The High Cost of Youth Sports

The High Cost of Youth Sports – Years ago, a child gifted in sports could advance through the ranks based on talent alone. Now, major financial backing and nearly unrealistic amounts of time are needed.


The High Cost of Youth Sports

I’m wondering how many truly talented kids can’t get to their potential simply because of a family’s lack of dollars and cents.

I’m fortunate to have a son that is interested in many sports and activities. The downside is the high cost of youth sports and the pressure on parents to try to advance their son and/or daughter.

Youth sports and extracurricular activities were all “fun and games” when my son was 5. Now much older, I’m starting to feel the pressure of making some difficult and expensive choices. I’m sure many parents have to make similar choices. I’ll explain.

When my son was much younger, it was so easy to let him try different youth sports and activities to see what he liked and what he felt like pursuing. $100 for a recreational soccer league? No problem. Some weekly recreational tennis lesson at the Y? Sure.

My son, for example, is really “into” his guitar and School of Rock, his baseball, and tennis. Three really neat activities that he performs well in. All three are becoming increasingly time-consuming and increasingly expensive. Does his future success ride on putting him on a travel baseball or “Fed ball” travel team that costs thousands of dollars annually? Can he “get by” without 5-day-per-week private tennis lessons? Does he need private guitar lessons teaching theory to go along with his School of Rock semesters? I’m told if he wants to advance in any of these, the answer is “yes”.

Granted, I don’t HAVE to have him make a choice of picking one to pursue at a deeper (i.e. more expensive) level. But, I’m starting to feel the pressure of outside parents and coaches to help my son advance in a deeper (i.e. more expensive) level in all three. The days of letting him just “have fun” appear to be over. Apparently I’m faced with the burden of helping him pick ONE and encouraging him to advance so he can compete at higher levels as he gets older. Who knows? Maybe he could develop into an accomplished musician, pursue a college tennis scholarship, or become a star on his future high school baseball team. OR, I could let him pursue all three at a lesser (i.e. cheaper) recreational level where, allegedly, he “won’t be able to compete” with his peers as those kids advance. To put it another way, he could be a “jack of all trades / master of none” if I pick the “all three recreationally” route. It’s a tough (and expensive) choice.

I’ve danced around the tennis vs baseball vs music subject with my son to try to gauge his reactions. I inevitably feel awful doing so. He seems to love them all nearly equally and I feel I have no right having him make a hardline choice at his age. I have to do something, though. Time and money are precious.

The high cost of youth sports starts so early – much earlier than even my 12-year-old son. My friend’s daughter is being told there is “no way” her daughter will be able to advance in soccer if she is not going to play on an expensive travel team. My friend’s daughter is five years old! According to this thinking, my Little League All Star son is already washed up. Scary, huh?

The pressure to “keep up with the Jones'” in sports and extra curricular activities has reached an all-time high. The high cost of youth sports isn’t just padding the pockets of sports leagues, it’s effecting children’s futures and creating a sports arms race that many parents can’t afford.

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