Editor's note: This is the third in a series of articles examining the rising costs of youth athletics and the college sports opportunities.

An athlete has some talent and ability and has played well at both the club and high school levels. What's next?

That is the question athletes and parents are asking as high school nears an end. Exactly what is available when it comes to playing sports at the next level? And exactly what does it take to become one of those athletes who makes it?

"There is a huge misunderstanding between parents and athletes about playing college sports," said Bill Groves, West High baseball coach and part of Athletic Quest Recruiting Systems. "When people think of athletics in college, all they usually think about is NCAA Division I, but the truth is, that is probably only about 10 percent of what's out there, and only the top 1 percent of the athletes around the country are getting scholarships out of those. There are plenty of other chances to play college athletics, but you have to go about it the right way and find the right fit."

Groves joined with president and owner John Scott of Athletic Quest about three years ago. Both were former college coaches and had seen the mistakes players and parents make in trying to land a place on a college athletic squad. The biggest misconception they said is that if you are good enough, the colleges will come calling.

"Really, only maybe 1 percent of all athletes around the country are recruited hard by top schools," Groves said. "The truth is, if a player wants to keep playing they need to take a proactive approach and start getting in touch with the type of schools that fit the athlete."

Every parent wants to think that their star player is deserving of a Division I scholarship, but an honest self-evaluation is something that is most important when deciding what to do when it comes to a college choice.

"The key is getting an athlete recruited to the right level," added Groves. "Is every player out there going to go and play in the Big 10, or SEC, Pac-10 or here at the schools in Utah? Of course not. But that doesn't mean there isn't a place for them to play.

"What many players and families don't realize are the vast opportunities out there. There are over 2,000 colleges and universities that participate in athletics, and less than 10 percent of those are NCAA Div. I. There are actually seven different governing bodies for athletics besides the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). The NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics), USCAA (United States Collegiate Athletics Association), NCCAA (National Christian Collegiate Athletics Association), NJCAA (National Junior College Athletics Association), COA (otherwise known as CCCAA or California Community College Athletic Association) or the NWAACC (Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges) all have different guidelines and regulations to recruiting and scholarship allotments."

The NCAA has strict regulations on how scholarships are distributed. There are sports that are considered head-count sports, or where every scholarship is a full-ride covering tuition, books, room and board. Then there are spots that are considered equivalency sports, or the allotment can be spread out over the entire team.

The University of Utah is one example of how the structure goes. On the boys side, there are only two head-count sports, and those are football (85 scholarships) and basketball (13). There are baseball (11.7), golf (4.5), skiing (6.3), swimming (9.9) and tennis (4.5) listed as equivalency sports.

The women have gymnastics (12), tennis (8), volleyball (12) and basketball (15) as head-count sports, and track/cross country (18), golf (6), skiing (7), soccer (14), softball (12) and swimming (14) as equivalency sports.

How those scholarships are divided is up to the individual program. But it is easy to see why the days of a full-ride scholarships in a sport such as baseball, where there are 11.7 scholarships to go around to 32 players, may be coming to a close.

"It is funny how often parents are upset that there kids aren't getting these big offers," said Bingham baseball coach Joel Sato. "They don't realize that unless your kid is the biggest stud pitcher in the state, any offer for some financial help is pretty good."

With scholarship opportunities at a premium, and tougher competition emerging — there are an estimated 15 million high school athletes participating in sports and under 750,000 that play at the collegiate level — how and what a student does with his athletic pursuits is becoming more and important. How committed are they? How much are they willing to sacrifice? And how much are you willing to spend to see them succeed?


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