Overview and Cost of Youth Sports

The cost of playing organized youth sports ranges widely depending upon the sport and the location. Basketball, for example, generally has lower costs because there is no need for special equipment and many of the organized leagues are subsidized. Ice Hockey, on the other hand, can cost as much as $10,000 per year per child due to equipment, facility costs, enrollment fees, and coaches. KIDS PLAY USA will focus on those sports with broadest appeal and participation, and where low-income children are most often excluded. Attention will be given to team sports that traditionally cost a lot for participation, coaches, venues, and equipment.
The KIDS PLAY USA list of target sports includes:
  • Baseball/Softball
  • Lacrosse
  • Soccer
  • Volleyball
  • Gymnastics
  • Football
  • Swimming
  • Track and Field
  • Wrestling
  • Field Hockey
Excerpt from CBS Money Watch article by Sarah Lorge Butler “Until now I’ve been naïve about the cost of youth sports. But my eyes were opened recently, first by a mom in Georgia whose 9-year-old son plays travel baseball. Then by a dad here in Pennsylvania, whose three daughters play club volleyball. For the 9-year-old, the parents pay about $4,000 for baseball. Throw in summer camps (about $300 to $500 apiece) and this guy estimates he spends $8,000 to $10,000 per year on his three daughters for volleyball.”

Cost of Youth Sports

Participation Fees

The costs for youth sports have spiraled out of control in recent years. The largest contributor has been the participation fee, which was minimal or non-existent 25 years ago. The price of being a member a league team can range from $50 to $1,000 or more. Membership fees to play on a certain girl’s soccer team in Northern Virginia were $175 per month for 8 months — a staggering $1,400 per child. The cost of playing in a Baltimore, MD area summer lacrosse league was $1,300 for 10 weeks of lacrosse. On average, participation fees range between $100 and $400 per child, per sport, per season.
  • Participation fees are the largest obstacle to involvement in organized sports by less fortunate youth. KIDS PLAY USA will concentrate on eliminating, reducing, and subsidizing these costs for those who can’t afford them.

Equipment and Apparel

Equipment costs can be quite exorbitant. For example, a catcher on a Connie Mack Baseball Team may very well have the following in his equipment bag: mask, chest protector and leg guards, $500; 2 catcher’s mitts, $500; metal bat, $400; 2 wood bats, $200; 2 pairs shoes $200. Include the bag itself, batting gloves, protective undergear, batting helmet and other sundries, it isn’t uncommon to see a 16-year-old walking around with $2,500 worth of equipment, some of which has to be replaced every couple of seasons.
Equipment costs vary greatly from sport to sport. There are moderate expenses, such as shoes or shorts, for soccer or swimming. And heavy expenses for ice hockey or baseball/softball.
KIDS PLAY USA assists low-income children with the cost of equipment and uniforms in a number of ways:
1. Large contributions of equipment and apparel from sporting goods manufacturers
2. Used equipment from college and high school teams
3. Used equipment from adult sports teams
4. Used equipment from professional teams
5. Equipment from sports associations and governing bodies
6. Sharing equipment among several teams in youth leagues
7. Providing uniforms at no or reduced costs
8. Directly purchasing equipment and uniforms

Travel & Other Expenses

Travel expense is another obstacle to participation by low-income children. It can be as simple as getting to and from practice, which can be a problem, particularly in the less urban areas where public transportation may not be readily available.
Out-of-area travel can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars per kid per season. The ‘travel teams’ are generally comprised of the better athletes or at least the better athletes who can afford to pay the cost of traveling. Should a kid be deprived of competing with and against the best because of his economic status? KIDS PLAY USA will help get children to practice and away games.

Other Expenses

Teams have other expenses and related fees that are also passed on to participants. Additionally, most teams require a medical examination prior to each season, which is an additional financial burden to low-income families who are often uninsured. Medical expenses related to injuries are the responsibility of the player and can be a major deterrent to participation by children from families without adequate health insurance.

Elite Teams

Elite teams or so-called “travel teams” are a common practice that discriminates against children from lower-income families. The cost to participate on these teams can be quite exorbitant because of the extensive travel expenses that must be borne by the participating families. Depending on the sport and the team, travel expenses for these elite teams can range well into the thousands of dollars per child per season.
One might say playing on a travel team is a luxury that everyone need not partake in. However, it’s not just missing the fun of traveling that hurts. In fact, the best players are assigned to travel teams and they compete against teams with the best players. All children should be allowed to rise to the level of their skills and should not be denied an opportunity because of poverty. Top competition should not be reserved solely for the offspring of the rich.
As it stands, lower-income children are excluded from high-level coaching and specialty sport camps. It could be said that some parents are in the business of buying college scholarships or college varsity participation through costly investments special training for their kids when they are young.

Pay to Play Sports

Pay-to-Play Sports Keeping Lower-Income Kids out of the Game:
Pay-to-play fees are only one component of the school sports costs reported by parents. Including equipment, uniforms and additional team fees, the average cost for a child’s sports participation in one sport for one season was $381.

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