The Cost of Youth Sports

By: Keith

sports tball


We can’t all be Michael Jordan or Mia Hamm.  Few of us have those kinds of athletic genes.  Of course, that doesn’t stop kids from wanting to participate in sports and it doesn’t stop parents from shelling out gobs of cash for said sports.  I found out yesterday just how expensive having an athletic kid is going to be, and I doubt I can afford it.  The average cost per family for kid’s sports is $2000 according to NBC.  Dang, that’s expensive!  My boys are still young , and I’m getting off pretty easy.  It still doesn’t feel any better.  Some sports are inherently more expensive than others because of equipment costs.  Nobody expects to get something for nothing, and we all anticipate having to pay for our children’s sports.  However, I think there is a scam being perpetrated on parents, and we’re trapped by it.  We either pay up or our kids don’t participate.  We don’t want our kids to miss the fun of sports and the camaraderie of teammates so we are forced to pay.  That means we’re captive. We invariably get ripped off.


Expensive Sports:


sports iceskating

1. Hockey: Hockey equipment is more expensive than football equipment and there is more of it.  Between hockey sticks, pads, clothing, rink fees, and skating lessons the cost makes it easily the most expensive kids sport.

2. Football: Both Football and Hockey are expensive because of the equipment costs.  It makes sense that they would.  An alternative that is quite inexpensive is Flag Football.  Young kids don’t need to get hit in the head too often anyway.  Flag football is probably better anyway for the kids.

3. Figure Skating: I recently discovered from some friends of mine who have girls that figure skating is absurdly expensive.  I attribute that to the popularity of the sport and not the equipment cost.  A perfect example of supply and demand.

4. Golf: It’s getting better thanks to Tiger Woods, but it’s still ridiculous.


Less Expensive Sports:


sports basketball

1. Track and Cross Country: My twin sister and I were track prodigies.  We joined our first team when we were about 10 and we both stuck with it through college.  It’s hands down the least expensive of all youth sports.  That’s not saying it’s cheap, just less expensive.

2. Soccer: I’ve heard people say it’s expensive.  But those people must not have AYSO kids.  AYSO does a good job of keeping the cost down and there is a tier system for kids who are stars and those who are just having fun.  For young kids the expense is not too bad.

3. Basketball: All of these less expensive sports have one thing in common.  The equipment fees are low.  With basketball all that’s needed is a club fee and travel expenses.  Shoes can be pricey, but no more so than with track.

4. Baseball: It’s the all American sport and it has a great community support.  The organization behind baseball causes it to be relatively cheap.  A glove and cleats are all that are needed.  Uniform expenses are low and all the other equipment if provided by the league.


Don’t know:


sports gymnastics

1. Gymnastics: Both my boys do gymnastics.  I anticipate it getting quite expensive because of the popularity of the sport.  That being said it is only moderately expensive at this stage in their development.

2. Swimming: I was on a community swim team for several years when I was little.  The team itself was not terribly expensive, but that didn’t include lessons.  Lessons can be quite pricey.  My oldest boy took Red Cross lessons and that was not expensive at all.  But, private lessons are much more costly.

3. Tennis: I’m leaning towards expensive but becoming less expensive as access improves.  When I was little tennis was somewhat of an exclusive sport and it was because of that that it was expensive.  These days USA Tennis has improved its accessibility, and I don’t know if it still deserves its label as a snobby sport.


sports swimmingNone of us want to disappoint our kids, but we also have to be realistic.  It is sometimes parents more than it is kids who are desirous of stardom.  The expensive nature of children’s sports is due in large part to parental misguidance.  We all want to think of our kids as gifted athletes when the reality is that 99% of kids are barely able to kick a ball let alone get it in the net past a defender.  Sports organizers prey on our parenting blindness to convince us to pay exorbitant participation fees.  We can’t do anything about participation fees; we’re captive to that expense.  We can try to keep costs down by buying second-hand uniforms and encouraging some of the less expensive sports.  We aren’t going to pull our kids out of these activities altogether because they are a vital part of childhood development, but we can research city clubs (rather than private) and we can only buy what is necessary rather than what is fashionable.  Kids change their mind every 3 minutes anyway.  Why buy a $200 tennis racket when a $30 racket from Wal-Mart will do just as well for their purpose?

15 Responses to “The Cost of Youth Sports”
  1. J. Cruikshank October 7, 2009 at 4:15 pm #

    I wonder how much of sports is for the parents anyway. They push their kids to play their favorite one. Between sports, homework, music lessons and all the other micro-managed activities they are left with little time to just be kids. True, that can lead to trouble but also greatness.

    • Keith October 8, 2009 at 3:06 pm #

      yes, it’s true. Parents have their kids over involved in sports and other activities. I don’t frankly know how they even afford it. I can barely afford one sport.

  2. CK Lunchbox October 8, 2009 at 10:14 am #

    You aren’t kidding. And some of this cost comes from the pressure coaches put on kids to excel. Some of the training programs for kids playing baseball and football are on par with major college and even pro level regiments. (I live in Texas which should tell you something in itself.) Guess who bares the lion’s portion of the costs associated with this.

    I see a lot of parents blow all this money on these sports when the kids are young. When the kids decide they don’t really like the sport, the parents force them to keep doing it because of the gobs of money they invested. The kid ends up being miserable and sports is no fun all.

    Good points all the way around on this one.
    .-= CK Lunchbox´s last blog ..I’m An Errant Parent =-.

    • Keith October 8, 2009 at 3:08 pm #

      I agree, Ron. Kids don’t have any business pretending they’re professional athletes and coaches need to lay off with the gung ho training and competitions. And, you’re also right that kids change their minds all the time. What’s a parent to do who’s just invested all those resources into their childrens most recent hobby. Well, in many cases they force their kids to continue just to get their money’s worth.

  3. Cat October 8, 2009 at 12:44 pm #

    How VERY true! Personally, I think you can add cheerleading and dance to the list of expensive classes, I have one that does ballet and a cheer girl and its just crazy. The constant buying tights and shoes for my ballerina and the added cost of gymnastics classes for my cheerleader just makes it unreal at times. They are mad at me right now because I told them we’re doing soccer instead this year because its cheaper lol They will resume cheer and dance between AYSO soccer seasons.

    • Keith October 8, 2009 at 3:11 pm #

      Yes, Cat! I totally forgot about cheerleading and those other sorts of activities. There are certain parts of the country where cheerleading is huge business. I remember when I lived in Texas all the parents who would go totally nuts over cheerleading and how into it the kids seemed to be. I didn’t know the cost associated with it but, I imagine that your right, when one sport depends on learning another (like gymnastics and cheerleading) then it just compounds the cost. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Dennis Yu October 8, 2009 at 8:20 pm #


    Clever observation– LOL. I laugh at the parents who live vicariously through their kids– to succeed where they didn’t when they were youngsters. How about the purity of kids playing with no referees and equipment? I enjoyed just biking around town, exploring– no rules, equipment, training camps, and aggressive parents.

    Oh– and that’s free, too!
    .-= Dennis Yu´s last blog ..Doing what you enjoy vs. doing what makes you rich =-.

  5. Keith October 8, 2009 at 9:04 pm #

    Dennis, while I agree that exploration is an important part of growing up, it is not the only part of growing up. Team sports are also important. The problem with the team sports we have these days is that they are all organized by adults and we have to pay for them. There are no pick-up games and back yard football anymore. They are all overly organized and commercialized. Being an individual is great and all, but it does not make a complete person. Remember, you and I both participated in a city run sporting program which our parents had to pay for so you can’t claim you didn’t take part in that or that it wasn’t valuable to you. We wouldn’t be friends today had it not been for Barry’s kids.

  6. Joseph Condron January 27, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

    I never thought that sports participation in the US would be so expensive. Most sports in Ireland are free to join.

    As for the role of genes in sports, well that is highly debatable.
    Swimming (torso-to-leg ratio), and running (fast twitch muscles for sprinters and slow twitch for long distance) aside, the rest is about continued practice and desire.
    Genes don’t really have any relevance for golf, soccer, rugby, basketball, football etc.

  7. Mario | Nutricion October 15, 2010 at 4:46 am #

    Acertado artículo. Siempre es importante sumar conceptos y diferentes puntos de vista. Siempre nos quedará el fútbol que es muy barato

    • Keith October 15, 2010 at 10:44 am #

      Eso sí es cierto Mario. Para jugar futbol soccer no necesitas otra cosa más que un balón y mucho espacio. Y el balón no necesita ser nada en especial. Mira a Pelé por ejemplo, de niño era tan pobre que ni siquiera tenía balón o pelota para practicar y sin embargo llegó a ser uno de los mejores jugadores que el mundo ha visto. Gracias por visitar y por tu comentario

  8. Elizabeth December 3, 2010 at 12:19 am #

    Thanks for this article! I’m in shock after attending our kindergartner’s basketball game and being charged to enter the gym. This is after we have paid a fee for our son to be in the program. Adding it up, the cost for two parents to attend the games is more than the cost of the program. Additionally, the coach has asked us to volunteer during these games that we pay to attend. I know that with older kids, the cost of attending games is even higher, and as someone on a tight budget, I imagine the jacked up price of attendance is a major disincentive for families to participate. I feel like I’m being ripped off, since at no time prior to the games were we told of this additional cost.


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