What is the Real Cost of Being a College Athlete?

Brenda Horan, Opinions Editor

Many high school students dream of being on a sports team in college. The expectation is not the reality… 

The expectation leads these pro-sport hopefuls to believe they will be showered with athletic training, wear, equipment, and at the least, a state-of-the-art facility to continue training hard. These athletes are scouted during their sophomore through senior years of high school, during this time are told about the high expectations they should have for the state-of-the-art facilities at the universities. The university may offer athletic scholarships to attend the school, which are often not backed by a substantial fund to provide sustainability for the student. 

With the high and rising price of college tuition, many are looking for a way to increase affordability. Parents are looking for their child-athletes to earn scholarships as the primary payment for their higher education.  These families often pay for more than twelve years of athletic training, when after all they still rely on hope to get the scholarship. Is this decision putting people financially ahead?

The cost seems small in the beginning, however, the cost of training increases as the child ages. Many sports require not only the monthly team and practice costs, but an added expense for uniforms, equipment, travel, tournament/meet fees, and private coaching. The extremely competitive landscape had led to the need for 10-year-old children to practice for at least 18 hours a week. 

There are numerous positive benefits for people pursuing college athletics. Benefits include learning under pressure, enhancing their discipline, confidence, and self-esteem, and the ability to deal with success and failure.

According to the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), only 2% of high school athletes are awarded Division I athletic scholarships, many of which are only partial and discontinue after graduation. Another 2% of high school athletes compete at a Division II level, which few that receive a scholarship. Therefore, the majority of parents that fund their child’s athletic career through high school do not receive any direct financial benefit.

Sports, such as basketball, can be moderately inexpensive due to its availability on the local level, other sports aren’t as accommodating. Gymnasts and competitive cheerleaders produce monthly fees upwards of $700 per month. Field hockey has similar costs, until high school when costs can increase exponentially. 

There are many great reasons to support a child’s talents, whether it be athletic, academic, or artistic. However, the primary driver should not be the desire to fund a college education, the odds of earning an athletic scholarship are in the 2% range. 

For a family concerned with making ends meet, paying for healthcare, and funding retirement, spending large amounts of money on and education-funding strategy that has a 2% success rate is not a smart financial move.