James, a weak student and talented athlete, had two choices at the end of his senior year at catholic high school. One, attend a “football factory” for the fall semester where the level of football and exposure would be high and he would not have to take any classes. Two, accept an offer to attend a prep school where the football level would be lower and he would receive a life-changing education he would not otherwise have had access to without leveraging his athletic talents.
Paying for either option was an overriding factor for this family, whose financial troubles were such that just finding the money for the monthly utility bill was a challenge. The football factory would cost $10,000 – $15,000 for one semester. The prep school option would cost nothing, and would include the whole year, not just a semester. Without giving it a second thought or visiting the prep school, James chose the football factory. His parents, who had initially vetoed any consideration of a football factory, relented, committing to paying the money while admitting to having no idea where they would find it.
As it turned out, at the end of the season at the football factory James was no closer to a D1 scholarship than he had been a year earlier. He had no D1 offers. Instead, he had now been out of the classroom for a semester (it would become a year as he went home for the second semester and essentially did nothing) and his family was now significantly in debt. Had they prioritized education first, at least James would have received a top-shelf education while making friends and connections that would stay with him for life. They sacrificed an education James sorely needed and spent money they didn’t have, and ended up with essentially nothing to show for it.
Ironically, there’s a solid argument to be made that what kept James from receiving a scholarship is exactly what was missing at the football factory and abundant at the prep school. Physical talent was never James’ problem. Maturity, responsibility, discipline, hard work and personal growth were. By definition, those characteristics are all in short supply at sports factories. At the prep school he would have been immersed in them 24 hours a day in the form of his classmates, school faculty and coaches. How ironic that what he needed most to reach his goals was at the place the family didn’t choose, and would have come with the education of a lifetime.