If my son had a choice each night between playing sports and doing his homework, I’d eventually have to smuggle the ball out of his sleeping hands. At his age, teachers wipe noses and good grades come easy, but high school students can have a hard time remembering that “student” comes first in “student athlete”.

How Much Sports Count:
Though colleges want well-rounded students, admissions care about academics more. Most colleges to which students apply are, for circularly logical reasons, the colleges that receive the most applications, and therefore must rely – for pragmatic reasons of budgeting and making deadlines – heavily on the numbers. Thus, the 20% of colleges that annually receive 80% of the nation’s applications weigh students roughly as follows:

That 20% sliver of the pie includes not just athletics, but also clubs, community service, work and travel experience, the application essay, and everything else that makes a student who he or she is, as a person, that is not otherwise represented by those two big numbers.

The Ugly Truth About Athletic Scholarships:
High school sports and other group activities are great, and studies unarguably show that involved students perform better in class. That said, only about 8% of high school athletes receive any athletic scholarship. For more popular sports like football, that number is closer to only 2%. So, unless scouts are coming from far and wide just to watch Johnny or Susie play, the grades and test scores have to be the top priority.

Even if the student is as talented as Knowshon Moreno, Kade Weston, or Clifton Geathers (all former SAT students of mine), NCAA regulations may require SAT scores of up to 1010 (combined Math & Critical Reading). These students worked their butts off to earn the grades and scores needed to qualify for their scholarships.

Focus for Success:
A coach’s job is to make sure players take their team commitment seriously; however, as parents and educators, we are responsible for teaching our children that everybody-gets-a-trophy is not the real world, and that the perceived pedestrian pursuit of academic success is what will truly get them ahead.

The numbers speak for themselves and if GPA and SAT* are what colleges focus on, then they must be where students devote their attention as well. That may mean missing a practice, or even a game, to prepare for an academic or standardized test.

The good news is there will always be another game, another sport, and another league in the future. However, the immediate present is a high school student’s only opportunity to affect those two crucial numbers.

Still have questions? Contact me.

*or other standardized test (including the ACT)