Sooner or later, every parent of an athletically inclined child must grapple with the question: do I push my kid to play competitive sports in high school and college, or do I step back and let them find their own way?
It’s not an idle question. Your child’s decision to pursue or forgo collegiate sports could have significant ramifications for his or her academic performance, career prospects, and physical health. You’d be remiss not to consider the advantages and drawbacks of this momentous decision.
Start here. These are among the most commonly cited pros and cons of pushing your kid to play collegiate sports. Have you failed to consider any thus far?
Advantages of Encouraging Your Kid to Pursue College Athletics
Why encourage your kid to pursue college athletics? For starters:
- Competition Builds Discipline: Short of joining the military or civilian public safety ranks, there’s no better way to build discipline than to play athletics at a high level. “I owe my work ethic and professional discipline to playing sports growing up,” says Columbia University alum Ryan Nivakoff, who played Division I football and baseball for his alma mater. Nivakoff now spends his days in the C-suite, so he knows a thing or two about discipline.
- Athletic Departments Offer Endless Networking Potential: At Division I schools, at least, athletic departments receive disproportionate alumni attention and investment. For better or worse, this makes them fertile ground for networking. You may well plant the seeds of your post-collegiate career as you rub shoulders with influential boosters.
- Athletic Scholarships Could Defray Tuition and Expenses: Most schools offer some form of financial assistance to prospective student athletes who commit to at least one year. According to attorney Ashley Dugger, Division I scholarships are the most lucrative — and coveted. “Division I schools may grant full-ride athletic scholarships in certain cases [and]…are also the only schools that can grant multi-year scholarships,” she says. If you and your kid have big dreams, you need to aim high.
Drawbacks of Encouraging Your Kid to Pursue College Athletics
Here’s why you might want to think twice about the college sports dream:
- Youth Sports Can Be Expensive: Parents without the financial resources or time to ferry their kids to evening practice and weekend tournaments face an inherent and perhaps insurmountable deficit here. If your kid shows promise in less resource-intensive endeavors, perhaps it’s best to cut your losses.
- The Physical Demands are Grueling: Even “non-contact” sports like baseball and swimming take a physical toll. Unless she’s one of a lucky few to escape competitive injury, your kid is likely to exit her collegiate playing career worse for the wear.
Should You Stay or Should You Go?
For some gifted student athletes, the question of whether to play college athletics is beside the point. They’re good enough to compete in Division I leagues, and nothing is going to change that. What really matters — and what could well come to define the trajectory of their lives — is their decision to see their college playing days through to completion or cut bait early and go pro.
This isn’t an idle decision. Student athletes who go pro before graduation enjoy a head start on competitors who do choose to graduate. On the other hand, deferring one’s studies is always a risky proposition, particularly for players whose professional sports careers aren’t likely to last much longer than their college careers.
Ultimately, the choice is up to you and your student athlete. Here’s to making an informed decision.
Photo by Riley McCullough