If you’ve ever attended a junior hockey seminar, you’ve heard it said that grades are important. You need a high enough GPA to pass NCAA Clearinghouse, to appeal to college scouts, and for scholarships, but that isn’t the only reason. See, there aren’t enough athletic scholarships for a full roster of a Division I team, and if the coach has discretion on which athletes get the scholarships (many do), they are likely going to give the scholarships to those with the worst grades.
Now, I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense on the surface, but if an athlete has stellar grades and can get academic scholarships, their overall financial aid package (which is what you should be focusing on as opposed to the athletic scholarship anyway) is more attractive, the student pays less for school overall, which means the coach can spend that athletic scholarship budget attracting other great athletes so his roster is deeper with talent.
Grades can also be an indicator of character. Adults will make assumptions based on their own experiences because we’ve been through it before. We know that in high school especially, a large part of your grades is simply doing your homework. That means showing up every day and doing what is asked of you. Doesn’t that also sound like desirable behavior to a hockey coach as well?
If I see an athlete with a low grade in PE, that is going to be concerning to me because when I was in school, the kids who got those kinds of grades in that class were the kids skipping class, cutting up in class, not paying attention to the teacher, or just not participating. None of those things are appealing to me as a coach. Coaches want players with a good work ethic, and they know that kids who don’t seem to care about grades in high school probably aren’t going to care in college either, and if the player is academically ineligible, what good are they to the team?
People also have a natural tendency to take the path of least resistance. This means while there may be things that can be done to fight for an athlete with low grades if the coach really wants him, if there is another option available, meaning a player of similar skill with better grades, that coach is going with the kid with the higher GPA. It simply isn’t worth the effort to them to try to convince the admissions office to take a chance on an athlete with less than stellar grades. That means while you may have heard such things happen, the reality is that they do not happen all that often, not in hockey anyway.
If you have your sights set on a Division 3 school, there are NO athletic scholarships available. Scholarships for Division 3 are all academic, and you might want to take a look at how many of those schools with hockey programs are private. It is the majority of them, and private colleges come with hefty price tags, so without academic scholarships, they might still be out of reach financially even with financial aid.
Not having good grades closes a lot of doors that are already hard to open. Those of you who view hockey as an investment might want to consider a change of focus because there is a lot more money out there for college in academics. I realize there isn’t a single hockey player out there willing to give that up in favor of being a super genius instead, but even if he makes the show, his career on average isn’t likely to last his whole life. Look at the big picture with your eyes wide open.
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