I'd say it was 100% worth it for me and my son would say the same for his experience as well. Playing a D1 sport is certainly not easy, but if you love the sport and love to compete then its not a job.
My son is a bubble D1 player, has had a bunch of conversations with D1 and D3 coaches and we were shocked at how similar the daily schedule is. The level of commitment is off the charts. It was really cool to see his eyes light up looking at the daily life of these players. Not sure where he will end up but its going to be great!
Why is this question not asked of every other sport? Seems like it always comes up with hockey, "is it all worth it?"
Didn't play college hockey (played my entire life up to that point) but did get a scholarship to play football in college. Is it a grind? Yep. And it was worth every ounce of blood, sweat, and time. Lifelong friends that I still associate with 30 years later.
People act like hockey is something special with the time and effort it takes to reach the highest levels, it's not. Every other sport is the same way if the player wants to reach their maximum potential. Some people do it because they don't ask whether it is worth it they do it because they love the game and want to excel. It's a good trait to want to achieve excellence and to see something through to the end, without knowing how things will play out. Maybe the end of the road is D3 or Club hockey, so what? If the only thing the player cares about it is the destination then they are doing it for the wrong reasons and won't learn as much from the journey as they could.
Is it mom & dad having an issue with junior delaying college for a few years? College will still be there, and after a few years of juniors your kid is going to be much better prepped to handle their first year of college and living on their own. You know what the freshman pull through rate (actually the goal) is for colleges? It's 65%. That means 35%, or almost 1 in 4 drop out the first year. Then there is the homesickness. I have friends whose kids went off to school and transferred back closer to home within 2 weeks because they were homesick. I laugh about that. Not going to happen to a kid who has played junior hockey or billeted while playing AAA hockey in high school. These kids learn independence, time management, and responsibility that carries through to when they enter college.
Let's be honest, it's the money. It's all about the money and money spent on sports and not knowing if there will be a "return". If that's your issue then you need to rethink things now. You're doing it for all the wrong reasons and if the money you are spending is really affecting your life, like you are maxing out credit or mortgaging your house, then you shouldn't be doing that either. If you are good enough you will be found. You can play HS hockey, Tier 3 juniors, maybe get a call up to Tier 2, maybe not, but still play D3 college hockey, and that's a pretty dang good career, and it's hard, you have to be good to play D3. That's better than 95% of all youth hockey players ever do.
Finally, when I hear "just want to be like a normal college student" and "missing out on the college experience" or "balance" that's code for "I just want to get drunk and party like all these other kids". You have your whole life to hang out in bars and drink beer. You only get one crack at playing high level sports and then it's gone. He'll miss it. Hell, I still wake up some mornings wishing it was two-a-days and that all I had to worry about was to eat, sleep, and play football for a month and to be young again.
I think the "is it worth it" question is relevant to every sport, given the effort and commitment it takes to make a serious college athletic team. I think it comes up more in hockey because of the need (for most) to play two to three years of junior (with all that entails).
Our family is struggling with the idea of delaying college a year or two. I get the maturity argument you make, but there are several compelling counterarguments.
Regarding your "you'll have your life to party" after college argument ... I beg to differ. College was an extremely special time for most of us. Partying was just one of the reasons. Student athletes will miss out on a lot of that. Yes, student-athletes have their own, unique experiences and memories, but they unquestionably miss out on other things.
I think the answer to OP's question comes down to two simple things: 1) does you boy absolutely love the sport, to the point where playing at a high level is worth the sacrifices he will make, and 2) can he handle the rigors of devoting all that time and effort to a sport, and also succeed academically.
My son is 19, going to age out of Tier 3 Jrs this year, Play D3 Hockey and study business. He's looking forward to every second of it wherever he ends up.
If you ask "is it worth it" then you are revealing you were not a college athlete. I played college baseball and missed out on a lot of typical college rites of passage but I never thought twice about it. Practicing and playing with my teammates was more appealing. If your kid loves the game, he'll feel the same about college hockey. If he doesn't, he probably won't make it anyway.
If only I could get one more Saturday morning bus ride and double doubleheader weekend...
Not sure I agree. I also played a sport in college. Yes, I enjoyed playing in big games before huge crowds and a tv audience, but I felt like I worked for the university and had no life. And practices could be hell.
I often think I would be better off today if I had spent more time on academics and social activities.
It's a trade off.