Reclassifying athletes begins to unlevel the playing field

Michael LaRocca

Each year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association provides around 150,000 student-athletes with over $2.9 billion in scholarships. With only about 2 percent of high school athletes receiving scholarships for the collegiate level, money is hard to come by. But, some parents combat this with a process that may boost their child’s chances.

The athletic community calls this strategy “reclassifying.” The tactic involves students holding themselves back a year in school for the purpose of athletic advancement. For example, a “reclassified” athlete can be 19 but play against other students that are 16. Athletes do this for extra time to become stronger and more skilled in their sport.

Physical education teacher Ginny Clevenger said she recognizes the benefits of reclassifying.

“I understand why kids do it… to be better, older, and stronger so they can compete,” Clevenger said.

In addition to the physical advantages of reclassifying, it also benefits an athlete’s financial situation. If an athlete with great skill has a lower financial status, reclassifying provides them with a better chance of receiving athletic scholarships toward a higher education.

Along with its benefits, there are downsides to the practice. Reclassifying is not as simple as it may seem because of rules to ensure the athlete’s eligibility. Reclassifying also leads to the possibility of regression, where an athlete plays like they had previously, or worse. The purpose of reclassifying is to gain extra attention from college coaches. If the athlete fails to show improvement after reclassifying, then they may lose scholarship opportunities anyway.

Reclassification is a process with many possible outcomes.  At best, an athlete gets an opportunity at a higher education and at worst, an athlete does not get a scholarship and wastes a year of their life chasing one.