Fourth Down and Forever



In an increasingly competitive environment, many parents look at youth activities as mere means to an end. They choose programs like sports or Scouting based not on cost, convenience, or how much fun their kids might have but on how likely those programs are to lead to college acceptance letters and full-ride scholarships.

On the plus side for the BSA, some parents push their sons to stay in Scouting until they become Eagle Scouts, hence the stratospheric Eagle Scout numbers of recent years. But many, many more parents encourage their kids to play sports, viewing athletics as a smoothly paved road to college and career success.

If you find yourself running into that second group of parents, do them (and yourself) a favor by sharing this page with them: It summarizes research by the NCAA–which isn’t exactly an anti-sports organization–on the likelihood of high-school athletes playing at the collegiate level and/or making it to the pros.

The numbers are not pretty. Here are the odds that high-school athletes in various sports will play in the NCAA:

  • Men’s basketball: 3.3%
  • Women’s basketball: 3.7%
  • Football: 6.5%
  • Baseball: 6.8%
  • Men’s ice hockey: 11.3%
  • Men’s soccer: 5.7%

The chances of going pro are even more remote. For example, just 0.03% of high-school basketball players will ever play professional. (Fully 0.5% of baseball players turn pro, but most of them end up on farm teams like the Quad Cities River Bandits, the Richmond Flying Squirrels, or my beloved Louisville Bats.)

Of course, kids who play sports also learn teamwork, fitness, perseverance, and other life skills, but so do Scouts. We just don’t offer overblown hopes of superstardom.


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