THE COST OF PLAYING HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
(This story is in conjunction with RHS and traveling in the NCC. We will provide a report on what it costs to travel to the Northern schools in the conference).
What is the cost of high school athletics? How much do parents have to shell out for their children to be able to join in team sports on a yearly basis?
Interscholastic sports is a big industry with an income of $5 billion a year. In the United States, parents spend $671 per child annually. This price tag covers registration fees, uniforms, lessons, and coaching. Some parents spend more with two out of 10 parents spending over $1, 000 annually on school sports.
While the growth of participation in school sports has seen a steady increase in the past two decades, some families cannot afford the costs of school sports. Of families with children ages 12 to 17, only 42% had at least one child who participated in sports activities during the school year 2014-2015. Fifty-eight percent weren’t able to with 14% saying that this abstinence in sports was due to the high fees for participation.
According to the University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, 51% of families with an annual household income of $60, 000 or more can afford to have their children participate in high school sports while only 30% of students with a household income of less than $60, 000 were able to participate in such activities. The rest just stood on the sidelines because their household incomes cannot be stretched to accommodate sports-related expenses.
Participation fees are often deemed as the culprit but it is a good idea to break this down.
On average, participation fees cost $126 per child but 18% of those who participate in high school sports pay $200 or more. It is interesting to note though that 38% of students do not pay participation fees at all. In addition to participation fees, parents pay around $275 for sports-related equipment and travel but this can be higher and often depends on the type of sports the child is involved in. The average total cost per child, based on the computation, is $400 — a rather high cost that many families cannot afford.
Costs also depend on what type of sports activity your child decides to go into. Baseball, for example, can be quite costly. Bats are pricey and families would have to buy other baseball gear too. The average cost for baseball equipment is $615.
Ice hockey comes as a close second at $595. Parents would need to shell out $595 to get basic equipment for their child. Additional money would be needed for protection gear such as helmets, shoulder pads, and elbow pads as well.
Football equipment costs are at $595 too like in ice hockey while Boys’ Lacrosse equipment costs $565. Field Hockey, on the other hand, would require $275 for hockey sticks and goggles.
I remind you, this cost assessment can include summer AAU and the high cost of Summer sports.
The following information was produced by the Ohio University Athletic Administration:
IN THE US PARENTS SPEND ON AVERAGE:
$671 per athlete. This does include many having to buy their own uniforms, registration fees, lessons and coaching. (At least 21% spend over $1,000 per child every year).
OF FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN AGED 12-17
42% had at least one child who played sports in an academic year.
58% had children who did not play sports, with 14% saying it costs too much.
51% of students in families that earned $60,000 or more a year played high school sports.
Only 30% of students in families with annual household incomes of less than $60,000 played high school sports. (This survey from the University of Michigan).
38% of students do not pay sports participation fees…they receive waivers.
$126….The average school sports participation fee per athlete.
18%…pay more than $200.
In addition to participation fees, parents pay an average of +$275.00 per student athlete on other sports-related costs, such as equipment, travel and food. The total cost for sports participation is $400.00 per athlete. For many families that cost is out of reach.
###According to Dave Ramsey…some parents can spend up to $10,000 a year funding their child’s athletic pursuits.
####Time Magazine did a story on youth sports and this is what they reported: Between league fees, camps, equipment, training and travel, families are spending as much as 10% of their income on sports, according to survey research from Utah State University. Sky-high costs are preventing some kids from participating. Overall sports participation rates have declined in the U.S. in recent years, and the trend is most evident among kids from lower-income families.
This story came from a newspaper in Massachusetts:
Sports have long acted as a great equalizer. The concept that hard work and personal achievement earn respect is one of the greatest appeals of athletics. Perseverance and teamwork strengthen bonds between people, and being part of a team is a rewarding and fulfilling experience.
Changing times have led to change in the way high school sports programs are run. Student athletes are required to pay a user fee for each sport they play. And, for some, it isn’t cheap.
“The majority of our programs have a $200 user fee,” said GHS Athletic Director Bryan Lafata, “there are a few others that have a slightly cheaper fee.”
Gloucester is not alone in this. Nearly every school in the Cape Ann area implements user fees for sports programs- many even exceed Gloucester’s standard $200.00.
“To run programs is expensive. The user fee only covers a small part,” explained Lafata, “The budget is made by city officials and has to cover equipment, coaches, insurance costs, meet and tournament fees, field maintenance fees, uniforms, etc.”
Inflation only compounds this problem. Covering costs is becoming more difficult as the price of goods and services increases.
According to Lafata, “Even rates for just having an official have increased.”
There may be nobody to blame, but the problem remains that many students struggle to pay. Those who qualify for free and reduced lunch automatically receive aid. For those who do not qualify, but still require monetary support, the school offers scholarships working in tandem with the Gloucester Fisherman Athletics Association.
“We work directly with families,” Lafata explained, “In the past we’ve relied on the John John Nicastro Fund (to provide scholarships), as well as community service options to pay off fees.”
Despite this wide variety of options, some students remain unaware that these resources are available. And even for those who do, money can be a sensitive topic. Students or their families may be embarrassed to advocate for themselves and request assistance.
“We’ve had only a few kids apply for aid, but we do have quite a few outstanding fees. That could be a situation where the family is embarrassed,” Lafata said.
Unfortunately, data suggests the there is a substantial number of GHS students who reside in that position. Many who fall in this financial in between often sacrifice their own time and money in order to participate in programs that their peers can join without concern for funds.
In an anonymous survey, 205 GHS students reported their experiences with financial aid and sports. 17 percent reported that they receive financial aid to help them pay their user fees. Of the the 83 percent who do not receive aid, a quarter reported that the fee puts some sort of strain on their family.
When asked the nature of these challenges, answers were relatively consistent. Most reported that they had multiple siblings in the system, and fees built up. Many also said that asking their parents for money was awkward, or that it took multiple tries to convince their parents to pay. Seven percent claimed that their families were completely unable to pay, and 20 percent of students who struggle to pay reported paying the fee from their own pockets.
In accordance with these statistics, 14 percent reported that money played a role in their decision not to join a team. And almost 40 percent of all GHS students say that they know somebody for whom the cost of sports acts as a barrier for participation.
In the end, it’s clear that the cost of athletics poses a challenge. But for the moment, it remain a necessary evil. As one responder put it: “I feel that costs are high and might be a struggle for some families. But as a player I also can understand where the money is going.”
As you can see, Richmond High School is really no different that many high schools around the country. If Richmond continues to play in the NCC without scheduling changes, how long will it be before they run out of money and kids will have to pay more to play?