Let’s be honest with ourselves sports parents, who among us has not dreamed of seeing our child “go pro” someday? From the very first time we teach them to throw, to swim, or to tumble the wheels start turning and we have daydreams about college scholarships, Olympic medals and first round draft picks. It’s okay to admit you have them too! But it’s a long road between the first day of tee-ball and the World Series and with every passing year the odds of your kid going pro, even if they live and breathe sports, even if they have fantastic natural talent, gets smaller and smaller.
In 2011, the NCAA put up the statistics that show the likelihood of your child going pro. Here are some of the most interesting numbers:
There are 1,108,441 high school football players and 316,697 are in their senior year. The percentage of high school football players who go on to play in the NCAA is only 6.1%. That means that less than one in 16 of all high school senior boys playing interscholastic football will go on to play football in the NCAA. Of the 15,086 NCAA football players that make it to their senior year about 1 in 50 are actually drafted into the NFL. At the end of the day, only eight in 10,000 of high school seniors will actually be drafted and play professional football.
According to the NCAA, in 2011 438,933 girls were playing basketball and 125,409 of those girls made are in their senior year. However, only 3.5% (about 3 in 100) of high school female basketball players will go on to play basketball in college. Of the 3,491 NCAA senior student athletes less than 1 in 100 will be drafted by the WNBA, meaning 1 in 5,000 (.03%) of high school senior girls will eventually go pro.
With 471,025 high school baseball players, 134,579 of which are in their senior year, about three in 50 (6.4%) of high school senior boys will go on to play men’s baseball in college. Believe it or not, baseball players actually have the best chance of going pro—a whopping nine in 100 of NCAA senior male baseball players (a whole 9%!) will ultimately get drafted by an MLB team. That means that approximately one in 200 high school senior boys will eventually be drafted by an MLB team.
Let’s not even go into the odds of your child becoming an Olympian someday…let alone actually bringing home the gold.
This is not to say that there aren’t fantastic youth athletes out there with the willpower, the talent, and the drive to play sports all the way through high school, get noticed by a college recruiter and kick butt up and down the field/court/ice hard enough to get drafted by a major league team, but for many youth athletes, no matter how much they want it, the odds just aren’t in their favor.
We as sports parents can’t control the direction of our child’s sports career. We can’t count on college scholarships or bank on them “going pro” no matter how talented they are because at the end of the day, they are still just kids! They might live and breathe lacrosse or hockey this year, but in a few years they might really love tennis or swimming, or leave sports entirely to pick up the tuba, chess, or basket-weaving. Going pro is a fantastic dream that every youth athlete should have just once, but let’s not lose site of the real value of youth sports—to have fun, make friends, learn how to be a graceful winner and loser, to work in a team and keep active!