The cost: Chasing athletic scholarships



Freshman Shay McDowell is currently committed to the Oregon State University. Prior to committing, McDowelll found herself and her family having to spend a generous amount of time and money going to prospective camps and tournaments.

Earning a college scholarship weighs heavily on the minds of many high school athletes. Over the course of a two-part series, junior Bella Ayala explores what is involved in this pursuit. The article below focuses on the costs and consequences of chasing an athletic scholarship. In our next issue, Ayala will share stories from former college athletes and the impact collegiate athletics has had on their lives.


For many athletes, sports start out as an extracurricular activity, but for some it becomes their lifestyle as they chase an athletic scholarship.

Families of athletes being recruited to play college sports spend a lot of time and money for their children in pursuit of this often elusive goal.

For those that do attain an athletic scholarship, participation in collegiate sports can create both benefits and challenges as athletes navigate their way through being both a college student and athlete.




Many parents enroll their children in sports in order for them to learn what it is like to work with a team and to have fun, but their mindset can change quickly when they start to believe their child has true talents, shifting towards the idea of their kid getting an athletic scholarship.

With these new found aspirations, many parents end up significant time and money trying to put their child in the best possible situation to get recruited.

In 2016, TD Ameritrade found that 63 percent of American families spend anywhere from $100 to $499 per child each month on youth sports.

Another 18 percent spent between $500 to $999 monthly. About 11 percent spend $1,000 to $1,999. On the high end, eight percent said they spend $2,000 per month or more.

To put this in perspective, according to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2017–2018 school year was $34,740 at private colleges, $9,970 for state residents at public colleges, and $25,620 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.

These means that many families spend more money chasing opportunities to win scholarships than they save on future college tuition – in the event that their child does get a scholarship.

My parents have spent a lot of money for me to play softball.

— Oregon State University softball commit Shay McDowell

Freshman Shay McDowell is verbally committed to play softball at Oregon State University. McDowell has been playing since she was six, and appreciates all her parents have done to get her through the process.

“My parents have spent a lot of money for me to play softball,” McDowell said. “When I was going through the recruiting process they always made sure I was on a team that attended the best showcases and I got to any college camps I needed to get to.”

According to the same Ameritrade report, the increased spending on elite youth sports is driven in part by the fact that 67 percent of parents have hopes that their investment will pay off in an athletic scholarship and 34 percent who think their child-athlete will go on to play in the Olympics or in a professional league.

In reality, however, fewer than 2 percent of high school athletes will go on to play their sport at the Division 1 level. Of those 2 percent, roughly one percent of college student athletes will go on to play in a professional league or in the Olympics.

While the physical cost of trying to earn an athletic scholarship is high, there are also mental costs that athletes must overcome.

With recruiting being so competitive at a young age, many young athletes are forced to specialize in just one sport. Kids picking just one sport, so young is risky, because parents are unsure how their athlete will develop.

Just because one sport appears to be their best sport when they are young, does not mean it will be their best sport in a couple years if they kept playing other sports.

It also doesn’t mean it will end up being their favorite sport.

More young athletes specializing in just one sport, and playing that sport year round with infrequent breaks is believed to lead more injuries, since they are continually using the same muscles and performing the same movements, and also a greater burnout rate.

Sophomore Alyssa Sandle plays basketball year round, and has found that at times it does get tiring playing the same sport all the time.

“I play basketball all year round and I love it,” Sandle said. “But when you play it year round it gets tiring and at times you start to lose interest.”

As athletes start to grow up and mature, they sometimes start to perceive the emotional and financial investment in their extracurricular activities as unwanted pressure.

This unwanted pressure could contribute to the fact that 70 percent of kids end up quitting their sport by the time they are 13 years old.




In college, being a student athlete has both its advantages and disadvantages.

When they enter college, athletes are are often more prominent than students who do not compete in sports. Former Roseville High School student, Jamie Bateman, currently attends the University of Michigan and has noticed the difference in treatment between athletes and non athletes.

“They don’t really ever become students,” Bateman said. “They are viewed as celebrities from the time they are recruited until they graduate.”

Bateman also believes that college athletes academic standards are much lower compared to other students.

“Plain and simple, it is easier to get into schools for athletes because they are attending them for a different reason,” Bateman said. “They aren’t there to be full time students, so the standards aren’t as high. I have had classes with athletes and they rarely show up and barely pass.”

Lily Amos graduated from Roseville last year and is on an athletic scholarship for softball at Cal Poly, SLO.


Playing a collegiate sport [is] hard enough…But what keeps me going is how worth it it is at the end of the day.

— Chico State softball player Karli Dugger

Amos agrees with Bateman in the sense that softball helped her get into the university she wanted to attend.

“Cal Poly is a very academically elite school and is very hard to get into,” Amos said. “Even though I had good grades in high school softball definitely helped me get into Cal Poly.”

Amos also recognizes that student athletes get more academic resources than non athletes in college.

“At Cal Poly student athletes get priority registration for classes so we are able to pick the classes that work around practice and games,” Amos said. “We also get academic athletic counselors which help us a lot with staying on track and finding the best classes.”

While there are many advantages to being a college student athlete there are also some drawbacks.

Amos believes that one of the biggest downfalls to being a college athlete is the lack of free time.

“Free time is one of the main disadvantages,” Amos said. “Between weights, practice, and being a full time student we don’t get that much free time to spend on other things as well as have to balance our school work while only being at school for three days a week during traveling season and conference.”

Karli Dugger, another RHS alumnus, is attending Chico State on a softball scholarship. Dugger believes the high expectations set for college student athletes are both athletically and academically challenging, which is constantly pushing them physically and mentally.

“Some disadvantages to being a student athlete in college would be how mentally and physically draining it is,” Dugger said. “Not only is playing a collegiate sport hard enough, but getting up at 6 a.m. for weights, then having to go to class all day, then practice, and then study hall is a lot and takes a lot of time management skills. But what keeps me going is how worth it is at the end of the day.”