Monday, October 21, 2013

Are You D-I?

In the 28+ years that I have been a teacher, coach, and administrator, I have worked with close to 2050 students.  In that time, I have taught, coached, or been the principal of five students who have received Division I athletic scholarships.  For those of you that do not know, college athletics is basically divided into six “classes” of athletics – Division I, II, II as well as NAIA, and two categories of junior colleges.  Division I is where the big boys play, like Nebraska, Ohio State, USC, Iowa State and yes, even Iowa.  There are a number of differences, but most observers will agree that the best level of competition is at the Division I level, commonly called D-I.  That is also where most of the money and television is, and when we hear about full-ride scholarships, this is the level of competition where those for the most part exist.  So, when you look at the numbers, of the 2050 students that I have worked with, .2% of them have been awarded a Division I athletic scholarship.  Nothing else needs to be presented to show that the odds are not with you if this is the goal that parents have for their child.
Of those D-I athletes that I have worked with, Nick Clausen was a three-year starter at Iowa State for Jim Walden’s football team and was awarded a full-ride scholarship.  Andrew Long had a scholarship to Iowa State and then at Penn State to wrestle.  Madison Frain is currently a scholarship softball player at University of South Dakota, and Colin Bevins had a full-ride football scholarship to play football at Iowa State until he chose to leave the team this past July.  Another student Quin Leith wrestled at Cornell University in New York, but the Ivy League does not award athletic scholarships, though he was awarded various grants and financial aid assistance such that it made it possible for him to attend.  In addition, Teresa Breyfogle turned down track money at Wyoming and Iowa State in order to play basketball and run track at a D-III Buena Vista, and Kalab Evans said “no” to a baseball scholarship at Kentucky and opted to go to a community college to start his baseball career.  So, of all of the students I have worked with, two – Clausen and Bevins – actually received a full-ride scholarship. 
The NCAA, the national governing body of about 1300 institutions of higher learning, determines how many athletic scholarships can be awarded in each sport at each level.  For instance, in D-I men’s basketball, coaches can only award 13 full scholarships, while women’s basketball coaches cannot award any more than 15.  If there were not limits, then the wealthiest schools could outspend the rest, which would certainly upset any balance that may exist on the playing field.  Recognize as well that there are differences between men and women in some sports due to Title IX in an effort to bring about parity in the entire athletic program as they is no women’s equivalent to football and the 85 scholarships that a school can award to those athletes.  And, at the D-I level, in men’s sports the scholarships award to football and basketball players must be “full rides,” meaning that they cannot be divided among athletes.  In other sports they have to be divided as not enough full rides can be given to even fill a team.  For instance, baseball teams get 11.7 scholarships that have to be divided among 30-35 players on the active roster.  It is highly unusual for a baseball player to receive a full scholarship.  D-I wrestling teams can award 9.9 full scholarships, which is interesting because the team has ten weight classes to fill, not to mention having other wrestlers on the team to provide depth.  So, when someone tells you their son got a “full ride” be very skeptical.
The reality is that a very, very small percentage of high school student-athletes are going to win an athletic scholarship, partial or full ride.  The percentage is right at 2% and those given by Division I schools are less than 1%.  Over one million boys play high school football, but less that 30,000 received any kind of scholarship to play that sport at the D-I or D-II level.  The odds are a little better for girls, but not much, though in some sports the odds are a lot better.  What sport has the great opportunity?  Women’s rowing!  However, last I looked, there are not many rowing teams in Iowa high schools!
I am all for dreams and aspirations.  I do think that many parents are a little out of hand hiring private strength and conditioning coaches as well as private technique coaches and spending money on academic test taking coaches, travel and select teams, and maybe even sending their kids off to some of these new full-time academies that are popping up in our country.  The amount of money they will spend will never be recouped unless their child becomes a very successful professional athletic.  But that is not to say that athletic success at high school won’t open some doors.  It does.  But let’s look at it through clear rather than rose colored glasses.
If you want to learn more about college athletic scholarships, I refer you to CBS’s Money Watch and this web site:

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Are We Over the Top With Rewards?

Being an old wrestler and coach, and a veteran of those long Saturday tournaments for about 40 years, I have been troubled by a number of things that have happened at the youth level to a sport that I love.  Nothing is more troubling than the “buy-a-medal” policy they have in place at so many of these local tournaments held throughout the winter.  Most small town tournaments run a four man round robin tournament and award four medals, where basically, you pay your entry fee and your youngster walks away with a medal.  Even if they do not win a wrestling match all day, they get a medal.  Youth softball and soccer teams regularly give a medal, and some even a trophy, to all kids who play on a team.  So how come we reward participation (some would say mediocrity or losing) rather than awarding success?  Social commentators and researchers will say it is because of a huge shift in our society where we have become more sensitive to feelings and self-esteem.  But is that a good thing?  Have we cheapened hard work and commitment to excellence?  Are we settling for less than the best?  At their most impressionable age, are we teaching children the right values?
Further evidence is the fact that at some schools over 50% of the junior and senior class are in National Honor Society.  How can that be?  Are the standards too low?  Is grade inflation that far out of whack?  How is it an honor to be in a group that 50% of the students qualify for?  Look at those pageants for little girls.  Nearly all of them walk away with a crown and a trophy?  Heck, county and state fairs quit giving white ribbons at 4-H and FFA shows 20 years ago.  Now people get bent out of shape when they get a red ribbon!  What is the message here?
In an article that I read recently it was stated that Americans believe that most of us are average.  In essence they buy in to the bell curve where the majority of folks are in the middle with smaller percentages of folks on the high and low end.  The funny thing is that when asked where they see themselves, most identify themselves as being above average.  This is an over-generalization of the research, but is allows me to pose the question, if each of us believer we are above average, who are the folks below average?  And, because we believe we are above average, we are entitled to those things that come to those who are above average.  Thus, we believe that we are entitled to the rewards or awards, and to appease this attitude, want, or need, we have added more awards.  Rather than wiping away tears at that wrestling meet, parents see a little smile on the face of their little wrestler, even if he did lose all of the matches he wrestled.  The most elite athletes in the world compete for three medals, and yet at high school meets we award five, six, even eight at some state meets.  Is this excellence?
Here’s the problem.  We have developed a generation of young people with a false sense of their abilities and success.  And, when kids have to stand on their own, or when the competition gets a little tougher, many lack the work ethic, skill, and internal fortitude to be successful.  And, as they get older and the medals and trophies quit coming, they come up with reasons not to continue.  Maybe they recognize that they aren’t as good as they thought they were, but they never put it that way.  Rather, the term “burnout” is used.  Or, the coach has it in for them, or it just isn’t fun anymore.  However, the bottom line is that when they were little they were showered with rewards for just showing up.  In life, you have to do more than show up – you have to produce.  It wouldn’t be a bad idea to be honest with people and take a few steps back.  Though it may be hard, we need to be able to tell our kids that their effort isn’t good enough and that they need to put forth more effort.  It may be possible that the message we send is that they aren’t there yet and that they need to be patient and persistent.  Maybe that white ribbon is deserved and should send a message that they need to work a little harder or understand that perseverance is a positive character trait.  Life lessons when kids are young often have strong benefits when they are older.