For the 99.9 percent of kids who won’t go pro in sports, Scouting offers a leg up

If you know a kid who dunks like Blake Griffin, runs like Adrian Peterson or hits like Miguel Cabrera, you’ll have a hard time recruiting him to join Scouts.

Because, as the Scouting recruiting video below explains, parents of these super-athletes have won the genetic lottery, and their kids are set for life. (Assuming we ignore the countless examples of high-paid athletes who wash up after their playing days are done.)

For the parents of normal children, the Boy Scouts of America provides a chance to make young men and women stand out from the crowd. Scouts and Venturers gain skills in leadership, fitness and character they can’t get elsewhere. Scouts are more likely to graduate college than non-Scouts, and studies show former Scouts pull in a greater income than people who were never in Scouting.

These facts, laid out in an entertaining way in this Coronado Area Council video, offer the perfect answer to the question weighing on the minds of parents of potential Scouts: “Should my son join this Cub Scout pack or that Little League team?”

My response would be, “Why not both? Make your child well-rounded, and he or she will go far.” But if you come across a parent debating one over the other, send them the video below.

Probability of going pro

Before we get to the video, let’s do what any sports fan would do: check the stats. Based on the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s own research from last year, a high school athlete’s odds of making the big leagues are minuscule.

High School Athletes who Play Professionally:

  • Men’s basketball: 0.03 percent
  • Women’s basketball: 0.02 percent
  • Football: 0.08 percent
  • Baseball: 0.51 percent
  • Men’s ice hockey: 0.10 percent
  • Men’s soccer: 0.03 percent

And that’s just young men and women who play in high school. At my large suburban high school near Dallas, only the top players even made the high school teams, so the odds of a randomly selected student making a pro team are even smaller than the numbers here.

So how can parents increase their son or daughter’s chances of success later in life? By signing them up for Scouting.

Watch the video

A final thought

All of this said, “elite athlete” and “Scout” don’t have to be mutually exclusive labels. Just ask Dennis Pitta or Shane Victorino. These Eagle Scouts found success, to borrow the locker room cliché, both “on and off the field.”

40 thoughts on “For the 99.9 percent of kids who won’t go pro in sports, Scouting offers a leg up

  1. We live in a small town so that our sons can do it all. Our Pack and Troop do everything possible can to make sure that if the boys want to participate in sports, during any season, they can do so and can keep up with scouts. Sometimes this means a little work at home. This fall I believe we will change meeting nights because several of the boys in the Troop are playing high school football and the JV games are on Monday nights. We know these boys will probably not be pro athletes – but sports are very important to a lot of these boys.

    • I have been involved in scouting since the early 90’s. I held every postiion except cubmaster and treasurer. I always encouraged every boy to be involved in both sports and scouts. I wanted scouting to be one of the many things they tried and not be the reason they couldn’t do sports. I kept the parents up to date with the den meetings, and tried to work around the different schedules so all could participate. I was in the same boat as many of the parents. My 3 sons were all involved in sports too. Today, I am proud to say I am the mother of 3 Eagle Scouts!

    • Question………….Why is it that most focus on is whether or not they will go pro or whether or not they will be JV or varsity or whether or not it will get a kid a scholarship to some fancy-dancy college?

    • Whatever happened to just playing a sport for fun? Or kids in the neighborhood getting together for a game or backyard soccer or backyard baseball or backyard basketball?

      • Nothing happened to it. It still happens. Kids play games all the time to test and see if they like it and are any good at it. A kid finds that he enjoys the sport, then realizes that he excels at it, then he’s encouraged to pursue a further career with it.

        How is it any different than what we encourage in our Scouts? Some of us are over-zealous, and make Scouts choose between sports and Scouting. We use things like ‘Scouting will get you further than pursuing a pro career in [sport]’…while it may be true, why would a Scout leader tear down the dreams of one of his Scouts?

        The backyard is where dreams start…

    • If we as society propagate the attitude of “sports are only for athletes” that will only lead to the continuing decline of physical activity. Sports need to be about sportsmanship and having fun, not about winning or losing. Sure winning feels great and means the person or the team did a good job but for many this has become an ultimatum, a ultimatum where if you loose you suck and if you win your a team player!

      • If you think about it, it isn’t any different than what we do with every aspect. Going into Scouts – become an Eagle, going into football – do your best and go into the NFL, do good in school and become a lawyer, doctor, scientist; like to write – maybe your the next JK Rowling, R.A. Salvatore, etc. We all want our children to succeed in whatever they do, but these days sports and other activities have large time commitments and I believe this is all that the article is stressing. If a parent is trying to decide between two activities, then they may very well look at possible future benefits for their child. And don’t forget Scouts promotes physical activity as well.

  2. I love to tell parents considering Scouts these facts. “Little Johnny” can be a Scout, and enjoy sports and other activities. Which activities are statistically proven towards improving their leadership capabilities, community involvement, educational opportunities, and earnings potential? Try Scouts, it’s worth your time and theirs.

  3. The problem with recruiting the “super athletes” is trying to convince the parents. They feel this is the only way their child will make the “big leagues”. The parents are hard to convince even when you have their child standing there asking to join Scouts. I’ve lost boys in both of my Dens leave Scouts because the parents felt that sports were more important than Scouting.

    My oldest son has played baseball since kindergarten and now he’s a first year Boy Scout. He could play in a more competitive league but it was his decision to focus more on Scouting than sports and plays in the city’s rec league. Our youngest son is the same way and he’s a Web I. However, I’ll be the first to admit, not all parents are going to allow their son to make the decision of Scouting vs Sports.

    I like the video and what it stands for but I also see the other side of the fence where the parents will deny it.

    • You said……….

      “The problem with recruiting the “super athletes” is trying to convince the parents. They feel this is the only way their child will make the “big leagues”. The parents are hard to convince even when you have their child standing there asking to join Scouts. I’ve lost boys in both of my Dens leave Scouts because the parents felt that sports were more important than Scouting.”

      I have run into these sort of parents before where it is Scouts or Sports but absolutely not both. However, having an attitude that its always going to be a problem to me is concerning. I serve as an UC or Unit Commissioner and have found fairly often that this attitude is usually propagated by the top leadership when this occurs very frequently. So, if there is one thing to take away its that all your leaders especially those at the top need to know that the young people we serve can do both.

    • I think we’re overlooking the second side to this conversation, which is that Scout adult leaders also need to remember the value in becoming a well-rounded young man. Yes, parents often force a choice between Scouts and sports, but I’ve also seen adult leaders in a variety of Scouting units pressuring Scouts to choose between coming to meetings and going on Scouting activities, or attending sport practices and games. This places the Scout in a difficult situation, as many sport coaches require a player to attend all practices, or they won’t get to play in games (the whole point of playing a sport to a youth participant; most kids don’t join a sports team for the love of going to practice).

      Rather than foster an environment that Scouting will always be available to a Scout whenever he can attend around his sports/school schedule, too many adults adopt a coach-like attitude on attendance—if you can’t show up for X amount of meetings or activities, you’ll go nowhere in this troop/crew. This exclusionary attitude (completely inappropriate for Scouting, IMO) was only reinforced by the unfortunate decision by BSA to allow units to set attendance requirements for advancement. Despite all the “safeguards” and 3-point tests BSA added to moderate the effect of that decision, the fact remains that allowing the connection of Scouting attendance to advancement is a vehicle, albeit unintentional, to allow Scout leaders to force the “Scouts or sports” choice on their youth members.

      When presented such a choice, it goes a long way in justifying the parents’ decision to encourage their child to abandon Scouts in favor of sports. Whether they’re seeking a sports scholarship for their child or not, many parents recognize that earning Eagle Scout is one entry on a college application, while playing on multiple varsity sports teams and possibly serving as captain on one or more of them generates many more entries on that same application. Not to mention, the likelihood of earning Eagle averages around 5%, while playing on a varsity sports team often is much higher, even at competitive high schools.

      The bottom line is that both Scouting and sports present a youth with opportunities for personal development. As adult Scouting leaders, we need to keep this point in mind and remain flexible to allow our Scouts to take advantage of both environments, even if it can prove inconvenient or inefficient at times to the operation of the troop or crew.

  4. Good video – I’d leave the part about the resume out, and focus on the character- and skills-building aspect. Maybe point out that it is now, and will remain to be, the most effective organization in building a youth’s character. Maybe something about starting (or continuing) a family tradition

  5. Great post. I’ve seen it so many times before, kids quit scouting for sports, fast forward a few years and they quit their sport, get injured or get cut…I tell parents unless your son is a truly breakaway superstar, the odds are stacked against him to continue on even as far as high school. A high school varsity team isn’t just the best athletes from one grade — it’s the best from three grades — Soph, Junior, and Senior. So really your son has to be in the top 3% of his current grade level throughout the entire High School district lines to have a shot at playing on the varsity team. Forget about NCAA or pro if you get cut from your own high school team. Sports and athletics are important — but not everything. Both scouting and sports is great if the boy and parents can handle both. But the lessons learned on the field don’t necessarily prepare a boy to be a man of strong character. Just look at all the corrupt professional athletes doping, screwing around, you name it. Where was their moral foundation? The video is cute but trying to convince a sports minded parent they’re not seeing the big picture is a pretty tough row to hoe. I’d love to see more examples like Shane Victorino and other athletes who did both talk about how important scouting was to them, and how they were able to both — and why they did.

    • Why must Scouting be only about “developing character”. Boys don’t join Scouting to build character, they join Scouting for the activities we offer. If we continue to only focus on “building character” were going to have a harder and harder time recruiting. Sure parents need to know that Scouting helps build character but it isn’t the end all be all in Scouting. Scouting is much more than “character development” and until the leadership from the very top to the very bottom realize this recruiting is going to be challenging.

      “Forget about NCAA or pro if you get cut from your own high school team.”

      I can tell you this that if this is what you truly believe your missing the point. Scouting is about encouraging excellence and encouraging participation in the outdoors and adventurous activities, and by making it sound like Scouting is ALWAYS better than sports is the wrong approach. Scouting and sports are both worthwhile, even if you don’t become the top 1% in sports or become an Eagle Scout in Scouting, because each has the potential to change lives and accomplish great things.

      • Maniac, I would argue that the activities you mention do indeed build character in the process.

        I never said that scouting is always better than sports — I agree that boys should do both, as all 4 of mine do. But when parents put all their chips on sports, in my experience it’s because they want their boys to make the varsity team and beyond. And so it becomes an “either/or.”

        My takeaway from the video is that it doesn’t have to be “either/or,” but if you’re betting on going the distance your boy better show strong evidence that he’s got that genetic lottery ticket by turning heads at an early age.

        If not, sure he may have fun with his sport for a few years — nothing wrong with that — but when the cut list gets posted and he’s not on the squad, now what? In our unit, very few boys join the troop once they reach high school.

        When a scout has a conflict between a game and an outing, I often ask their parents to think which will the boy remember years from now: another game that’s just like all the others, or the unique experience of doing something he’s never done before (such as caving, zip lining, white water rafting, or whatever we have planned). That usually puts things into perspective.

  6. The points I like make to prospective parents about this are:

    1. Is your son the best athlete among all sports in the county? That’s what he needs to be to become a professional athlete. If you add up the rosters of all the major professional sports teams, they approximate the number of counties in the USA (about 3077).

    2. Can your son’s Little League coach guarantee he will be a starter as a senior in High School? Of course, he can’t, but I can guarantee him a leadership position in Scouting until he’s 18.

    3. In most youth sports programs, kids learn how to be on a team led by adults. In Scouting, they learn how to form and lead teams themselves. That’s a major skill for success as adults. Do you want your son to be a follower or a leader?

    4. Finally, Scouting and sports are compatible. We can adjust for team schedules. My own son is an Eagle Scout and was captain of his High School Track, Indoor Track, and Cross-Country Teams. His first four Merit Badges (of his own choice and interests!) were Personal Fitness, Sports, Athletics and Swimming. Incidentally, he later ran NCAA Track and Cross Country as an undergraduate at Harvard.

    So it’s not really about either/or; it’s about making sure your son is best prepared for life.

    • “Is your son the best athlete among all sports in the county?”

      Why does this matter? Why must so many adults have the attitude of “something is only worthwhile when it gives the kid the chance to get ahead”? This only propagates an attitude where “winning is everything” and if we are to bring more sports players (key point: I didn’t use the word “athlete” on purpose) into Scouting we must be willing to recognize the benefits of BOTH activities.

      “Can your son’s Little League coach guarantee he will be a starter as a senior in High School?”

      Same question….Why does this matter? Sports isn’t about just being a “star player” or being “the best athlete”, it is about enjoying the game, learning how to play better, and finally “winning isn’t everything”. This further propagates sports turning into something that it was never supposed to be. Sports, whether you agree or not, can be an excellent addition to your Scouting program, of course it isn’t about being the best or winning, its about encouraging physical activity and competitiveness in a positive environment. Even though I was never a star athlete or good at “sports” I still enjoyed the times when my Troop would play dodgeball or kickball, or relays, or playing a game like “500”. Even though I enjoy some sports and wouldn’t mind playing them, for me playing at the high school level where competition was fierce just wasn’t something I was interested in doing.

      • I think you missed the point of this entire thread. Of course, sports are supposed to be fun and for everybody, and should be incorporated into a well-balanced Scouting program.

        I was just presenting additional arguments that a Scouter can use when a parent, with delusions of grandeur about his kids athletic ability, says that his kid has to play sports in an organized youth league INSTEAD of being in Scouts.

    • “Do you want your son to be a follower or a leader?”

      And a person can’t learn leadership skills in sports? Now how in the world does that make any sense what-so-ever? Coaches can be just as influential as Scout Leaders when they do their job and understand what sports and athletic events are all about.

      • I’m with Maniac on this thread. I know what the intent of the original post is, but it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing. If the only people playing sports are future hall of famers, we have big problems. Anyone can play a sport. I run, I am terrible at it, but I am a distance runner. Should I quit because I will never win a marathon? No, and neither should the boys.

      • Sure they can leadership skills in sports, but they have a much better chance of it in Scouts than in most youth sports leagues. I’ve never heard of a National Youth Leadership Training course for Little League Players, but I do know of many Scouts who’ve been so formally trained in leadership skills.

  7. I love when sports parents complain about the cost of the uniform; it’s half what some of them pay for 1 pair of shoes for their little superstar.

  8. The facts speak for themselves, the setup to the punchline could turn off some parents who might feel that they are being seen foolishly naive or worse yet ignorant losers. Almost 1:30 of a 2:38 video to deflate someone’s dream? No matter how unrealistic, it is their dream. This does not sell. The adage is ” in Scouting, no one has to lose (or be a loser) so you can win.”

    Michael 374

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  10. Maybe if more professional athletes had been Scouts as youth, more of them would be role models as adults instead of sources of humiliation and embarrassment to themselves and their teams. Scouting builds character… It’s pretty obvious that most sports programs do not.

  11. Is there a way to download the video to run off a laptop at a recruiting event if we can hook to the web at the event?

  12. As a cub scout den leader, I worked our den schedule around sports as much as possible. We had pack committee members that fought this. It’s great when kids can do both sports and scouts!! This should be part of the training for scout leaders go through.

  13. One of my family was a very sucessful pro athlete. My older brothers tried to follow in his footsteps, but none went pro, and only one could keep it up through college. (The football scholarship kept him in school, so we were grateful.).

    So, that possibility was never out of the question for us. However, all of my kids fit their sports schedule around scouting and academics.

    • Q, totally agree — scouting can and should co-exist with participation in sports. It really comes down to the parents’ willingness to support both. I’ve heard many parents say “pick one thing.” That’s pretty limiting. That’s like saying to pick one thing from a buffet. There’s room on the plate for variety, each bringing its own unique flavor and nutritional value. Boys need sports, faith, AND scouting. I encourage other interests as well such as music, art, martial arts, whatever. But none is a substitute for scouting..

  14. I’m currently a DC in Coronado Area Council and perhaps I can shed a little light on the “sports vs scouts” mentality. We are located in North Central and North Western Kansas where most cities have 5000 or less and really should be called towns. Even our largest two cities number only 50,000.
    What we have seen all through our council is a perception that it’s either sports OR scouts! Sports are now taking a tremendous amount of time in a students life. Add to that the fact that school work can consume another two hours a night and parents can be excused for thinking that way. What we are attempting is to break the perception. We want parents to see the benefits of Scouting to their son’s future as an addition and not as an alternative to sports!
    I wasn’t involved with the video and I first saw it here on this blog but I understand what it is trying to accomplish by “going outside the box!” Right now, too many parents have dismissed Scouting out of hand because they think it takes too much time and there’s not enough for both scouting and sports. That’s where scouters like you and I come in. The video gets the parents to at least ask whether it’s possible rather than dismissing it out of hand. The rest is up to us and our scouts.

  15. I know this is a debate over sports but…why must this start off as…..For the parents on “normal” children….??? My son was born with spina bifda and I would like to add Scouting has greatly enriched his life. On 8-10-13 we will be celebrating his Eagle Scout Court of Honors. I am a scoutmaster in which our troop accepts all young men of any situation including those in which you may not see as normal to you or others. I speak for those, that anyone can enjoy nature and thrive under the scouting program. My son is living proof of such. Please choose your words wisely! Scouting is for EVERY boy!!!!

  16. This conversation about the minuscule likelihood of success in college or pro sports is only one factor in the “sports vs Scouting” debate.

    Of course, most of us don’t think parents should forego sports for their
    kids in favor of Scouting, but as several have pointed out, most kids do
    play sports just for fun, social reasons or for fitness.

    The post and video emphasize that the chances of making it big are very slim, but more than half of high school athletes believe that they’ll get a scholarship to play on in college, whereas less than one percent actually do.

    But as I detailed in my blog article, there are other factors to consider:

    Youth athletes often practice and play their sport to the exclusion of all else, including friends, church, vacations and other opportunities.

    Families of these youth athletes often sacrifice time, money, property, vacations and family obligations to enable their kids to take part in camps, training and tournaments, in the belief that their child will actually be a sports star some day.

    Ordinary mild-mannered parents can become “freakazoids” when it comes to their children’s sports participation.

    Academics offer far more scholarship opportunities than sports do, and participation in Scouting counts for a lot on college applications.

    While “leadership” is often cited as a benefit of sports participation, most of the time it’s token leadership. True leadership development only occurs when those leading are actually in charge and are free to fail and learn from failure. Team sports usually do not offer that kind of leadership, since while a player can be a leader on the field, or a team captain, the coaches are actually running the program. It’s rare to find a sports team that’s run like a Scout troop, with the adults in the background supporting the youth as they decide which games they’ll play in, teach each other the plays and coach each other during the game. It’s almost always the adults scheduling the games, teaching the sport’s skills and sending in instructions during the game. In sports, failure is usually an outcome to be avoided at all costs. Scouting allows youth to actually practice leadership (as long as the adults don’t take it away from them), experience failure and learn from it.

    Scouting provides multi-dimensional experiences and opportunities for youth (just look at all the technology merit badges available now and soon), whereas sports is inherently one-dimensional. And Scouting, particularly in Cubs, allows parents to “get in the game” with their child as opposed to having to sit in the bleachers or stay on the sidelines.

    A problem we have is that most parents, particularly the dads, are much more familiar with sports than Scouting, especially if they were never a Scout themselves. They can wrap their heads around baseball, football or hockey much more easily than the aims, ideals and the twelve points.

    It’s really up to us as Scouters to get the word out about Scouting and how it is a dependable backup plan for those who dream of sports stardom but find they don’t make the cut. There’s no time to start like now, when we’re recruiting new Cub Scouts for the fall program kickoff.

    • Well stated, Frank. I’m glad you were able to put into words what I was thinking about learning leadership in sports. I also agree with your comment about parents’ familiarity with sports vs. scouting. There is so much misconception about scouting, especially among parents that did not experience it as children. Thanks for your well written response.

  17. Despite being someone quite sold on the benefits of Scouting, this comes off rather smug in the first minute, perhaps smug enough that some are going to turn it off and miss the important part of the message. IMO, Scouting doesn’t need to mock other activities to gain new members.

  18. ScoutingManiac – I can see that one of your thoughts is that “Why do WE have to focus on the kids going pro in sports – why can’t they just play for fun?” Well, you should ask the youth athletic leagues that question, as well as the parents who think that their kid is Johnny Allstar. . . . . .
    I hate to sound like an old fogey, but when I was a kid, sports WAS about having fun, etc. . . . somehow, even at the PRE-MIDDLE SCHOOL LEVEL, it has now evolved into a training camp for collegate sports – or that’s how it is treated. . . . .. When I was a kid and played soccer, baseball, or basketball, it was once or twice a week including practice.
    These days, using football as an example, my son starts in the first week in AUGUST for pre-conditioning 2 hours a day, 5 days a week, then in September, it’s practice twice a week, a 1 hour practice on Saturday, then gameday on Sunday. . . . . . if he’s not the superstar, for all of that practice time, he MAY get 5 – 10 minutes of gametime – that’s at the 5th – 8th grade level, and we live in northwest suburban CT, NOT the footballiseverything state like TX! This example is not unique to football – the travel teams for this age group have similar schedules, even play ON MOTHER’S DAY, and have the attitude of “if you miss 1 practice on Monday, don’t bother showing up to the game on Tuesday,” attitude. THIS is why parents and kids have little if any time for Scouting if they’re in a sports program and why we’re faced with the either sports OR Scouting – they’re no time for anything else!
    Look, I’m not against sports for kids – it does keep them active, teaches them how to work on a team, good sprotsmanship (hopefully), etc, but when it goes from a fun activity to an all consuming quest, where the parents are convinced that if Johnny can just practice harder he’ll get a scholarship to UCLA, then something is wrong somewhere . . . . .

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