Practices nearly every day, early-morning conditioning, games, scrimmages, summer camps and other team requirements dominate the lives of high school athletes and their parents. If you're one of those families, you may have accepted the fact that every school break during your child's high school career will be spent practicing instead of vacationing. High school sports are no longer just a fun way to play a sport that kids enjoy. Instead, it's big business and you probably know that first hand by the fees that you pay. For some, the 4am practices are there for one reason: to receive an NCAA scholarship. But is it worth the investment of time and money? (For a related reading, see The March Madness Approach To Investing.)
IN PICTURES: March Madness MVPs - Where Are They Now?

The Cost of Sports
It isn't uncommon for school districts to charge $300 or more per sport for one child to play. Add in the costs that a parent has to pay for equipment and the costs rises drastically. If you have a child who plays middle and high school basketball, statistics show that you will spend an average of $5,000 over six years, and if the sport of choice is soccer, you spend a much higher $8,000, over two years.

For a child who is a member of a swim team outside of a school, the costs can be $4,000 per year or more (which often doesn't include equipment). The expenses paid for participation in athletics vary widely, but one fact is clear: it costs a lot of money. (For more, see The Most Economical Sports For Kids.)

The NCAA Payoff
So can a family expect to recoup those costs in the form of an NCAA scholarship? Probably not, according to Kevin Lennon, the NCAA's vice president of membership services. In an article from the Houston Chronicle, Lennon says that parents and students should participate in sports for the enjoyment of the game rather than hoping to cash in.

There are approximately 140,000 NCAA athletes, but only a small percentage of those athletes receive scholarship money. If you want to have the best chances of receiving an NCAA scholarship you should be a girl playing high school golf. Of all of the high school girls playing golf, the NCAA reports that 1.6% of those will earn at least a partial scholarship. The catch? You will spend an average of $11,000 per year over your child's middle school and high school golf experience, according to that same Chronicle report.

IN PICTURES: 8 Money-Saving Tips For Sports Fans

Increasing Your Odds
If you play football, you have a 1.4% chance of getting a college scholarship, and it's by far the best value. Parents will only spend an average of $300 in off season expenses along with pay-to-play fees. If you want to play the sport with the highest average scholarship amount, play ice hockey. The average amount that an NCAA college ice hockey player receives is $21,755 according to the New York Times.

Even if your child is one of those student athletes who receives a scholarship, the value of that scholarship won't come close to paying all of their college expenses. Including room and board, tuition for NCAA schools is between $20,000 and $50,000 per year while the average scholarship for athletes not involved in the high profile sports of basketball and football is only $8,707. If you average all sports, including the high profile ones, the amount only rises to $10,409. With no NCAA scholarship being a guaranteed four-year award, collegiate athletes must keep the same commitment to continue to receive the scholarship.

Finally, if you're wondering if gender plays a role, 57% of all scholarship money goes to male athletes, but in 11 out of 14 sports both men and women play, women received more scholarships, again, according to the New York Times.

The Bottom Line
With only a tiny fraction of the millions of high school athletes getting NCAA scholarships, playing for the sole purpose of gaining scholarship dollars is not a fruitful endeavor. If a scholarship is your goal, go for academics. Out of all students, about 9.6% receive academic scholarships, with the average scholarship amount totaling $2,184. You still won't pay the full cost of tuition, but you have a much higher chance of receiving an award. (To learn more, see 7 Ways To Fund Your Child's Athletic Pursuits.)

Use the Investopedia Stock Simulator to trade the stocks mentioned in this stock analysis, risk free!

Related Articles
  1. Personal Finance

    How To Get That Entry-Level Financial Analyst Job

    Landing a job as a financial analyst takes study, strategy and a lot of hard work. Here's how to hone your competitive edge.
  2. Personal Finance

    Does It Make Sense to Go to College in Europe?

    If you're deciding whether to get a degree abroad, first do your research and talk to alumni who have completed the same program.
  3. Savings

    6 Ways to Save Money on College Supplies

    Tuition and room and board are big expenses, yes, but the cost of textbooks and supplies can add up, too, unless you strategize.
  4. Personal Finance

    The Future Outlook of the Golf Industry

    The popularity of golf peaked in 2003. To regain popularity and survive, the industry is adapting to appeal to a younger generation of players.
  5. Entrepreneurship

    Nike and the NBA, a Perfect Duo?

    What does Nike's recent eight-year contract partnership with the NBA entail for its largest competitor Under Armor?
  6. Credit & Loans

    Why Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac Might Be In Trouble

    Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are under increased scrutiny as debates continue about conservatorship, share price, and profit allocations.
  7. Economics

    The NBA’s Business Model

    Drawing interest domestically and abroad, the NBA has seen its popularity and revenue streams rapidly increase over the past few years.
  8. Personal Finance

    Is ESPN a Sport Monopoly?

    With such a dominant presence in sports as demonstrated through substantial ratings and a firm online presence, some may consider ESPN a sports monopoly.
  9. Economics

    3 Main Reasons Las Vegas Sports Teams Keep Folding

    Learn why a unique labor force, competition for entertainment dollars and the stigma of gambling have kept professional sports out of Las Vegas.
  10. Investing News

    Why FIFA Can't Give the 2022 World Cup to Qatar

    Learn about the high price tag for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, along with allegations of human rights abuses and bribery scandals in the bidding process.
  1. Good Student Discount

    An auto insurance policy discount available to young drivers ...
  2. Hole-In-One Insurance

    A product that offers financial protection to golf tournament ...
  3. Whartonite

    A graduate of the Wharton School of Business at the University ...
  4. Merchandising

    Merchandising is any act of promoting goods or services for retail ...
  5. Free Application For Federal Student ...

    The form that must be completed in order to qualify for any type ...
  6. Student Debt

    Money owed on a loan taken out to pay for educational expenses. ...
  1. Why is Manchester United (MANU) carrying so much debt?

    The takeover of Manchester United by the Glazer family beginning in 2005 saddled the historic club with substantial amounts ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What are Manchester United's (MANU) largest revenue sources?

    Manchester United is one of the most popular U.K. soccer teams. Its principal stadium is Old Trafford, located in the heart ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Does Manchester United (MANU) own Old Trafford stadium?

    Old Trafford Stadium was built for and is currently still owned by Manchester United Football Club (Man Utd.). This means ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What's the biggest sports endorsement deal ever signed?

    According to Forbes, basketball player Derrick Rose holds the largest endorsement deal as of 2014; the deal is for more than ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are the biggest stadium naming rights deals of all time?

    The top three stadium naming rights deals of all time were all for stadiums hosting New York City teams. The largest was ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the difference between a mutual fund and money market fund?

    The Herfindahl-Hirschman index can be used to determine competitive balance in sports. Competitive balance is desired in ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!