A recent joint poll done by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the U.S. indicated that a whopping 26 percent of parents of a high school student said they hoped their kid would go on to play a professional sport. Stop and think about how staggering that number is for a moment. One out of every four parents is hopeful that their kids are going to make it to the pros one day. Essentially, that’s the equivalent of one out of every four parents saying, “I’m hopeful we’re going to win the lottery.”
The 26 percent figure is ridiculously high when you consider the odds of high school athletes actually making it to the pros is actually a tiny fraction of a single percent. With basketball, for example, the odds of a high school player making it to the pros are approximately one in 2,451—or a 0.000408 percent chance.
When you delve deeper into the numbers, there appears to be a direct correlation between the parents’ education level and their level of belief that their kids are going to be professional athletes. Of parents with a high school education or less, 44 percent of them were hopeful their high school kids were going to become pros.
As for college/university educated parents, that number falls to just nine percent. So there’s a clear connection here for parents who happen to be on the lower part of the socio-economic scale and their hope of having a future pro athlete. The parents with less education are more likely to hold onto the fantasy of their child being an NFL or NBA star. The danger is that a lot of these parents are thinking that athletics—and not academics—are going to be their kids’ ticket to financial freedom.
In an ideal world, some of these high school students will go on to play college or university sports and hopefully land a scholarship that gives them a free education. As the numbers indicate from this poll, your level of education is a major influence on how you view the world around you. And if a parent really wants their kid to move up the socio-economic ladder, it’s clear that education—and not sports—is the best ticket to get there.
Sure, Michael Jordan got cut from his high school team and ended up becoming an NBA star. But his story is really the exception and not the rule. As the numbers indicate, for every Michael Jordan that makes it to the pros, there are 2,450 high school athletes who don’t have a multi-million-dollar fortune awaiting them. And those are the stories that never get told because we prefer to hang onto the dreams of making it big. In reality, you’re doing your kid a disservice if you are focusing on making it to the pros and not preaching the importance of a post-secondary education.
There’s nothing wrong with setting a goal of playing professional sports, but the harsh reality is that your kid probably isn’t going to make it to that level.
Follow along as Ottawa-based sports radio host Ian Mendes gets candid about raising his daughters, Elissa and Lily, with his wife, Sonia. Read all of Ian’s The Good Sport posts and follow him on Twitter @ian_mendes.