The high cost of sports sets back less affluent families

Claire Campbell, Business Manager

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In a country where sports have such a dominant role in society, most people can relate in some way. Whether one’s career ended at the youth soccer team and now consists of watching football every Sunday or has progressed into a much more competitive endeavor, sports are important to many. The positives of youth sports are endless; from simply being active, to developing an understanding of team, to increased self-esteem. Everyone can learn something from participating in sports. While this should encourage involvement, it is becoming increasingly difficult financially to include everyone with youth sports unknowingly adopting a “pay to play” concept.

Youth sports is now a nearly $15 billion industry, having doubled in the past 10 years. A study from Utah State University states that it is not uncommon for families to contribute 10 percent of their annual income to the athletic pursuit of their children. For some, this is not possible and for most, it is not desirable. The cost of uniforms, registration, equipment, coaching and lessons all factor into the astronomical cost.

While some of the costs are not avoidable, it is a shame that a supremely talented athlete is rejected of the opportunity to accel in sports due to a poor financial situation. An article in Time Magazine quotes Travis Dorsch, who headed the research at Utah State, and said, “How many Michael Jordans and Michael Phelps’ are out there who don’t have the opportunity?”

There are, however, much cheaper ways to achieve the positives of sports without paying thousands of dollars, but it often comes at the sacrifice of the great coaching staffs and competitive level. In addition, some sports are more expensive by nature. Hockey, horseback riding and football are historically some of the most expensive sports that youth participate in. On the opposite end, soccer, swimming, basketball and track are known to be less expensive.

Regardless of the sport, the older and more competitive the athlete gets, the more expensive it will be. To travel to the best tournaments and get exposure to top recruiting, the family must pay. If the goal is to play in college, sometimes that makes it more justifiable, but the reality is that only three percent of girls and two percent of boys who play high school sports will play Division 1 collegiate sports.

Schools with more money can hire better coaches and students at those schools can afford to play outside of the main season, while schools who are less strong financially often suffer athletically. It is a shame that financial situation can be a large determining factor to the level of athlete a youth can become, but as of now it is the reality.


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