports, such as women’s golf, are much less competitive than others. If your daughter has a love of golf and has interest in playing at the college level, it might be worth helping her develop as an athlete with an eye towards a scholarship.

Rifle is another sport that is little-known and therefore offers less competition for scholarships. Ultimately, athletes have to carefully consider their ability to play, their desire to play, and their options after college.

Tips on Winning the Scholarship Lottery

Wondering how to get a sports scholarship? We’ve got you covered! As we discussed earlier, competition will be more or less fierce depending on which sport your child is interested in playing. We also don’t recommend waiting until his or her junior or senior year to begin the recruiting process. Colleges have rules about how early they can contact students, but that doesn’t keep them from visiting online profiles or keeping an eye on stats or videos uploaded to YouTube.

When you do reach out, it’s best to do so before the end of your sophomore year. Make sure you include pertinent data such as your name, your stats, your year of graduation, the school you attend (and city), and your coach’s contact info, as well as details like your position and awards.

Students are often encouraged to capture highlight reels that last seven or so minutes, demonstrating their abilities and skills. These can be sent via CD, though more and more recruiters and coaches prefer now to view these online. Students can even email direct links to coaches, introducing themselves and expressing interest in their team. Don’t forget to keep your potential coach updated on upcoming showcases and important games!

Don’t Neglect Performance Off the Court

Another piece of advice is to not neglect your student’s performance off the court. If your student can demonstrate excellence in athletic achievement will also maintain academic achievement, he or she will have a leg up on the competition. A whole world of merit-based scholarships can open up, as well, in addition to sports scholarships, depending on her SAT scores, grades, and extracurricular leadership and service activities.

Since, statistically, students rarely go pro, it’s important that they develop interests outside of playing their chosen sport, and keeping an eye on all areas of growth in their lives will both open further doors and assist them as they transition from college to adult life.

School sports scholarships might be rare, but they can play a huge role in helping a student achieve his dream of college attendance or even her dream of going pro. While playing sports at that level can be difficult, it can also be incredibly rewarding, and worth working for. Reading to get out there and help your child earn a sports scholarship? We have two final words for you: good luck!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This