If you are a betting person, and all of us are on some things, how would you like to place your hope of winning on something truly important when the odds are miniscule? Now, when I say something truly important, I am talking about your children and grandchildren, specifically those who play sports.

As an interested observer, I have noticed that in our nation over the past few decades we have become a sports-crazed society. In many cases we start kids out when they are barely out of diapers and take our children to play in athletic events across state lines several times. Why? Again, my observation is that many parents are reliving their childhood through their children and many have hopes that their son or daughter will be good enough to get a college scholarship that will pay for all, or most, of their education.

At this point I want to depart from “my observations” and quote some hard facts that may help some people who will read this column make some different choices. What I am saying has nothing to do with who plays what sport or when they start. I am just interested in our children and seeing them grow up to be productive American citizens who will leave behind the same great nation they inherited when they were born. I will also add, the following statistics come from The College Board and the Arkansas Activities Association, the organization that oversees all sports in our state’s public and participating private schools. Every state has one and the statistics will be comparable.

For starters, let’s look at the cost of a college education today. The College Board, a not-for-profit organization comprised of 6,000 of the world’s leading educational institutions, reports those college students who attend a public university in their state of residence will pay $25,290. The average cost for a private college averages $50,900. And here is where it gets interesting. Recent data from the NCAA reveals that the average Division I athletic scholarship is worth only $10,400, and if that is not enough to give us pause, the same study shows that fewer than 2 percent (1 in 54) of all high school athletes ever wear a uniform of a Division I school.

Instead of getting involved in a sport that has some type of year-round club program -- a $15-billion-per-year industry by the way -- they recommend that athletes play sports at their high school. In education-based high school sports, student-athletes are taught that grades come first, which is what I have advocated for the past 40 years. Many Division I football and basketball coaches have recently stated that they are committed to recruiting student athletes who have played multiple sports within the high school setting.

And here is something to consider when it comes to making wise choices for your children and grandchildren. In addition to focusing on academics and other talents while playing sports in school, the odds of securing financial help is greatly increased. While $3 billion per year is available for athletic scholarships, more than $11 billion per year is awarded for academic scholarships and other financial assistance. While what I have been saying may not change many minds, it just makes sense, at least to me, to have the facts when making choices that will affect your children for the rest of their lives.

If you really want your children to succeed in life, even those who become great athletes, read to them while still in the cradle and expose them to good books where reading will become a lifelong habit. It’s true, most really good readers are winners.