Want A College Scholarship? Play These Sports, According to Tory Schalkle

Banker And Former Consultant Tory Schalkle Crunched The Numbers On Which Sports Lead To Better Scholarship Odds
(This is part of a series on real world data insights)
February 14th, 2022 Minneapolis, Minnesota | When it comes to getting their kids involved in sports, some parents push for the sport they loved, but Tory Schalkle approached it differently. Schalkle, who works for a regional U.S. bank and is a former consultant, was curious what the data said. “I did prior analysis of college admission factors that showed recruited athletes have 18x acceptance rates - the highest bump of any factor. The more former student athletes I met the more I thought: ‘Is being a recruited athlete really as competitive as I assumed, and how does that vary by sport?”
In the U.S., there are about 176,000 D1 collegiate student-athletes but nearly 8 million high school student-athletes - meaning only 2% of high school athletes go on to play D1. However, this ratio varies significantly by sport and gender. “For simplicity, I focused just on male student-athletes at U.S. News & World Report’s top 25colleges and compared that to high school participation numbers. I was also able to compile these athlete’s hometown/high school, height/weight, etc. to see if there are patterns,” Schalkle outlined. What did he find?
Play “posh” sports
If you want the sports where the average high school player has the highest odds of becoming a recruited athlete at a top school, do rowing, fencing, or squash. “The numbers don’t reflect high school club participants, so these odds may be a bit overstated, but these sports are 3-6x more likely to result in recruiting than most sports’ 2% average recruitment,” Tory Schalkle said. This would make sense - these are “posh” sports that have low, relatively affluent participation yet almost all top colleges have some team.
Interestingly, many of these sports have been paused or defunded during the COVID pandemic, since these sports are not the ticket-selling revenue raisers that other sports are. These are also sports that received scrutiny for having low racial exclusivity and being a “subsidized way to accept less than academically stellar white students.”

Live in the right place

What if you don’t like those sports? What else can be learned? Well, apparently location matters. Specifically, Schalkle found some strong associations between place and sport participation. Based on that, he advises the following:

  • If you want to do hockey, be from Minnesota, Canada, or play in the minors
  • If you want to play water polo, be from Southern California
  • If you want to do rowing, be from Europe, and either be quite tall (rowers) or quite short (coxen)
  • If you want to do fencing, be from northern California, New York, or New Jersey
  • If you want to do cross-country skiing, be from Minnesota or New England
  • If you want to do golf or sailing, go to IMG school in Florida
  • If you want to do squash, be from Connecticut or Pennsylvania
  • If you’re small, pickup wrestling, gymnastics, soccer, or rowing (coxen)
  • If you’re big, pickup football

Put it in perspective

Tory is quick to point out that this information is all a bit tongue-in-cheek. “The stats are all there, but the perspective is not, so I’ll be clear: No one should push their kid into a sport based on this thinking or these stats. It’s just an interesting exercise to see which sports have the strongest high school to college pipeline,” Schalkle clarifies. Yet clearly Schalkle’s analysis highlights a discrepancy between college athlete demand and high school supply.

So what do we do with that information? Well, that’s up to you (and your kid, I would hope)...