The Cost of Youth Sports
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.
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:
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.
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.
None 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?