USA vs UK Collegiate Sports System

Jocelyn Robinson

US compared to UK University Sports System
A comparitive overview of two of the World's leading university sports systems


When deciding on a University, a British student primarily bases their decision on course and the city they want to live. However, for a USA teen, scholarships are heavily taken into account; especially for an athlete. They have to consider where they most likely to get a scholarship, which University will give them the best chance of fulfilling their sporting dreams, the size of the college, the size of the team and this is all before even taking into account their course subject and university reputation.

This post will discuss the pros and cons of collegiate sport in the USA compared with the UK and whether the high school pressures in the USA ultimately are worth the college sport experience in comparison to Britain’s.

As a Wales Lacrosse player myself I always had the possibility of considering the USA for college. However, I was lucky enough to attend a British University and then spend my third year at Colorado State University. I had both experiences. Whilst studying abroad I was in awe of the sports facilities there, the appreciation the athletes get from peers, staff and the general public. I was a green eyed monster.

I did get a small taste for the athlete life; playing for the Lacrosse team there, however lacrosse at my University was not in Division 1 NCAA. My experience did make me question what it takes for these young adults to become sporting “gods” around campus and whether ultimately it’s worth it. My thinking on this was questioned again whilst watching Trophy Kids on Netflix – a documentary showing the extremes some parents put their kids through to get one of these incredible scholarships.

From a confidence point of view it must be one of the best feelings in the world, your face plastered all over your campus walls, an automatic popularity and playing your sport in front of huge crowds of your peers. However, due to the strict training plan you don’t get the rounded college experience in which you self-learn, socialise and take up new hobbies.

USA sports scholars have their days planned out for them from start to finish and are constantly spoon fed. Is this moving into adulthood? A talented British team mate of mine studied at Northwestern College in USA, and was a scholar student a NCAA ‘Big 10’ lacrosse college team. She reflects on her experience; “We would train 3-4 hours a day then go straight to classes. In season we would take a 4 hour flight to LA to play a match on the Thursday evening, fly back, train Saturday then play another match of the Sunday. A new week of classes and training would begin again on the Monday. Parts of it are unbelievable; you are treated so well in terms of diet, facilities, equipment and support. But its tough balancing academics alongside athletic commitment never mind a normal student social life.”

This seems a stark contrast with the British sports member who decides their team and sport at Fresher’s Fayre and turns up to a 2 hour training 1-4 x a week max for one match on a Wednesday afternoon. There is no care and attention to the athletes and it definitely is NOT meant to come before work.  It is no surprise then that UK universities, as a whole, are not nurturing talented sports men and women to play at the top of their profession. They are removed from education much earlier – we notice this primarily with our footballers. Whereas, an American footballer has to have completed three years of college before being eligible to be drafted into the NFL.

Being a USA student athlete gives you the ultimate self-discipline, keeps you active, you create a bond with a group of people that are in the same situation as yourself. You train in some of the best facilities one can imagine and represent your university around the USA in competitive exciting competitions. For any athlete there must be no feeling more exhilarating.

I believe the UK would wholly benefit from a university system that rewards other talents with scholarship.  Putting more emphasis on sport from high school into University is something we are lacking here in the UK. I feel playing sports gives you team work skills and drive in a capacity that no other hobbies can compare with.

Secondary schools in the UK are slowly getting there. More and more are going on sports tours every year, focussing on high level pro coaching and intense competition, aiming to get the very best out of their budding young athletes. The demand for this type of tour has seen us team up with England Netball and New York City FC to satisfy the needs of our customers. We’re continuing to grow every year and hopefully this carries on translating at elite levels.

For more information on a MasterClass tour with New York City or England Netball, contact [email protected] or call 0203 6177 981.

Author: Jocelyn Robinson (Edwin Doran Sales Coordinator and Wales Lacrosse Player)