If your child has chosen to target schools in the Power Five only or NCAA Division One almost exclusively, you might have a big problem. While bashing sports parents has become an unfair pastime among the soccer elites, if you, as a parent, are encouraging this all D1 all the time thing or guiding it directly, it’s you that’s the problem to begin with.
Power Five College Football and Basketball have over-romanticized what it is to be a college athlete. And while P5 soccer schools undoubtedly offer the most benefits to their athletes in terms of non-scholarship financial support and facility infrastructure, there is no guarantee they offer the most benefits and best experience to your kid. Most of the time—they don’t.
Do they want to play?
Approaching half of all kids who go D1, don’t play very much. Many kids almost never see the field and I recently witnessed the Senior Day for 3 seniors in my daughter’s program that played in less than 5 games in their ENTIRE CAREER. Huge amounts of kids quit soccer at all levels of college, but it’s not uncommon to see 30% or more attrition rates in men’s soccer and higher than that for women.
Schools are recruiting over your kid from day one. It’s not uncommon for a player to be a Junior before given a real shot or playing good minutes when young only to be replaced by dynamic new talent and be relegated to picking up cones in your upper-class years.
I know, your kid is the exception, right? They’re going to start from the first day on campus with the Power Five program while enjoying their full scholarship. YOU LIVE IN DISNEYLAND. Stop it. You’re not helping your kid.
On the other hand, if they want to be on the team because they are in love with the school and really could care less about playing time, then I guess that works. But there aren’t too many kids in love with sitting the bench, not making travel rosters, 6AM weight training in February and on and on. There are even less coaches that want to see that on their team. Odd as it sounds this scenario is far more likely than the day one P5 starter on full scholarship.
School v. Soccer?
Hard to believe, I know, but this is about your kid getting an education more than it is about intercollegiate athletic glory. Their course of study, school size, people, social life, the town it’s in and the distance from home are all just as important (and in my opinion more important) as the athletic division or conference. I’ve seen kids do VERY well on the P5 soccer field transfer because they hate the school or are overwhelmed by the size, etc.
Even within athletic part do the decision, what are the teammates like? Are they hanging from streetlights hungover at every open schedule slot? Are they catty and infighting? Is their academic class warfare? Is the coaching staff loved by the kids (rare)? What style of soccer do they say they play versus what do they actually play? Will your AD help you through sports/class conflicts (that WILL happen) or will they only do that for some athletes? These questions are THE MOST OVERLOOKED part of it all. I’ve seen many kids drop from teams because the despite the team’s success and their success on the field, the culture was toxic.
Scholarships and Debt?
The full scholarship is pretty rare and unicorn-like at some levels. If a lower level division one school pays 70% of college and a P5 pays for 20% or less, is P5 worth it? If you walk on at P5 (VERY unlikely to ever play) and leave a 50% scholarship at D2 or NAIA on the table…worth it? If you’re doing this on debt this is a five to six figure financial burden to be dropped on a soon-to-be 22 year old. If you’re doing this with savings or Mom and Dad’s money, well, then that money could be redeployed into grad school or getting a faster start into life—you know, the one that makes you pay bills and stuff.
This is a pandemic in our culture that has permeated the fabric of youth sports in very unhealthy ways. The hard truth is that too many kids care more about what it looks like to be called a D1 athlete than anything. While the high school soccer experience is unfairly beaten up, the overall high school push for the social media perception moment where their classmates see them as some kind of superhero because of their college commitment has reached the absurd. They’d trade scholarship, playing minutes, leadership opportunities, life-long friendships and even better education for being called a D1 athlete. And that’s ridiculous a symptom of other problems and most of the time harmful to the kid. The only thing that’s worse is when the Parent gets some ego boost from doing the same thing. I find it fascinating that no parent can imagine themselves doing this, yet we all know parents that do that.
Look at all levels
If you think D2, D3, NAIA and even JUCO opportunities are beneath your kid, you’re doing this wrong. I beg of you to open your mind and guide your kids to do the same. There are pro players that come from all levels and even a USWNT player that is from NAIA. You know how many Stanford players never got a look from the USWNT? After all, all these kids will one day go pro at something other than soccer. Now is the time to bring that into your family conversation.