College Sports Recruiting Opportunities Help Girls Through Bad Economy

When contemplating strategies for getting financial help with colleges in such a dire economy, getting recruited to play college sports should be at the top of any student-athlete's list. Given that premise, in the environment that men's college football recruiting has created, girls rule, and men’s football recruiting may be the best thing that ever happened to women’s college recruiting.

How does men’s football recruiting fit into the equation? A disproportionately large number of men’s scholarships go to football (up to 85 per school). To equalize sports opportunities across both genders, colleges support a broad range of women’s sports via scholarships. In fact, female athletes who start planning very early in high school may even be able to pick up a sport they have never competed in before, and find great athletic scholarship opportunities through the college recruiting process. And for those who worry that athletics will take the focus off of academics, fear not, as female athletes have even higher college graduation rates than female college students who don’t compet e (Division 1 -71% vs. 64%, and Division 2 -64% vs. 51%--compiled from NCAA sources).

By the time girls get to high school, most know if they're athletically inclined, and they have usually narrowed in on one or two sports of choice. But reality sometimes intervenes. A female student-athlete may have picked a sport that is highly competitive and she doesn’t make the team. She may not like the coaching staff or they may not like her. She may have an injury that prevents her from pursuing her sport of choice. She may be interested in other things like student government or theatre, which conflict with the timing of the sport season. Or she may just get burned out or bored with her sport. What should a committed student-athlete do if she can't pursue her favorite sport?

There are all kinds of interesting sports opportunities available to girls who are willing to learn about them. Scholarships are offered for women in 24 sports in Division 1 and Division 2. If these sports are not offered at the high school level, there are probably club or recreational teams available somewhere nearby. It may be fairly easy to establish oneself as a player because many of these sports don't necessarily get the press that more high profile sports like women's basketball or volleyball get, so it may be more of a struggle for college programs to recruit players.

Here's what the landscape looks like. For girls, the sports that are offered at a large percentage of colleges and offer a fair number of scholarships per school are:

• Basketball

• Volleyball

• Cross country/track and field

• Soccer

• Tennis

• Softball

• Golf

• Swimming/Diving

Here are some sports that aren’t available in as many schools, but have plenty of scholarships to give at the schools that have programs:

• Field Hockey

• Gymnastics

• Lacrosse

• Rowing

• Equestrian

• Ice Hockey

And here's a fairly long list of sports that are offered in fewer schools and with less scholarships per school but they still have scholarships to give. Coaches in these programs may have a harder time filling these spots so they might offer great opportunities as well:

• Bowling

• Fencing

• Skiing

• Synchronized swim

• Water Polo

• Archery

• Badminton

• Rugby

• Squash

• Team Handball

I am the mother of boys, not girls, but I know a good sale when I see one. Colleges are serving up a double whammy right now—very difficult to get accepted, even more difficult to figure out how to pay for it. Participating in college athletics may make a student-athlete more attractive to an admissions committee, and may result in a scholarship that will cover a large part of the cost. If I was the mother of a female student-athlete and my daughter were even moderately inclined toward athletics, but hadn't settled on one sport yet, or was shut out from the sport she loved for some reason, I would encourage her to expand her athletic horizons a little.

So go ahead, girls -- pick up a hockey stick (field or ice, any kind will do), a bow and arrow, a fencing foil, a bowling ball, or another sporting implement you haven't experienced before. Do a little research to see what schools offer scholarship programs for women in these sports. If these schools match your general criteria for a good college fit, you should pursue them. A few years of training and the world is wide open to you, if you’re a dedicated female athlete.