I recently emailed back and fourth with an athlete who has a very interesting story. While he is a senior and has some time before his final decision has to eventual come down, his story is interesting enough to write about. Here is a little background on the athlete. He has been a varsity starter on the basketball team the last four years. This is the sport he grew up playing and spent most of his summers working to improve. He has been an All Stater in this sport and has played for different AAU teams at times as well.
Because he plays at a smaller school and is a good athlete, he also has spent the last three years playing varsity football. This past year on the football field, he really stood out and ended up being named All State there as well. With his size, hands, and athleticism, he has become a very sought after tight end and has been offered multiple Division II scholarships. But what should he do if basketball is the sport he loves?
Before going into both sides of what this athlete should do, let me give you a little more background. He is about 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5, which is what college coaches are looking for at the Division II level out of their tight end. On the basketball court, he is considered by some a tweener because of his size and skills. His team has really improved this season in basketball but his numbers have also gone down a little bit.
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On one sides of the equation is football. This appears to be a sport that he does not love as much as basketball but is very naturally gifted at. He has the right frame and body type to receive multiple scholarships in college from some pretty good Division II programs. If you take those offers, you will be getting a chance to get the majority of your college education paid for. That is more important than sports because few athletes get a chance to play beyond their early twenties anyways. I am unfortunately one with student loans and let me tell you that they really do suck. There is nothing fun about them and I wish I could have received a scholarship for something else to help me pay for them.
While getting that education paid for would be great, the negatives of not loving a sport area important as well. Lets say that this athlete ends up taking a football scholarship at a Division II program that offers the best education. Chances are good that he is not big enough yet to play at the college level so they redshirt him. What that means is that instead of playing it the next four years of his life, the redshirt means he will be in the sport the next five years of his life (Obviously he can still graduate in four years and move on but lets say he can’t for the purpose of this article).
Not only will he miss the sport that he grew up playing, he will have to spent those years with his mindset focused on football. For me personally, what I have realized over the past few years is that unless I love to do something, I am not going to be very good at it. This player may not work as hard in the weight room or doing extra workouts to improve as a football player because he just doesn’t have love for the game. Even though that means he may be passing up certain scholarships, being successful at something most times mean you love it. And that love may not be there for football.
But the other side of the coin is basketball. This is the sport he has played for his entire life. His dad was a basketball player in college so it has made an impact on him for years. If he decides to go that route, the options are more limited. Instead of Division II schools there may be Division III and NAIA programs trying to land him for basketball. What that means is he may be going to a school he likes less and may have to pay more out of pocket to play basketball.
If you consider the amount of time an athlete puts into his chosen sport at the college level, it is at least ten hours a week all year. With lifting, running, plyos, and open gyms for basketball, there is a great deal of time put in to be a college athlete at any level. Ten hours may not seem like a lot one week but over the course of a year it adds up really quick. I would guess that the higher level you decide playing, the more that time goes up as well.
On one side of the equation, it would be worth the trade off for student loans and a smaller school if you get to do what you love for more of the time. As important as an education is, as a former college athlete, I put too much into playing basketball. My guess is that most athletes, even at the Division III level, do the same. So that is why I would probably pick the sport that you love over the guaranteed scholarships.
If he did decide on football, he would be missing out on the sport he loved while playing a sport that has been secondary to him his whole life. He would have no student loans or anything along those lines but it could be a miserable four or five years.
Some athletes really do like sports equally as much and could go to either. That helps them a great deal because it does open doors on both sides of the sporting world. But if you like a sport a great deal more than the other, your best bet is to do what you love. Paying off student loans is worth having a great time at the college level.
If you were in this situation, what would you do?
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