Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.
“We got a full ride.”
Count Towson men’s coach Shawn Nadelen and Andi O’Connor, a mother of three and a club team coach, among the doubters.
“Straight out of high school, that is very rare,” said Nadelen, who this season led the Tigers to their first NCAA semifinal since 2001. “Typically a freshman’s athletic scholarship might be 20 percent of the total bill, if that.”
Nadelen, a veteran college coach following a standout career for Johns Hopkins and Team USA, has recruited high school prospects for a decade.
“I’ve had parents in on visits tell me they’ve invested X dollars, expecting that returned in a scholarship,” he said. “That return is rare.”
Towson men’s lacrosse coach Shawn Nadelen estimates that 90 percent of the 44 players on the Tigers’ 2017 roster received a partial athletic scholarship.
Nadelen joined O’Connor, a former player at Maryland and now senior manager for the eastern Mid-Atlantic region at US Lacrosse, in cautioning against parents forking over excessive sums of money on non-scholastic lacrosse activities as some sort of investment to be returned via a full athletic scholarship to an NCAA Division I institution.
“If you’re going to pay for a club, what are you going to get from that club that’s going to help your kid develop?” Nadelen said. “Is it a club that’s only concerned with going to tournaments and winning games, or is it one that will work on your kid’s skills, athleticism and lacrosse IQ?”
“As a club we did not need to be at tournaments every weekend,” O’Connor said. “We did maybe four tournaments in the summer and two in the fall.”
The numbers bear witness to the unlikelihood of a full ride. The NCAA limits Division I men’s programs to just 12.6 scholarships at any time; women’s programs, 12. And that’s for universities that have the resources to fully fund their varsity lacrosse teams, of which there were 70 on the men’s side and 112 on the women’s side.
With the mix of public and private schools, not all are required to report scholarship data. Some estimates have slightly more than half of the Division I teams at fully funded.
Given the swell of roster sizes in recent years, simple math can yield the unlikelihood of a prospect earning a full athletic scholarship — or any athletic scholarship at all.
According to [lacrosse], the ratio of high school athletes to college scholarship is 85-to-1 in men’s lacrosse and 48-to-1 in women’s lacrosse. The same site reports that 82 percent of all Division III student-athletes get some form of aid or academic scholarship. Even better, those awards average $17,000 a year, which exceeds the average $14,270 and $15,162 in athletic scholarships offered to men and women, respectively, in Division I.
Of the 44 players on Towson’s roster in 2017, Nadelen estimated 90 percent received a partial athletic scholarship.
Kaeli O’Connor, an All-ACC defender at Syracuse, was able to graduate debt-free primarily because of an academic scholarship.
That’s not to say there isn’t money out there to help pay for college, but chasing same has little to do with paying in advance for your child simply to play more lacrosse. O’Connor has counseled her own children and dozens of other high school-aged players about recruiting.
“I always told my players to focus on their academics, because there’s actually more money out there for academic scholarships,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor’s daughter, Kaeli, earned All-ACC first team and All-ACC academic honors as a senior defender at Syracuse. She started her career with the Orange on an academic scholarship. She gradually earned partial athletic scholarships under coach Gary Gait, eventually to the point that, when combined with her academic grant, she was able to graduate debt-free, according to Andi O’Connor.
Continued achievement in the classroom represented one of three criteria Nadelen uses in offseason evaluations of players’ scholarship status. Improving athletically and being a good citizen can help players earn an increase from that their freshman year grant may have been, he said.
All of which speaks to importance of the overall development of high school student-athletes, much of which can be achieved without unrealistic expectations of a full athletic scholarship.