College Admissions

“Getting into a top tier college requires hard work, exceptional grades, and a proven record of academic success. Well, that or connections and a sizeable sum of money, as has recently been highlighted by the college admissions scandal. The scandal has shed light on some of the flaws of college admissions and draws attention to the lengths that parents will go to get their children enrolled in a prestigious university.”1


It is Friday at 8:45 p.m. After a work week that felt more like a month, I find myself sitting in my home office skimming through personal email – black coffee rests inches from my right hand, my constant companion. My tired eyes scan through hundreds of items, most of which found their way to my email inbox over the last three days or thereabouts. I have been unable to prioritize this review, but I know after searching through the rest of the muck, there will be at least half a dozen I will need to address.

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There is an email from Sheena at elitefts – a response to a note I previously dropped, letting her know I was going to be a few days late in the delivery of this column. “Sheena, sorry, but I am going to need the weekend to get a column to you.”

She had responded with a brief but much appreciated, “That’ll work.”

She must want to choke me sometimes – get in line, I guess.

Prosper High School — Prosper, Texas

I quickly stumble upon an email regarding my daughter’s high school lacrosse game that we had scheduled for the following day – Saturday. To my chagrin, the email suggested that because of concerns over impending inclement weather (rain), they decided to change the venue for the JV game from our home field in Flower Mound to Prosper High School in Prosper, Texas.


Google Maps opens in my browser – another constant companion, not quite as pervasive as the coffee, but in the Top 10 of my vices. I type “Prosper High School” in the search box and click to retrieve the directions.


Jim Boardman ©

Thirty-seven miles – 55 minutes of drive time. Wonderful.

For those of you not familiar with this drill, here is the playbook for what awaits tomorrow. Game time is 10:30 a.m. (Saturday morning, in case you lost track). Players need to be at the field an hour before game time for warmups (9:30 a.m.). Given the length of the commute and allowing for any inadvertent delays (I have been known to lose my way on occasion), we will need to depart at 8:30 a.m. Altogether, the total time commitment is about four and a half hours, with the following breakdown:

  • 2 hours of travel time
  • 1 hour of pre-game warmup
  • 1.5 hours of game time

It is Friday at 9:30 p.m. My daughter has returned home after watching a freshman high school baseball game.

“Dad, can you paint my room tomorrow?” she asks.

“Honey, you’ve got a lacrosse game tomorrow – it’s in Prosper,” I say with a sardonic smile. “With the driving time, it’s at least a four-hour commitment for us. Considering I am only conscious for about eight hours on a typical Saturday, I am already dedicating half of my waking hours to you.”

She laughs.

“I cannot paint tomorrow,” I say.

I needed to be able to allocate time for training and a little writing time as well.

As an aside, I have been trying to rehabilitate my deadlift, which is to suggest that I continue to focus on strengthening my lower back, so I can avoid the irritating muscle pulls that seem to accompany my training each time I attempt to pull even moderately heavy weights (it is all relative, folks).

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Concerning the required parental commitment, the above lacrosse scenario is neither an anomaly nor the harshest travel I have experienced. I have driven over two and a half hours (one way) to watch my oldest son pitch two innings, only to hop back in the car and brave the return trip. We have flown halfway across the country, from Texas to Pittsburgh, for the opportunity to throw to eight batters at a Pitt Panther Baseball Camp.

The required parental commitments are expansive, both in terms of time and money.

The Reasons We Do It

“… many college students say they aren't surprised by the scheme [the charging of dozens of parents and coaches in a massive college admissions scandal], which involved bribing university coaches and test proctors to get wealthy students into some of the United States' top schools.”2

I will refrain from boring you with a litany of reasons for children to participate in athletics, outside of the apparent physical conditioning benefits, but I will mention that sports are a great way to acquaint them with adversity and the dedication and commitment necessary to overcome. The earlier our children learn these simple lessons, the better they will be prepared to face the trials life can deliver down the road.

“Parents are so unwilling to let their children experience failure that they will go to great lengths to prevent it.” 1

As parents, why we make these sacrifices for our children is a complicated question, and I feel my answers have changed, at least subtly, over time.


Jim Boardman ©

Above all, I am a sports enthusiast. I have talked at length about the joy I have experienced in helping young athletes prepare for on-field competition through their efforts in the weight room, utilizing both strength and explosive training techniques.

When it comes to sports above the recreational level, where the additional sacrifices, financial and allocated time, are required to participate, most of us have a vision of our children competing at the next level – in college or beyond.

We see sports as a venue to open additional doors for our children, either in terms of admission opportunities at higher-rated schools or the schools we perceive to be better. Some of us envision financial remuneration in the form of athletic scholarships. I was firmly entrenched in both camps with my first student-athlete, but I am no longer a member of the scholarship brigade because I have played that game and know how quickly it can go sideways.

Athletics can open doors for individual players. If your child loves participating in sports, I would suggest your child utilize them to your full advantage in gaining admission to the best educational institution possible. However, you must approach it with your eyes open, meaning that your child agrees to a second full-time endeavor in addition to the academic work.

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Regarding the financial remuneration piece, unless your child is in the elite of the elite, the money you spend on travel, travel teams, specialized training, etc., will probably exceed any financial contribution your child receives in athletic scholarships. I have learned this through direct experience.

The Real Reason to Do It

I have wrestled with all these athletic factors for years – and with my youngest, I am still hashing through some of it. You need only glance at my weekly to-do list, and you will see the creation of a webpage for lacrosse recruiting purposes prominently displayed near the top of the list.

I have paced through hundreds of athletic contests, almost vomited during one pitching outing (because I was so nervous), and expended tens of thousands of dollars along with hundreds and hundreds of hours. I have laughed in the stands watching my daughter play hoops, nearly fouling out of each game because of her tough play, and I have cried tears of both joy and sadness.

After considering all the factors, do you know what matters the most to me? Do you know the REAL reasons to do it? The sacrifices, the travel, and the anguish.

It is the time you get to spend with your children. It is the time that is so fleeting before they are grown and moving on with lives and families of their own. The time engaged in laughter and conversations. The time to be silly. The time to explore greasy spoons (Pete’s Grille in Baltimore, Maryland) and various local hole-in-the-wall restaurants (Fresh Fresh Seafood, in Towson, Maryland) when traveling across the country.

Now when we hit Maryland for lacrosse, I worry less about recruiting and videography and more about exploring our haunted hotel with my daughter (Mt. Washington Conference Center, featuring the historic Octagon House), where we are going to grab the best seafood (L.P. Steamers) coupled with the best ice cream dessert (Chocolate Love at Jupiter’s Ice Cream).

The time, the memories, and the myriad of lessons learned along the way are among the most precious moments of youth athletics – for both parents and athletes. Do not allow the stresses that may accompany these athletic endeavors to interfere with these priceless moments with your children.


  1. Prossack, Ashira. “The College Admissions Scandal: A Study In Privilege.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 23 Mar. 2019,
  2. Lombardo, Clare. “How Admissions Really Work: If The College Admissions Scandal Shocked You, Read This.” NPR, NPR, 23 Mar. 2019,