Athletic Scholarships: Awarded to Students, Earned by Parents

5 years ago

I remember sitting in a college classroom and listening to my fellow students debate the good and the bad of athletic scholarships. On one side were the athletes and on the other were…well…everyone else.

I didn’t have an athletic scholarship and didn’t really care much about the discussion one way or the other at the time, but then one student spoke up, and I remember his comment to this day. The point he made was along the lines of how most of the student athletes had spent more money and put in more time over the course of their lives on their sport than they would ever get back through a scholarship. Hmmm, I thought. It was an interesting point that I hadn’t considered before.

Now, just to be clear, I also understand that sports aren’t the only activity that parents invest in for their kids. For kids into music, there are music lessons and instrument rental or purchase fees. For others, there are foreign language lessons, dance lessons, singing lessons, and so on and so forth. Again, I get it.

The only reason the athletic scholarship debate popped into my head instead of any other sort of scholarship was that my daughter was recently asked to be on a training team for gymnastics – e.g. the younger, “non-competitive” version of the team. What does this mean? Basically, it means more money, more time in the gym, and a larger commitment on many levels from our whole family. Um, my daughter is five.

Team Mom by niseag03 via Flickr

I am not even sure how I feel about the whole thing. Gymnastics is not a sport I would have chosen for my daughter. It terrifies me to watch her. It terrifies me that she is five and is in a competitive environment twice a week. It terrifies me that she is obsessed with the sport. If my daughter had any sense and listened to me, she would still be taking safe and easy ballet lessons. That is what I dreamed my little girl would do one day. Just like I did. Only the funny thing about having kids is that you don’t choose for them. You can push them to try different things, which we did, but at the end of the day, they like what they like, and there isn’t a thing you can do about it. You have to listen to what they are saying and respect it, but in respecting it, I am finding that it is as much of a learning experience for me as it is for her.

She had her first class with the training team yesterday. Lesson number one for both of us was the realization that the girls on the training team do not goof off, despite the fact they are all five and six years old. Well, that isn’t true, they do goof off; it’s just that their goofing off involves doing cartwheels and handstands when they are supposed to be listening rather than joking and playing games. Unlike her other gymnastics classes where she talked and laughed with the other girls and immediately made friends, there was very little – if any – time for the girls to talk. It was intense. It was also the moment when I realized that I will never be a stage mom, or sports mom, or whatever it is like you see on TV. My daughter fell right into place in the class, but I was a wreck. I felt nervous the entire time I watched these little girls as they demonstrated more athletic prowess in one hour than I did in my entire life.

The reality is, we have no idea if this will go anywhere. She could get hurt. She could lose interest. The sacrifice of leaving school early twice a week may be a tipping point for her, particularly with one of those days falling on the day her class has its Valentine’s Day party. Time will tell on all fronts, but one thing is for certain now – we are all giving up something to let her dream take her where it will, which brings me back to scholarships.

A week ago, I had no concept of what it takes to navigate through the scheduling and budgeting and everything else involved in something like this. If by some miracle my daughter is still interested in gymnastics by the time she gets to college, we will have invested a small fortune in the endeavor. We will also have committed countless hours and sacrifices to the cause. Parents with kids in sports do that.

So my hat is off to that kid in my college class who made that point. It stuck with me, and now it means more than it did then. I can only imagine how that meaning will have changed a couple of years from now if we are still on this road. The one thing I would add to his comment is that while these scholarships are awarded to the students, it is the parents who have – in many respects – earned them.

In addition to having played sports in high school and college (in a very mediocre fashion), Shannon Hembree also took piano and dance lessons and thinks that scholarships for the arts and academic prowess are every bit as important as those for athletic prowess. Shannon is also the co-founder of You can follow her on Twitter @shannon1hembree and you can follow Mamas Against Drama on Twitter @mamasagnstdrama.


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