The Three Percenters

One of my favorite numbers that I like to preach as often as possible: LESS than 3% of high school athletes earn an athletic scholarship to play college sports at any level (NCAA D1, NCAA D2, NAIA, or JUCO; D3 is non-scholarship).  Of those, very (VERY) few get the coveted “full ride.”
Let’s go one step farther: LESS than 7% of high school athletes even play college sports at any level.

Here are the numbers from the NCAA and from a compilation data service:

7,692,520 – Total number of high school athletes in 2011-12
517,849 – Total number of college athletes at levels in 2011-12
6.7% – Percentage of high school athletes who compete in college
139,063 – Total number of NCAA Division 1 athletes in 2011-12
1.8% – Percentage of high school athletes who compete in NCAA D1 sports
177,559 – Total number of available college scholarships in 2011-12
34% – Percentage of available college scholarships compared to total college athletes
2.3% – Percentage of available college scholarships compared to total high school athletes

And, for the people who are looking even beyond college:
535,569 high school boys’ basketball players
450 NBA roster spots (.08%, but it’s actually FAR less than that because of the number of international players)
436,100 high school girls’ basketball players
180 WNBA roster spots (.04%)
1,121,744 high school football players
1,696 NFL roster spots (.15%)
35,732 high school boys’ hockey players
690 NHL roster spots (1.9%, but again it’s FAR less because of international and club players)
474,219 high school baseball players
1,200 MLB roster spots (.25%, again FAR lower because of international players)

To summarize all of that, I offer two observations:
1. Kids probably aren’t going to get to play college sports.
2. Kids probably aren’t going to get to play professional sports.

To be fair, I will admit that I skewed the professional numbers by only including the top professional level of each sport.  There are other professional leagues in football and basketball, and baseball and hockey have multiple levels of professional leagues.  In fact, the NCAA estimates that the number of high school baseball athletes who play professionally at any level is actually double what I listed above.  So high school kids have a one half of one percent chance of playing professional baseball!

It’s important to remember that these numbers are based on the number of athletes who continue to play sports at just the high school level.  Actual percentages are even lower than this in all cases because of club based sports, international players, and multi-sport athletes.

This “have to advance” epidemic has crept into the lower youth levels, as well.  As the dad of very active boys aged 9 and 6, I get to spend time watching them play various sports throughout the year.  Even at this level, I’ve heard coaches and parents make reference to working on various things because that’s what they’ll need to know in high school/college/pros.  Statistically speaking, about half of the kids playing youth sports will choose to not play beyond 6th grade, and of those that do, less than half of those will eventually make a high school varsity team.

As I’ve mentioned before, the ability to play college sports largely comes down to two attributes:
1. Athletic Ability
2. Work Ethic
And if a kid doesn’t have the first, it really won’t matter if he/she has the second.  Kids are either athletic enough to move on, or they aren’t.  For those that are, not all of them have the needed work ethic, discipline, or coach-ability to move on.  We really need to fix our youth sports culture to match what our kids are most likely to become: coach our kids to be effective workers, spouses, and parents.  (More on that next week.)

In the meantime, I encourage our coaches to continue coaching towards our department goals and to focus on educating the 97% of their roster that will have this experience as the end of the line.  The 3%’ers will still learn everything they need to learn because they have the ability and the drive to do so.  I further encourage parents to focus on the more important aspects for their kids as well: academics and character.

On the positive side, as youth sports continue to expand and become more aggressive, more and more advocates for sanity are speaking out.  It doesn’t take much effort to find books or articles about sports parenting (check out my Read These page), and while everyone takes a different approach, they are all attempting to bring rational thought back into youth sports parenting.  (One of my favorite recent posts can be found here.  That article is full of thoughts from an ER doctor – very good read.)

Next week – more stats!  But I’ll give you the stats that I pass along to my coaches to remind them of the importance of educational based character coaching.

As always, thoughts/suggestions/comments are appreciated!

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  1. Pingback : High school athletes-Why only one sport? - Red Blooded Sports

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