Parents Will One Day Realize Sports Is Just For Fun
Posted by Dean Holden at November 14th, 2015
by Ginnie Graham, 7 November 2015
For years, recruitment for the Salvation Army North Mabee Boys and Girls Club seemed focused on sports and the big-time athletes who came out of there.
Lines would wind around the facility on sign-up days for youth football or basketball. Teams would go unbeaten for years. Football standouts like Spencer Tillman, R.W. McQuarters, Robert Meachem and Felix Jones came from there.
For a few years, statistics recorded by the NFL and by The Salvation Army were touted showing North Mabee club football experience makes athletes 6.5 times more likely to make it to the NFL than a player from a Division 1 college team.
That’s shifted a bit. The high demand for a spot is still there, but it’s viewed as just one part of raising a well-rounded child, said director Latrice Fowlkes.
“It’s not spoken — or outspoken — around here,” Fowlkes said. “We know they hope and dream. But, every chance we get, we are drilling into them about tutoring and ACT prep.”
These hopes and dreams aren’t bound by geography. The Tulsa suburban districts have league drafts starting as young as 6, judging speed and size of kids who are just three years from their potty-training days.
Parents worry that if they don’t get their kids in a uniform by third grade, all is lost for starting on a high-school team. This isn’t a phenomenon unique to Tulsa or Oklahoma.
More than 1 in 4 parents — 26 percent of those with a high-schooler who plays sports — hope their child becomes a professional athlete, according to the ”Sports and Health in America” report released last summer. It was sponsored by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and National Public Radio.
This isn’t sad. This is delusional.
Reality check: Of the 8 million students participating in high school sports, only 460,000 will continue at an NCAA school. Of those, less than 2 percent go pro. Only baseball is higher at 8.6 percent.
That means less than half of 1 percent make it from high school to professional in all sports, including baseball.
These numbers aren’t depressing. It’s a reality check.
Parents of middle- and high-school students place a high priority on children playing sports, with 76 percent saying they encourage it, according to the report. Nine in 10 parents say their children have reaped great benefits from competition.
Numerous studies show student athletes have higher grades, graduate at higher rates, are healthier and avoid at-risk behaviors like smoking, delinquency and teen pregnancy. These are all better reasons for wanting kids in sports.
At North Mabee, coaches check on grades. Not all youth leagues adopt the secondary schools’ rule of no-pass, no-play.
“At our location, we track their grades and stay on top of it,” Fowlkes said. “We make education mandatory, always telling them about tutoring and other programs. Sometimes we will get parents who say they don’t have time for that. But then grades come out and they change.”
A better situation: There is a greater chance of snagging an academic or financial need–based scholarship than an athletic one. Merit-based awards are handed out at a rate of at least nine times higher than ones for sports, said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org.
Of all college grants, athletic scholarships represent 2.1 percent. Of students in bachelor’s degree programs, only 1.4 percent received a sports scholarship, Kantrowitz found. More than one-third of colleges do not offer sports scholarships.
“The word is getting around about the statistics,” Fowlkes said.”If this is not taught to kids — about the academic scholarships — then how will they know?”
Financial-need scholarships come from schools and the state and federal governments. This is why North Mabee helps all its members fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) report and prepare for college entrance tests.
Interestingly, the lower the household income and the less education a parent has, the higher the likelihood that the parent hopes their child becomes a professional athlete.
However, if the question asked how many parents want their children to become a doctor, accountant, engineer or business owner, the percentages would probably be high, too.
“It is about whatever might better their situation,” Fowlkes said. “Parents may see professional sports as one way, but the odds aren’t great. Now, kids and parents are hearing that and looking for other ways.”
The survey included the sports habits and feelings of adults. Kids who play sports usually stop as adults. For the grownups who are still active, it’s for enjoyment and health. That’s what youth and high-school sports should inspire.
At North Mabee, its list of alumni is hardly relegated to sports. There is an equally impressive — and much longer — list of musicians, attorneys, elected officials, journalists and business leaders. They likely played sports, but they excelled in academic pursuits.
That is what Fowlkes and her staff work on most.
“You always get parents once in a while living that sports dream through their child,” Fowlkes said. “We just have to get them to step back and remind them it’s not about them. It’s about the child.”
Playing the odds in sports
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