In some way, walking-on inspires a sense of security. It allows athletes put their belief in the connection they have with a particular school, even in the absence of a scholarship. I spoke on the phone with a father not long ago about the possibility of his child doing a post-graduate (PG) year instead of walking-on. The father had no awareness or understanding of prep schools and the child had all the earmarks of an excellent PG candidate. The child’s senior season was over and so was the majority of the recruiting for the sport. They had not received any scholarship offers and were planning on walking-on at a local D1 school.
Confidence is a huge part of walking-on. The athlete has to believe in himself/herself even though no scholarship schools believed in the athlete’s talent enough to offer a scholarship. Confidence and optimism are essential, but there’s no need to substitute them for a lack of logic. Many athletes make the confident statement that they’re sure they’ll earn a scholarship as walk-ons. All they need, they insist, is the chance to prove themselves. In fact, those who make that statement aren’t as confident as they think. They are putting too much value in that sense of security inspired by the walk-on situation. Athletes who truly believe in themselves and their talent don’t settle for walking-on. They believe that given the chance at prep school they will earn more and better offers and aren’t willing to restrict themselves to one scholarship chance. Furthermore, if you assume the statement of confidence is true, that the athlete will earn a scholarship after walking-on, it’s all the more reason to go to prep school and not walk-on. Think about it. If the player really is a scholarship level talent, a PG year would have been virtually risk-free and would have yielded many and better options.
Here’s a comparison of the two options.
Walking-On = One Chance
- Only one chance at a scholarship. If you choose to walk-on, all your eggs are in one basket. There’s only one school looking at you, so you have only one chance at a scholarship. Some say “There’s no risk. I’m sure I’ll earn a scholarship”. The statistics say otherwise.
- You may not get a scholarship. Then there are three options and none is particularly good. One, keep playing, but pay for all four years. Two, transfer. Three, stop playing the sport you love.
- May use up a year of eligibility. You only get four. When was the last time you heard an athlete say I wish my career hadn’t been so long or so successful.
- Cost. Usually about the same as a PG year at prep school
PG Year = Multiple Options
- Chance at multiple scholarship offers. You will have many schools looking at you. Your odds increase dramatically, so does the chance of finding the right fit. The more choices, the better fit and chance of success.
- No loss of eligibility. You still have four years of college eligibility after a PG year.
- An extra year of education. In today’s world, you can’t have too much education. By doing a PG year you get another year in addition to the four college years. That means improved learning skills and probable college level credits. If you do earn a scholarship, the fourth year of it will likely pay for the first year of graduate school.
- Greater chance of earning playing time early and throughout college career. This is true for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the average age of college freshman is a lot higher than most people realize.
- Get to a higher level of play. PGs get recruited at a higher level than high school seniors. If, in fact, you were capable of earning a scholarship as a walk-on that same level of talent would earn you a scholarship at a higher level school after a PG year.
- No need to transfer. It’s one thing to move on after a PG year. It’s entirely different to transfer after your freshman year of college if you don’t get a scholarship. Yes, a PG year is still a change, but you knew it was going to happen and it’s much less traumatic than transferring from a four year college.
- Better chance of finding a school that’s the right fit. The more developed you are as a player and person, the better the chances of finding the right fit. In addition, the more school choices you have the better the chance of finding the right fit.
- Cost. Roughly the same as what a walk-on year of college would cost. Some people will say that if you don’t get a scholarship you’ve added the cost of an extra year to your overall college cost. Not necessarily. First, non-scholarship athletes often end up getting a better financial aid package than they would have before the PG year. That increased financial aid can offset the cost of the PG year. Second, you can take college level courses as a PG, making it effectively the same thing as being a college freshman.
There’s simply no question that a PG year makes more sense than walking-on. In the example above, part of the problem was the family refused to even listen to what prep school has to offer. Be willing to listen before making a decision. You can always say no. Smart people get the facts first.