The Realities of Earning an Athletic Scholarship

The allure of playing sports in college is a dream of many athletes. The prestige of being recruited is as exciting as it is mind-boggling.  And the actuality of receiving an athletic scholarship offer to college is the pinnacle of success. 

The reality, however, is quite less than one might imagine.  Yes, there are over 137,000 athletic scholarships for men and women over a four-year period but one must filter that number with the fact there are over 7.5 million high school student-athletes so the chance of an athlete being offered a scholarship is about 3.5 percent.

  In women’s volleyball it is even more stringent with a scant 2.4 percent of the players receiving a scholarship.  In men’s volleyball the percent is slightly higher at 6.4, however there is a caveat here – scholarships in men’s volleyball are only partial.

A few more facts to know to assist players and parents in understanding what is and what is not in the process behind offering scholarships.  DI, DII and NAIA schools are the three divisions, which offer scholarships.  The 348 DI programs, with the exception of the Ivies and Military Academies, have 12 head count or fully vested scholarships to offer over a 4-year period of time.  DII (292 programs) and NAIA (266 programs) schools have 8 equivalency scholarships, which can be divided into partial scholarships over a 4-year period.

In Men’s Volleyball there are just over 100 programs with a total of 99 equivalency scholarships being offered or 4.5 per program at the DI and DII level.

  Also Women’s Beach volleyball, a newly sanctioned NCAA sport, is played at 39 DI schools and can offer 3 equivalency scholarships.

Being offered a scholarship is definitely based on talent and potential, but there are other factors involved as well, none more important than grades.  The NCAA is taking a tougher stand on how athletes qualify.

  GPA criterion have been increased, red- shirt years for academic support/remediation are being discouraged, coaches are being pressured by ADs to meet certain university academic standards both for entering students and retaining students, etc.  To be better in line for a scholarship - hit the books as hard as you hit the practice floor and play in games.

Developing the academic perspective a little deeper, it is important to start getting good grades early in high school.  Too many talented high school athletes neglect their grades during their freshmen & sophomore years and try to catch up in their junior and senior years. Unfortunately it's often too much ground lost to make up.

Most college coaches are confident they can develop a high school athlete into a good college player. But they are also keenly aware they have little control off the field, and cannot force an athlete to hit the books and study.  The High School athlete who is academically self-motivated will move up the recruiting ladder.

As a student-athlete remember you also control your destiny – not the scholarship offer.  It is important to take time and think about what you want to do in life and try to match your interests with the strengths of the college you want to attend.

  If agriculture is your interest or passion a major urban school should not be your goal.  Also try to visit as many schools as possible because it is a difficult choice for you to make and you do not always know if a school is a fit until you visit it and see for yourself the campus culture and vibe.

There are a number of outstanding recruiting agencies available to support student-athletes to make a favorable impression on coaches.  They often do a thorough job in marketing you and trying to find a match, however, be careful in not putting all your eggs in one basket, because there are many unforeseen factors, which influence the recruiting process.  Listen to what is being shared with you, but also remember it is your choice based on what you want.  Do not feel pressured to go somewhere you not feel comfortable, because it is a tougher process to leave a program as a scholarship player than to get accepted.

Lastly, being honest with yourself about what you want out of the college experience and life after college should be the biggest determining factors because your four-years in college will go by in a blur but your future still awaits.