Aspirations to play college soccer and hopes of a scholarship are apt to influence many decisions young players and their parents make. We've relayed some of the common questions we've heard from parents to Lisa Lavelle, president of The Sport Source, which has spent more than 20 years in college counseling for student-athletes.
By Lisa Lavelle
My daughter got invited to play for an ECNL team. It's very expensive and they practice four times a week, requiring a significant commute. Some of the players from that club have gotten college scholarships, which makes it sound like the financial investment may pay off. But what if she's just a roster-filler? She's thrilled that she got asked and wants to make the move. Besides the thousands of dollars we'd be spending, I'm concerned how the time commitment might affect her homework. How do I make this call?
Great question, let’s examine a few factors when making this decision. First let’s look at cost. It is estimated the average cost to participate in ECNL is about $8,000 to $10,000 annually when all the related expenses are added up.
When it comes to scholarship allocation, money is money and when it comes to college scholarships a student-athlete's grades can equal big bucks and remove a barrier to entry when a coach has little to no money left in the budget.
The fact is, collegiate soccer is a non-revenue sport, and when it comes to women’s soccer at the collegiate level, the Division I women's programs that are “fully funded” have 14 scholarships that are allocated over four years -- often with a roster with 23-32 players.
So if it’s about a scholarship, athletically speaking not everyone will get a “full-ride” and in many cases little to no athletic money. Which brings me back to cost -- at $10K per year and your child plays ECNL for let’s say four years -- you would have spent $40K
If you live in California and your daughter wants to attend UCLA -- the new student mandatory fee for the first year is $15,131 -- based on ECNL dues and fees paid, you could have covered nearly three years of college tuition with the same amount of money spent on playing ECNL.
ECNL rules say the roster can have a maximum of 30 players -- and realistically, it all comes down to money and players -- so your instinct could be correct. Club teams at any level can’t guarantee playing time either. Remember, if she is really good, and a game-changer, college coaches are looking for the brightest and best players for their roster, especially if they can add value, depth and dimension to their college team.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to sports, and what one coach sees as a great player, another coach might not.
As an example, in Dallas, there was young girl who tried out for an ECNL team, was told she was not good enough -- so she continued to play for her high school and club team. When National Signing Day came around, she signed with Davidson. While the ECNL coach said she was not good enough for his youth team -- the college coach said she was great for his collegiate program. Bottom line, college coaches will be the final judge on who they recruit, and pick student-athletes they think are right for their program.
As you consider the options for your daughter, you need to be aware that there is a significant time commitment to playing ECNL, including travel and training, along with various tournaments that are out-of-town. All of this adds up and based on the commitment required, it may require your daughter to be out of school for one or more days. These are un-excused absence days, and depending on the school, your child might be required to attend summer school to maintain her academic and attendance requirements.
Take for example, Royal High School in California, its policy states “Teachers may fail any student who accrues a total of seven (7) unexcused absences in any one semester.” Teachers are not required to provide make-up work or allow students to take tests missed because of absences which have been designated as "unexcused" or "truant."
Each state and school has their own policy, so before you make your decision to pursue ECNL or any sports program that would require your child to miss school due to travel and events, parents should speak with the school counselor and find out what if any ramifications will apply if their child has excessive absences due to ECNL or other sporting events.
Parents should also review the club policy regarding travel, tournaments and make sure the club understands excessive absences due to sports participation outside of their school could cause their child issues along the way. When it comes to NCAA Division I or II sports, students mustmeet both academic and athletic eligibility.
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(Lisa Lavelle is President of The Sport Source, which has been connecting kids to college opportunities since 1989. For more information on The Sport Source’s Official Athletic College Guides, tools, and resources, go to www.TheSportSource.com.)