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Becoming Financially Independent

by Kevin McKinley - July 5th, 2015

Posted Under: around the house

This is the time of year that many families are spending time and money to send their kids to sports camps, enroll them in private athletic training, and signing up for various traveling teams and tournaments.

These activities can be well worth the effort and expense. But if parents are thinking that this significant investment will pay off in the form of a college scholarship, they may need a little education.

The cost

Sadly, the days of kids participating in sports by spending every summer day playing ball with each other in the yard or local park are long gone.

Now it’s almost imperative that children who want to excel at a sport begin practicing and playing competitively as soon as possible, so they don’t “fall behind” the skill level of their peers.

Let’s say it costs $500 to register for a traveling team, and another $500 for equipment. Then throw in a half-dozen out-of-town tournaments or competitions that require gas, food, and lodging. Figure at least $300 per trip (not to mention the time away from home or work).

We’re now up to $2,800, for one sport for one season for one child.

What are the odds?

Over several years, that’s a relatively small price to pay if it means the kid gets an athletic scholarship worth $100,000 or more over four or five years of college.

But the chances of that happening range somewhere between “slim” and “none”.

According to, less than one in twelve high school athletes go on to compete in that sport in college. Only half of those are on teams in the Division 1 or 2 programs that even offer scholarships.

Even when a kid lands a spot on a D1 or D2 roster, it doesn’t mean she is getting a full ride for her entire education. Partial scholarships are common, especially in sports that don’t generate significant revenue.

Those who do win a scholarship one year might find that it’s not available in the same form in subsequent years.

The more lucrative the scholarship and the more more prominent the program, the more likely it is that the student’s athletic experience will feel like a full-time job.

Practice, training, travel, and competing can take up more than forty hours per week, especially in-season. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for studying or socializing outside of the team, much less the chance to pick up an actual paying job or internship.

Depending on the sport in question, there can be a significant toll taken on the athlete’s body, and it may become more pronounced long after her athletic career has ended.

Last but not least, limiting school choices to only those that offer a student an athletic scholarship may mean her academic experience is less than what it would be if she were to pay her own way, and have a wider range of colleges from which to choose.

Speaking of paying . . .

There is a way that you can use your resources to ensure that your child has some help paying for higher education expenses, no matter how good he is at a particular sport.

You can take the money you’re spending on competitive sports and instead save it for college.

Putting the aforementioned $2,800 aside each year starting when a child is eight will provide about $40,000 by the time he turns 18, assuming it earns a hypothetical return of 6% per year. Parents who had started that savings program ten years ago would now have enough to pay for about half of the total cost of attending almost any school the child would choose, rather than being limited to a few who might offer an athletic scholarship.

We aren’t advocating for the avoidance of competitive sports and teams for kids, especially if the kid in question loves working, playing, and competing as much as the parents love watching him.

But the benefits should come from the fun, physical activity, and time spent with your own family and (hopefully) the families of the teammates, instead of achieving a scholarship dream that is unlikely to come true.