There have always been costs associated with youth sports. Whether its sport-specific equipment or just a new pair of running shoes it’s not uncommon for parents to pay something in order to have their children enrolled sporting activities. Parents and coaches have been bearing this cost for many decades and although it was tough for some parents to find the money that was needed, it was still largely manageable.
Fast-forward to today, and parents have to contend with whole new layer of cost with the introduction of ‘pay-to-play’ sports programs in many of the schools across the United States. Historically it was schools who would foot the bill for coaching, referees and location rentals through funds acquired by school taxes, tuitions fees and government subsidies. Now, that cost has been placed squarely on the shoulders of parents.
Understandably, parents are upset but they also don’t want their children missing out on all the enriching experiences they can have through organized sports.
When it comes to the need for fundraising in youth sports, many say the future is now. Ohio school districts in the southwest were surveyed and it found that 82% of high schools had changed to pay-to-play and Ohio certainly isn’t the only state undergoing this change. Several other states have encountered the same drastic shift.
Just how much does it cost to play youth sports? If your child is just starting you might have to shell out a few hundred dollars per season, but as they grow and join more competitive teams the costs rise exponentially. According to SFGate.com;
The costs of paying to play are staggering. Many parents report spending up to $3,500 a year to play summer and fall travel baseball; additional showcase tournaments can cost $500 for a weekend slate of three games. Dues at elite volleyball clubs can run $3,500, with another $3,000 required for travel. At soccer clubs around the Bay Area, the costs are high: Some dues exceed $4,000 a year. Uniforms, equipment and travel to distant tournaments are usually not included.
Some estimate the costs associated with youth sports at $5 billion and rising. Mark Hyman, author of “The Most Expensive Game in Town: The Rising Cost of Youth Sports and the Toll on Today’s Families,” calls it “the global warming of youth sports.” Youth sports is turning into a have and have-not system, where the children of families that can afford to pay for travel teams, one-on-one coaches, new equipment, and travel costs get to go much farther in their athletic career than those that cannot, simply because their parents don’t have deep enough pockets.
One softball dad even moved to a new state in order to take a higher paying job so his daughter could work with the best pitching coaches (a move that paid off, seeing as how she is one of the lucky few to earn an athletic scholarship for college.)
We asked some fundraising experts about how fundraising has changed since the national shift towards pay-to-play:
Jolian, Owner of JustFundraising.com, remarked “Motivated parents have always been a part of the fundraising experience but until only recently, in the past 5 or so years, the majority of sports fundraiser organizers were mainly active parent volunteers, coaches and league organizers. Pay-to-play has really changed that landscape.” Jolian added “Now, we have a lot of individual parents, smaller groups and even players themselves coming to us to start their fundraisers.”
Dan, a Fundraising Consultant said “Pay-to-play is definitely a factor for this need for fundraising but people often forget that safety regulations for sports have changed as well and that really adds to the laundry list of equipment children need to wear in order to play. Obviously more safety is important but it doesn’t change the fact that it adds to the overall cost.”
So is pay-to-play here to stay? It’s hard to know precisely but with budgets being continually slashed and the government becoming more hands-off with youth sports, the trend is looking like it will persist for years to come.