Is Paying to Play the New Normal in Youth Sports?

2014-02-04T17:21:46-05:00Parenting, Sports Management|

One of the most common complaints we hear from sports parents is how expensive youth sports is becoming.  In his book “The Most Expensive Game in Town,” sports journalist Mark Hyman tells the story of a sports dad (the popular blogger StatsDad) who spent close to $10,000 on youth sports in 2010. Once you get past the registration fees, sports parents have to shell out for new gear each season as their kids outgrow old equipment or change sports, tournament entry fees, travel expenses, individual coaching sessions, and more. A single season can cost thousands of dollars per child depending on how competitive their team is. And when a family has more than one child that loves to play sports what is a family do to?

One of our sports mom had this to say on a recent blog post;

What do you do during financial hardship and your kids can’t join a sport? Are there any sports that take partial payments? I have 7 year old twins; boy and girl. My daughter wants to be in gymnastics and my son wants to be in karate. Any advice is greatly appreciated. 

A few months ago we came across this interesting news story that reported;

Many parents report spending up to $3,500 a year to play summer and fall travel baseball; additional showcase tournaments can cost $500 for a weekend slate of three games. Dues at elite volleyball clubs can run $3,500, with another $3,000 required for travel. At soccer clubs around the Bay Area, the costs are high: Some dues exceed $4,000 a year. Uniforms, equipment and travel to distant tournaments are usually not included… Some estimates put the costs associated with youth sports at $5 billion and rising.

Even though many vote against early specialization, plenty of parents are signing their Is Paying to Play the New Normal in Youth Sports?children up for year-round sports teams at younger and younger ages. Playing soccer or baseball year round, or even playing a different sport each season, can get very expensive very quickly. Because of the rising costs to play, youth sports is turning into a have and have-not world. Children from lower income families can’t afford to play on the more competitive teams, get extra coaching sessions, or purchase the latest equipment–things that could make a big difference in how far they go in sports. Very talented youth athletes might be pushed out of playing in the “bigger” leagues simply because their parents cannot afford it.

Some leagues or clubs offer scholarships for players, but there is only so much money to go around. As the article pointed out, “In college baseball there are only 11.7 scholarships to divide among a team.” Some organizations have evolved to help fight against the rising costs of youth sport. KIDS PLAY USA was formed to remove the financial barriers to participation in youth sports through advocacy, creative program and financial assistance. In an interview with founder Darryl Hill,

Our goal isn’t necessarily to prepare kids for college scholarships. Our goal is to get the average kid back on the playing field, playing sports. We’re focusing on underserved kids, but not totally. You can have a middle-class family with three or four kids, each costing a couple of grand a season per sport. That’s just not doable. It’s not unusual for me to come upon families spending $10,000 a year [on youth sports], and that’s not in most people’s budget.

We work with grants and contributions—and sponsorships. We go first to all the sport leagues and ask if they’ll make room for kids who are underserved. We ask the team or league to waive or reduce the fees. Then we go to equipment manufacturers to contribute—the Wilsons and Spauldings of the world—and the retailers like Dick’s or Sports Authority or Modell’s, and we’re getting good support there. Then there’s the foundations like the Cal Ripken Foundation which give equipment grants.

Does your youth sports league/program offer any kind of financial aid for players? Do you have any advice for this sports mom?