2011-02-10 / Editorials

Do youth sports cost too much?

Participating in youth sports is one of the best ways for a child to learn the benefits teamwork. (This is true despite the occasional overzealous parent who insists on beating the other 8-year-olds by 50 points.)

Although few athletes play sports competitively after high school, the good sportsmanship and a strong work ethic they learn are traits that will stick with them throughout life.

Besides, youth sports are a lot of fun.

Sadly, it appears the costs related to these sports are climbing at an alarming rate. Girls’ softball can cost $150 per child. That doesn’t take into account the bat, glove, hat and cleats that must be purchased. Youth football can run as much as $400 per child. Soccer, basketball and other sports aren’t far off. Club teams, with the additional hotel and travel costs, are in a league all their own.

Team treasurers say the money goes toward uniforms, equipment, clinics, officiating, and field rentals and upkeep. They say the leagues, all of which are nonprofits, usually stay on budget and that most of the money is spent by the end of the season. In some cases, a league may even run in the red.

Still, how in the world did youth sports get so expensive?

Do parents pay these high amounts because of a deep-rooted need to keep up with the Joneses, or because they truly want their children to grow and learn?

Whatever the reason, the people running the youth leagues need to be reminded that more isn’t necessarily better. What happens to the child who can’t afford to play an organized youth sport, let alone join a travel team?

True, some leagues—although they don’t openly advertise it—offer scholarships, but it’s just a small percentage.

Youth sports are wonderful. They’re fun to watch and a great way to build character in our children. We owe a big debt to the men and women who volunteer as coaches and helpers.

But a dose of reality is needed for the parents who believe they are playing in the Super Bowl and need to crush the opposition, and that in order to accomplish that task their players must be outfitted in the finest of athletic garb.

Be frugal. Play fair. Play ball.

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