Dear Coach Bryant:

While my son loves water polo and has done well playing in high school, I know he will never play professionally. And like you outlined in your post about sport scholarships, it’s unlikely he will get significant money from college athletics. That said, I wonder whether we should just drop the idea of him playing in college. 

As much as he loves the game, I know playing at any college would be a huge commitment. Since there isn’t any money to be made, professionally or scholastically, should we just encourage him to drop his sport, so he can spend his college time studying?

Realistic mom

Dear Realistic,

If it’s your son’s dream to pursue his sport during college, I would encourage you to help him follow that passion. The “realistic” truth is that not only do researchers say athletics can enhance a student’s ability to excel academically, but companies often seek out college athletes when making hiring decisions. Well-rounded athletes get a lot of attention from corporate recruiters. Here’s why:

Athletes train to solve problems.

They learn to make decisions quickly, often in adverse situations. Those skill sets lead them to become more resilient than many of their peers.

Athletes learn to be flexible.

Successful players must be able to change their strategy based on evolving situations. They learn to adapt – and to do so quickly.

Athletes must have a strong work ethic.

Student-athletes know that if they want playing time, they have to go above and beyond their coaches’ minimum requirements. If they don’t work hard, they don’t get to play.

Athletes are selfmotivated.

Student-athletes must accept responsibility for their mistakes. To succeed, they must accept correction and submit to authority. 

Athletes know how to work within a system.

Every sport requires participants to be team players. Successful athletes develop the emotional intelligence to work collaboratively – not just by following the rules, but pursuing what is best for their team.

Athletes can perform under pressure.

Student-athletes face pressures on and off the court/field. To succeed, they must develop multiple disciplines, including time management, communication skills and the organizational proficiencies required to excel in both their sports and studies.

The Reality:

Since many hiring managers see athletes as individuals trained to set and achieve goals, a resume that includes college athletics often draws special attention. And, since reputable athletic programs focus on holistic student development, many former college athletes who never went pro or received scholarship money credit their sports experience as a significant contributor to their professional success.

My Recommendations:

  • Make sure it is your child’s dream to play college sports. Don’t push him to play. If he’s not passionate and gets kicked off the team, that failure could impact his future options.
  • If playing in college is his dream, help him consider all his options – Division I, Division II, Division III, NAIA and JuCO.  
  • Keep the focus on academics. Explore schools that include not only good programs, but highly-respected academic programs in whatever profession he might want to pursue.