So You Wanna Be a D1 Athlete?

Having read the thoughtful and accurate series on youth sports in the SF Chronicle, I thought I would chime in on what it means to get “the prize” — a highly coveted spot on a Division 1 team. One of my daughters plays lacrosse at a highly regarded academic institution, on a team ranked in the top ten in the country last year. During the last week of October, here’s what her schedule looked like:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 8-9:30am Lift; 10am-12pm Practice
Tuesday: 7:30-9am Team Skills Work and Individual Run
Thursday: 8:00-9:00am Seniors Meeting; 11am-12pm Individual Work with Assistant Coach
Saturday: Off Day; Individual Run
Sunday: 5am Wake Up to Bus to Philadelphia for a Play Date. Games at 10am, 1pm and 2pm Followed by a Team and Family Tailgate; Return to Campus at 8pm.

That adds up to 28.5 hours — and fall is her off-season! For this “job”, my daughter was granted a partial scholarship based on competing in all 16 games last season. Recall that the Chronicle article cited the actual number of scholarships per team. In my daughter’s league, lacrosse is mandated to have 13 full scholarships. There are 33 girls on the team, so you can do the math.

Oh, and then there is actual school. At my daughter’s university, students carry 5 courses a semester and they have a number of liberal arts requirements in addition to their major requirements. While athletes are given priority for class scheduling during the season, in the off-season they frequently have no priority. This fall, that meant finding classes with space available that don’t meet MWF before noon or early Tuesday and Thursday. In other words, class options just dropped by about 40%. It took very careful planning along with some pleading to professors and luck to end up with the classes she needed to meet her graduation requirements — and she needs to do the same in spring to complete her major.

Then, there are the injuries. Despite a rigorous injury prevention program, new turf and the best shoes Nike can make, over a 12 month period 5 of my daughter’s teammates tore their ACL’s (statistically impossible but a reality). And there was a broken wrist, shin splints, and my daughter’s broken nose along with the regular bodily wear and tear.

So this D1 prize that so many parents covet is maybe not what they have bargained for after all.

Here’s the point: if your child sleeps in her cleats, nags you to stay late after practice and shows up in the team meeting room with a face full of cotton two hours after breaking her nose saying she’s “good to go tomorrow” (true story) you know you have a kid who wants to play. He or she wants to keep playing because nothing can compare to the fun of the game. When my daughter plays great defense or has an interception, or when her teammates make a spectacular shot, she is just plain joyful. So for her, all of the work and sacrifice has been worth it.

As parents we need to listen to our kids and make sure they want to play as much as we want them to play. If they’re not that interested, maybe they shouldn’t be trekking across country for another club tournament. We need to make sure they don’t hurt themselves by over training even if that means saying “no” to coaches. We need to stay up-to-date on the latest findings on injury prevention. And we need to be sure our kids get the rest they need to stay healthy while competing. My 22 year old daughter cut class today so that she could sleep in for the first time in 2 weeks. And, that’s just fine with me.

MaureenBrown200hMaureen Brown, MBA, is Executive Director for Challenge Success, where she oversees daily operations as well as marketing and strategic planning. Ms. Brown comes to Challenge Success with over 20 years of consulting experience in health care, financial services, and technology. Prior to joining Challenge Success, Ms. Brown worked as an independent consultant and as a Partner at APM, Incorporated, where she structured, sold and managed strategic and operations improvement engagements for health care institutions, primarily university medical centers. Ms. Brown has also worked in Cash Management for Philadelphia National Bank and Citibank. She has been on various boards at Georgetown, and most recently co-founded the Bay Area Georgetown Technology Alliance. Ms. Brown has also served as a Board member at Woodside School.

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