How to Offset the High Cost of Youth Sports

Geri Martin | | Return|

The cost of participating in organized youth sports keeps skyrocketing. It appears to have changed dramatically in a single generation according to the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society program. Their executive director, Tom Farrey, is quoted in an August 15, CBS News article, “We have a system that is based on the concept of ‘up or out,’ like we have in a lot of corporate America, except it’s not merit-based.” Farrey also shared, that in earlier generations, children played in local team sports, rarely traveling outside their local areas for games. Now, youth sport participation is disproportionately based on whether or not a child athlete comes from a family with money or is an early athletic bloomer. Much of that is because of pressure from college-minded parents that think their child may receive an athletic scholarship if they are skilled enough to be admitted to an elite college. Wealthy parents are willing to pay for travel teams, private lessons or coaching, and expensive equipment, often far beyond the reach of financially struggling parents. Yet, receiving any type of collegiate sports scholarship is only awarded to 1-10 youth athletes. 

According to a another article, recently published by ESPN Sports, citing a new survey of parents and youth conducted by the Aspen Institute and Utah State University, average annual spending per sport, per child ranged from a low of $191 for Track & Field to a high of $2,583 for children that participated in Ice Hockey. Moreover, the average household income of respondents to the survey was $90,908, which is significantly more than the average U.S. household income of $59,039. The same article states that participation is dropping from 45% of kids aged 6-12 participating in team sports a decade ago to just 38% today. And while the reasons  participation in youth sports is dropping is related to many factors, cost is definitely the number one reason.

Yet, most parents want their children involved in youth team sports. They recognize the many positive life lessons a child can learn: getting along with others, team building, having a social system for friendship and support, respect, following directions, self-discipline, appreciation for diversity, and the ability to lose graciously.  

What’s the answer? Many foundations and organizations exist around the country to help defray the cost for participation. As the ESPN Sports article notes, if a parent is involved in the military, there are programs that are subsidized or free for children to participate in. Organizations like Volo City Kids Foundation provides free organized youth sports in many major cities across the country. Or the Open Goal Project which focuses on leveling the playing field for youth soccer opportunities.

Other realistic suggestions for getting or keeping your kids involved in organized sports at a reasonable cost include:

  • Contacting your local YMCA for boys and girls organized sports opportunities
  • Local public schools may still offer opportunities that aren’t limited to “pay to play”
  • Local community park and rec programs
  • Purchase used athletic equipment for your child, especially if they are just starting a new sport.
  • If your children are in a program with limited or inadequate equipment, the program may be eligible to apply for a grant for new equipment, uniforms, or footwear through an organization called Good Sports.

And last but not least, do not forget the potential of free fundraising for your team through Inspire.World. We offer fundraising 24/7/365 by building your team a FREE online shopping/e-commerce site where your child’s team’s supporters can shop for everyday products and 50% of the profit goes to your team. We also offer the Inspire.World Entertainment App as a popular fundraising blitz to jump start your fundraising effort. 





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