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The Game of Scholarships in American College Sports

In 1852, Yale competed against Harvard in rowing at Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. This marked the beginning of intercollegiate competition in the ...

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|Sep 25|magazine24 min read

In 1852, Yale competed against Harvard in rowing at Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. This marked the beginning of intercollegiate competition in the U.S.

College sports are hugely popular and encouraged in the United States. In terms of the facilities, training and scale, US College sports surpass professional sports world-wide.

US college sports are the 2nd tier of sports into the professional game. The likes of Ryan Lochte, Tiger Woods, John Isner, Michael Jordan, Clint Dempsey Mia Hamm, and many more were college athletes.

What is an Athletic Scholarship?

Athletic scholarships are more popular in the U.S. than in most other countries. These provide young athletes with an alternative pathway to develop both their academic and sporting potential in American Colleges and Universities.

The best possible Sports scholarship isreferred to as a “full ride”, and covers the costs of tuition, room, board, and textbooks.

The level of competition varies dramatically depending on the type of sport. The more high-visibility sports like football and basketball usually grab a full ride. But for those willing to do a little more research, there are numerous resources outside of the top funding institutions where you might get a fair scholarship deal.

In the United States, athletic scholarships are largely regulated by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).  There are also two other college athletic leagues, National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), which offer competitive, yet accessible athletic programs.

Sports that are offered Scholarships:

Archery, Baseball , Basketball,  Bowling, Cross-Country Running , Cheer Leading, Diving, Fencing, Equestrian, Field Hockey, Football , Golf, Gymnastics, Ice Hockey, Lacrosse, Martial Arts, skiing, Riflery, Rodeo, Rugby, Rowing, Skateboarding, Soccer, Softball, Surfing, Swimming /Diving, Squash, Tennis, Track & Field, Volleyball, Water Polo, Wrestling. The Role of NCAA

The most advertised and competitive athletic awards in the U.S. are the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) scholarships.

The NCAA conducts 89 national championships in 23 sports. Competition is conducted in Divisions I, II and III, with 44 championships administered for women and 42 for men. Three are co-ed.

Every year, almost 50,000 student-athletes participate in NCAA championships in all three membership divisions.

Perhaps the biggest thing to understand about the American college system is that not all schools compete on the same playing field. Due to the large number of schools, and to make sports fairer, the NCAA introduced the 3-tier division system. In its basic form, Division 1 is the most competitive and preferred of the divisions, followed by Division 2 and Division 3.

Good Scholarships for Women Athletes There are some great Scholarships are offered to Women athletes who cannot make it to the elite Div I or II athletic scholarships.

Colleges and universities large and small are expanding their programs to include Scholarships for women’s ice hockey, water polo, rowing, lacrosse, archery, bowling, rifling, and rodeo.

Team Roster/ Line-up

The line-ups of the teams are formed similar to those in international club sports depending on the way they compete as well as to how many members are on the team.

Recruiting and Competing phases

The official recruiting season for the majority of sports begins on July 1 in the summer after junior year followed by the official admissions letter from the college. Generally, the official season only takes place during one semester, at the end of which the regional competitions and national championships are held to determine the official champion of each sport in each division.

During this semester, the team participates in competitions at least twice a week, in order to play against teams of other universities. The other semester is used for physical, technical and tactical preparation for the official season.

Most sports have their season of competition either in the fall (August-December) or spring (January-May) semester. Some sports such as Basketball, Gymnastics, or Swimming and Diving compete in (part of) both semesters.

Training methods

Coaches are paid according to the success of their teams which means they are on their toes introducing advanced training sessions for their athletes. You are not awarded a scholarship to sit around and do nothing.

More important than current performance is your own comfort with the coach. No matter how successful a university may be, it will not work for you if you and the coach do not get along. A disagreement with the coach is one of the main reasons that athletes either transfer while at college.

Besides making athletes tougher physically, Coaches play other multiple roles including a Dietician, Psychologist and an inspiration.

Athletes have said that they were never able to reach the same level of fitness, which they maintained during their time on a college team, again.

Age requirements

Applicants looking to play sports at university or college level in the USA must be between 18 and 24 years of age or no further than the 6th Semester at university.

Ideally, Students should want to begin studying in the USA immediately after graduating from high school (after grade 13 or 12 respectively) and thus be eligible for a scholarship for the full four undergraduate years.

Academic background

It is the coach, who grants the scholarship but the applicant must be accepted by the college or university to be allowed to play on its team in the first place.

All international applicants have to be high school graduates. In addition, every single international applicant (except from English speaking countries) has to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System). The sports divisions also require applicants to take the SAT (college admission test) to be cleared in the licensing and admission process.

Tips to apply for a Scholarship

Email the Coach: Don’t wait to get discovered by the College you are interested in. Send an email which is usually the most common form of communication. The coach usually emails back.

Stating information about your position, sport statistics, and coach contacts is not a bad idea.

Use YouTube: To attract the interest of coaches, create a seven or eight minutes of your best stuff in an action video and then post it on YouTube and share the links with the Coaches that link. Rather than CDs that pile up on desks, coaches prefer seeing YouTube videos of athletes.

The best scholarships can be in Division III: The best way for many athletes to win a scholarship is to apply to colleges that fall in the last Division. The weaker the college generally, the easier it is to get a scholarship.

The average merit grant that Division III colleges are awarding routinely slashes the tuition tab by more than 50 percent.

Renew Scholarships: Don't assume that the Scholarships are going to be for four years. Athletic scholarships must be renewed each year at the coach's discretion.

Geographical location: This criterion is a major factor in looking for a college. For instance, Colorado is not a good idea if you love surfing, whereas Florida is not ideal for those who dislike humidity. Many of the southern schools do not offer an indoor season for Track and Field program, as the weather is not cold enough to have indoor sessions for training.

Why are Sports Scholarships Granted

For generations American universities have had college teams in all kinds of sports. Some college sports are more popular than professional sports.

College teams serve as an advertisement for the respective university in competitions. If a team has regional or even nationwide success, it receives national coverage on U.S. television with television rights for main stream American sports such as football and basketball being a major contributor.

This loyal support and media interest turns college sports into a multi-million dollar industry and student-athletes into celebrities and icons.

College teams are also a means to market the university in order to recruit new students. This is why the universities provide the coaches with huge budgets to recruit talented athletes from around the world.

The economic impact distinguishes United States collegiate athletics from the college athletics elsewhere.

Another reason for the importance of college athletics in the U.S. is the important role it plays in the hierarchy of sport organizations.

Youth sports organizations which are at the bottom of this pyramid have participation open to nearly everyone. As the pyramid progresses, the level of competition increases, with the number of competitors decreasing until the highest level of organized sport, professional sports, is reached.

At the end of the day it’s the passion that makes it easier for the Coach to help the athletes and the Universities to grant them the Scholarships.