Arguably the greatest hockey player who ever lived, Wayne Gretzky, believes that one of the worst things to happen to the game has been year-round hockey [for young athletes]. As described in this NPR story, To Get A College Scholarship: Forget The Field, Hit The Books, many high school athletes now play their sports year-round, with clubs, select teams, traveling teams, etc. in the hopes of winning a college scholarship. But only 2% of high school students earn athletic scholarships.
I wouldn’t suggest that any athlete abandon his or her dream based on one news story like this. But the athletes who ultimately earn the scholarships aren’t just among the best in their respective sports; they’re also those who love the game, who willingly participate year-round because they can’t imagine spending their time any other way. Their sports light them up without burning them out.
The best reason to participate in a sport—or any extracurricular activity—is because you actually enjoy it. High school kids are increasingly overworked and overscheduled, and sports should be something to look forward to, not something to plod through as yet another obligation. A college coach doesn’t want to offer a scholarship to a burned out player who’s just hoping for an admissions payoff. They want the athlete who will bring his or her love for the game with them, and continue that commitment once they get to college.
There’s nothing wrong with playing a sport year-round if it makes you happy. But the pursuit of a college scholarship isn’t worth dogmatically pursuing a sport that has stopped lighting you up and started burning you out.