Kids’ sports can be a great experience for kids of all ages, but many parents greatly underestimate the price of these programs. Long gone are the days when kids would form a team themselves and play their friends in other neighborhoods. Even the days of parents paying a small fee to cover uniforms and lawn maintenance so their kids could play on a “regulation” ball field with balanced teams supervised by adults are quickly fading away.
Today, kids’ sports can cost thousands of dollars a year and take up a ridiculous amount of time. When organized kids’ teams were first formed, many leagues charged parents a nominal fee; typically under $30 a season, and provided some equipment and uniforms. Practices were usually held once a week, and games were held once every other weekend. Over time, however, the popularity of these groups meant that extra teams and extra games needed to be added.
Eventually, though, these leagues became “feeders” for the local high school teams. As school coaches began to pick and sometimes even recruit kids to their teams based on these leagues, parents began to demand extra practices, better fields, and more involved coaches. Today, this has evolved into the “pre-professional training” and “traveling” leagues that can suck away a family’s savings and time.
To start, these new leagues require a large upfront fee. This fee is meant to cover administrative fees only, which include maintenance of the fields, and the paid staff of these leagues, which include treasurers, secretaries, coordinators, and sometimes even coaches. Soon, though, additional money is expected from the parents. Uniforms are priced separately, but required in order to play games. These uniforms include everything from shoes to hats, and can cost several hundred dollars, especially if the uniforms are made by a name-brand company. Parents are often expected to also buy standardized equipment from the league, such as balls, bats, and nets.
From this point, the money that parents are expected to fork over only goes up. Nearly all of these leagues will soon start sending out information about fundraisers. What this money is being used for, exactly, is rarely fully disclosed, and many parents do not realize that it is often collected for frivolous items such as staff holiday parties. Nonetheless, parents can get easily suckered into buying hundreds of dollars of overpriced stuff.
After the fundraisers, parents are often expected to foot the bills for the traveling that these teams do. While large cities can often play games within their own neighborhoods, families who live in rural or suburban areas can find themselves traveling hundreds of miles for their children’s ball games. The costs of gas, hotels, and restaurant meals can easily cost families thousands of dollars.