Does success in high school, college and professional athletics come from pure talent and hard work? Or does a parent’s income and economic status give athletes an advantage or disadvantage?
When it comes to having the right resources to be successful in pursuing a career in the world of athletics, it is no secret that money plays a huge role. According to Jon Solomon, kids living in low-income circumstances are six times more likely to quit sports due to high costs. Additionally, Black and Hispanic people are consistently higher than any other race or ethnicity. Naturally, making it harder for these minority groups to thrive as athletes in America.
Children in low-income families are oftentimes ripped away from the opportunities to develop as athletes.
“Poorer kids quit sports (due to) time constraints,” points out Solomon in his article. “Their parents were two times more likely to cite lack of time as why their child quit sports than wealthy parents.”
This is completely reasonable considering that the responsibilities that fall on children can be drastically different depending on the economic status of the family. For example, kids in lower-income families are often tasked with caring for other siblings, working a job and/or facing transportation issues, according to Solomon. Participating in youth sports is undoubtedly a sign of a more privileged life.
“Low-income kids … spend more time in pickup games and free play,” Solomon interestingly points out. “High-income kids spent slightly more time on practices and training.”
Although not explicitly mentioned in his article, private coaching and personalized training can certainly eat up more of a family’s income, making kids with more resources better suited with skills needed when it comes to high school and eventually college sports. This is just one of many resources that children in higher-income families have that other children do not.
Things get more interesting when it comes to college admissions and recruiting athletes. Put simply, spots at some of the most elite universities are basically reserved for kids who grew up playing sports under more privileged circumstances thanks to the recruiting process we know today.
A Princeton University study by Thomas J. Espenshade points out that the advantage athletes have when it comes to admissions is comparable to having a 1400 versus a 1200 on the SAT. Furthermore, not only are student-athletes favored, but they are often held at lower academic standards by admissions; according to the NCAA the minimum GPA is a 2.3 in order to play at a D1 school, and for a D2 school the minimum GPA is a 2.0.
If that isn’t enough to convince you that this system may need some remodeling, It’s also worth noting that coaches at schools can get preferential slots for admission. It is why it is so common to see a high school junior “verbally committing” to a top institution when scrolling through your Instagram feed. No longer having to worry about writing any of the required essays or maintain a high GPA, among other things that come with applying for college.
That is not to say recruited student athletes don’t earn the positions offered to them on university sport teams, but it’s important to recognize that the resources granted to them play a huge role. If other children were given the same opportunity and privilege they could have been just as good, if not better. It is also important to not generalize all college-level student athletes as “privileged” because oftentimes there are a handful of exceptions within systems, even the most corrupt and broken.