Wednesday, August 1, 2012

College Tennis $$ - Do The Math

If you have a child in a 10 and Under Tennis program, chances are you have wondered if a college tennis scholarship may be in their future to help you get a return on your tennis investment. I did a little digging and here's what I found.

According to a recent presentation about the USTA's Tennis On Campus program, there are about 300,000 kids who play on their high school tennis team nationwide. The presenter estimated about 15,000 of them actually make it on to a college team somewhere.

After doing a little research, I think the number is a little higher than 15,000.  Around 1700 Division I, II and III schools have tennis teams (men and womens' combined).  NAIA and junior colleges add another 400 teams. Let's say there's an average of 10 players per team. That gets us up to 21,000 players. You can see this number will vary depending on how many players are on a team. They can get by with a minimum of 6 (three doubles courts, six singles courts per match).

But let's assume the presenter knows way more about this than I do and the number is 15,000. Whoa! That is a sobering number right there. That means only 5% of high school players actually make it onto a college team. Probably fewer than that because many elite tennis players don't play on their high school teams - they spend their time in lessons and on the tournament circuit.

Let's say your child is one of the lucky 5%. What are the chances they will earn a scholarship? Scholarships vary depending on division (4.5 per team for the men and either 8 or 6 for the women). So of approximately 15,000 (or 21,000) college players, DI, DII, NAIA and some junior colleges offer about 8200 scholarships to all of those students (At schools where athletic scholarships are not offered, academic scholarships may be available to student athletes).  At best that is just over half. At worst, around 40%.

At the beginning of this post we had an nice healthy number to work with: 300,000 kids nationwide playing on high school teams. Here we are now with only 8200 of them getting some money to play in college. Looking at it that way is kind of depressing - less than 3% of high school players will end up getting any money to play tennis in college. But I hope you will consider the bigger picture.

  • There are 300,000 kids playing high school tennis and probably room for more. Many schools participate in USTA's No Cut program.
  • If they don't make the college team, the Tennis On Campus program is very robust with 35,000 players nationwide at over 500 schools. 
  • Tennis, unlike many other high school sports, is 'the sport of a lifetime'. It is a gift that will continue to give from age 5 to 85.
  • These numbers are no less encouraging in other sports. About 2% of high school athletes get a sports scholarship to an NCAA school, regardless of sport. Percentage of high school athletes making it onto an NCAA college team, regardless of scholarship:
    • Football: 6%
    • Baseball: 6% 
    • Basketball: 3%
    • Soccer: 5%
So the tennis numbers are about average. Besides, wouldn't you rather go with the non-concussion option??

The University of South CarolinaTennis On Campus team
Seriously, folks - if you are trying to plan your child's tennis future, be aware of the numbers and of your child's ability and willingness to work. If the high school team is their goal, under 10 is the perfect age to get started. If the college team is their goal, be prepared to work and play harder and better than 95% of all the other kids out there.