R-C Sports Notebook: The great heist
I’ve watched with interest over the last several years as a literal industry has sprung up out of athlete development.
At their start, athletic development and conditioning facilities existed primarily to help aspiring professional athletes make the jump from college sports to the big leagues.
But coupled with the ever-increasing importance placed on club sports, the athletic development business has made the leap to high school athletes and even younger.
The battle cry is that with their help, your young athlete will have a shot to win that coveted full-ride athletic scholarship to offset those enlarging tuition bills.
I’ve come to have the opinion that the whole system borders somewhere along the lines of an elaborate scam.
Their demographic is a willing and easy target ” parents who simply want the very best for their children.
They say that by providing their specialized coaches and first-rate equipment, and provided that your child puts in the necessary work, they will attract recruiters from every big school they can imagine ” Maybe not in those exact words, but that’s the gist of their message.
To a point, they are right. Common sense dictates that the athlete who puts in the most work with the most-qualified people is naturally going to draw more interest than the one that just stays at home and shoots hoops in the driveway all summer.
But if you take a moment to look at the sheer numbers of the whole thing, the parent essentially ends up putting a whole lot of money toward an effort that has, at best, a long shot of succeeding.
The logic ” “I’m spending this money more like a down payment on my child’s education” ” only holds to a certain amount.
Some of these facilities charge upwards of $250 per month for their specialized workouts. That’s $3,000 per year and $12,000 over the course of a four-year high school career.
Add to that the offseason club teams that essentially swoop in with the same promise of hauling in the college recruiters. The going philosophy in the non-football sports is that the place to get noticed by colleges is with the offseason tournament clubs.
Again, to a point, they are right. Seeing better competition makes you a better athlete and going to bigger tournaments means you’ll be seen by more college coaches.
But the dues for some of the clubs for a single year can run $4,000 or higher with airfare and tournament fees. That’s not including the price it’ll cost to travel along with the team if you actually want to see your child play in these marquee tournaments.
So supposing your kid plays for one of the elite clubs and participates in year-round specialized training, you’re footing a minimum of $7,000 a year.
Now, the average college student across the country paid $6,185 in tuition to attend in-state public schools in 2007. To be fair, the cost goes considerably up for private schools, averaging out at $23,712.
However, there’s more than $130 billion available in financial aid annually and more than two-thirds of students nationally receive grants in aid (an average of ($3,600 per year for public schools and $9,300 at public schools).
If your child plans on attending a state school, the cost for this sport specialization doesn’t make any sense. Might as well just save the money, spend the extra time on homework and try to walk on to the team once you’re on campus.
Of course, that leaves you with much less of a chance of playing in college, much less actually making the team, but sometimes it is hard to get an accurate picture of just how elite of a class the Division I college athlete represents.
Nationally, there are approximately 980,000 high school boys that compete in sports. There are only 23,263 scholarships available from NCAA Division I schools at any given time for the male sports. That number includes the scholarships already filled by current college students, so figure about a fourth of that (maybe 6,000) are actually available to current high school seniors.
That works out to about 0.61 percent of high school senior boys who will receive scholarships to play Division I sports in college.
For girls, the numbers are slightly better as 0.87 percent will receive Division I scholarships.
Locally, about 300 athletes put on a uniform for Douglas High School sports teams every school year. Of those, only 15 outgoing seniors in the last four years combined have gone on to play in Division I sports with an athletic scholarship under their belt.
In concept, the idea of athlete development is no different than hiring a private tutor or enrolling your child in music lessons if those are the pathways they want to pursue in college.
But sports is big business. It’s that way in the pros, it’s that way in college and it’s becoming that way in high school and youth sports. That adds up to big numbers.
The parents of one athlete in the area a couple years ago hired a highly-touted hitting coach that charged $50,000 annually.
At some point the cost truly does end up outweighing the payoff.
What if the athlete gets hurt? What if they end up loathing the sport after having to eat, breath and drink it throughout their high school life.
It’s a clever business model that plays to an eager customer base. The bigger their list of clientel gets, the smaller those scholarship availablities are going to be.
The paradox, though, is that the more scholarships they are able to land for their clients, the higher those costs will be.