The high cost of kids’ sports

This guest post from Kay Lynn Akers is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. Kay Lynn writes about money and life at Bucksome Boomer.

More and more children are participating on travel or elite sport teams. Having your child invited to join a travel sports team is an honor but there are consequences to accepting that are not always apparent.

Background

My youngest son was on a traveling ice hockey team for a couple of years at a fairly young age. As a third grader, he was recruited from a developmental hockey class to join the only local traveling team. He was thrilled and I was impressed that he was so good at it.

After understanding the practice and game time commitments and costs, we signed him up. We soon found out there were other costs, both financial and personal.

Financial Costs
The costs of the ice time (for practices and games) and uniforms were known upfront. It was a steep price, but I thought we could afford this splurge.

We had purchased nearly all of his equipment during developmental hockey. Of course, young kids are continually growing; skates, sticks, pants and shoulder pads had to be replaced regularly. Even after purchasing used equipment when possible, the costs added up.

Travel teams have regular games out of the local area which brings related expenses. San Diego didn't have any other travel teams in the county for this age group, so every away game was at least 90 miles from home.

This meant spending a lot of time driving up and down the freeway every other weekend. To add to the gas expense, there were meals and sometimes hotels for early morning games.

Once a year, the team participated in tournaments in Las Vegas or Phoenix for several days. The bills for these included registration fees, hotels, and “vacation” time for the parents.

Family Toll

My husband and I were spending two afternoons a week taking the one child to practice, in addition to the weekend trip. My oldest son wasn't on any teams and was getting the short shrift in terms of time and attention from us.

It was difficult to find the time or energy for other family activities that included everyone. This started to eat at us as life was centered around hockey for the second year in a row.

The Win-Win Answer

The hockey player in our family had been asking if he could play baseball and football. He really couldn't do either of these sports because of the long hockey season. I needed him to make a change anyway because the the family and financial burdens were becoming to high to continue.

He probably still thinks it was his decision to leave hockey for other sports. He loved playing both football and baseball and being on teams with his neighbors and school friends. The family won too because our pocketbook wasn't stressed and the schedule was saner.

Participating in a traveling sports team was a good experience overall, but I'm glad we found a way to save money and still give him the benefit of being part of a team.

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Margaret
Margaret

Growing up, my younger brother was also on a traveling hockey team. It didn’t just turn out to be a huge expense to my parents, but it put an awful lot of stress on my brother when he was 9-12 years old. My parents never pressured him to be a better player, but all the parents of the other team members did. You definitely did the right thing letting him leave that team.

Kay Lynn
Kay Lynn

Thanks, Margaret. Sounds like your parents did a good job with your brother.

Some kids don’t feel that pressure just like some parents have the extra money for the travel team. We learned, eventually, that we didn’t.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

Fútbol is really cheap to play, all you need is a ball. Same as basketball. You can add a a couple of goals and a bunch of friends and you’ve got a whole afternoon full of games. What happened to games? I’m asking because I’m planning to have children but I don’t know if I want them to grow up in America–parenting seems to be a very intensive pursuit in this country and seems to take a lot of resources beyond food, clothing, shelter, health care and education. This is an honest question by the way, not sarcasm, though I… Read more »

Nancy L.
Nancy L.

The problem is that even if *you* want your kid to just play outside rather than take part in organized sports, the way most neighborhoods operate today, it’s hard to find enough kids around to get a game going. We have around 12 kids that are in grades 2-6 in our neighborhood, but I rarely even see the kid across the street, let alone any of the other kids. This is because most parents either work (so kids are in afterschool care) or if they are home, they end up signing their kids up for activities…because there are no kids… Read more »

Janette
Janette

My daughter used to say that until she sent her hubby put with their son on the weekends. Slowly kids have emerged. They played a game of stickball last weekend in a “full time working” neighborhood townhouse area in Maryland- a dc suburb. She figures, she wants that for her kids- a neighborhood.

Kay Lynn
Kay Lynn

El Nerdo, Nancy makes a good point about problems that some have about finding a safe place to play.

I agree with you that free or low-cost sports opportunities are available.

In our case, my son is very competitive and wanted to compete at a higher level.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

thanks for the answers everyone. It looks like the existence of neighborhoods is crucial; where to find them is the question. my wife and i like to live in urban areas. there is a school bus that goes by in front of our current place, but i have no idea where the kids play– there’s a huge park a few blocks away from here, but you’ll go in the afternoon and there’s nobody there except for joggers and dog people. underage neutron bomb! i did my bit of competitive sports from age 12 and they are great and all, but… Read more »

Marsha
Marsha

We moved from an urban area to a suburban one when my sons were a toddler and a baby, mostly for this reason. There were no kids to be seen. The local park was just a couple of blocks away, but it was pretty much used as a dog toilet.

Rosa
Rosa

How is it on weekends? Or, is there another park where the kids hang out? Our neighborhood park (I live in a midsize city with a LOT of parks) has a lot of school-aged kids because the park building is home to a ton of kids programs; my son goes to afterschool program in a park that doubles as a school playground, so it’s also full of school-aged kids. There are 2 parks between here and there with NO school-aged kids except the ones having practice for organized sports – only old people and folks with toddlers, pretty much. A… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa

And, I forgot to say in my original comment – the middle-school and up kids here totally run free, on bikes and on the city buses, which I think is awesome – I grew up in a small town where every kid sat around waiting for a ride to somewhere most of the time. But the elementary and younger kids are *never* on their own, there’s too much fast traffic. I don’t know if that “bike ride to nowhere” ability still exists anywhere – when I lived in rural places as an adult, the parents didn’t allow it either.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

@ Rosa – was the weekends question for me? if so, that’s a good question, and i’ve never checked… My wife and I used to go jogging around that park in weekday mornings and we’d see some 40 school kids out waiting for the buses to pick them up. We go in the afternoons because it’s next to the public library, so we walk or drive by it, but i don’t think i’ve ever looked on weekends. There is another WPA-era park nearby, even has a football stadium, but for what I’ve seen (again, weekdays) it’s a grownup hangout, next… Read more »

Sara
Sara

Not only are the cost and time commitments intimidating, the social environment is also quite emotionally draining. My sister-in-law’s daughter was in a highly competitive dance program that drained the family’s finances and time. But, as a dance mother, she had to put up with the overly competitive dance parents. When she finally found a dance program nearby for her daughter without such heavy time/financial commitments, she was treated horribly by both the parents and instructors of the previous program. People forget that these kid of things are for children and not professional athletes, they’re supposed to be fun

Kay Lynn
Kay Lynn

Sara, good point about the issues with other parents. I’m glad your sister-in-law found a solution that worked for her family.

Many of the other parents were planning their child’s professional career which was crazy at that age.

It needs to be about what the kids want; not the parents.

Jared
Jared

This article is the most effective birth control I know of. I truly appreciate this.

Greg
Greg

Read an article this morning that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was also drafted as a catcher by the Montreal Expos. My point is that kids on travel and elite teams are sometimes pushed to excel for scholarship or pro dreams of their parents. However most elite athletes are exceptional in a number of sports – not just one. In other words, let the kids play what they want, when they want. Too much of one sport is not a good thing especially if the kids are not enjoying it. Finally recognize that, except for a VERY small percentage of kids,… Read more »

Kay Lynn
Kay Lynn

Greg, that’s an interesting fact about Tom Brady who I admire even though he beat my Chargers this year.:)

Parents need to remember it is about the kid’s goals as well as balance those against the family needs.

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars

Don’t have kids myself, but I’ve witnessed several of my suburbanite co-workers going through this with their kids. The expectations seem to range all over the map. Rarely is it about having fun. Many of them seem to think that investing all this time and money into away games and equipment and private coaching is going to build them a professional athlete. Even if thats sometimes true, the odds are against you. And the stories about the parents… wow. “Donating” to the league with the obvious expectation that its going to buy your kids play time or a starting position.… Read more »

Kay Lynn
Kay Lynn

I think the way we’re treating sports nowadays in schools as well as private teams has clearly gone in the direction of business as you noted.

Colleges seem to be forgetting that education is their business; not sports.

rdzins
rdzins

I look at many of the “professional” athletes and they are nothing but thugs. I do not want my kids to grow up using them as a role model. Why has our schools and colleges become so sport oriented? What about the kids who are more business oriented or maybe like to play sports but really don’t care if they watch it or play it? They are seen as cast offs or nerds. It seems that the education is cut out of the budget but when it comes to sports that is the last thing? I would like schools to… Read more »

Janette
Janette

I watched countless kids be devastated that they did not get recruited by NBA, NFL, Soccer league, professional volley ball…out of high school. They were disappointed time and time again that they did not get a scholarship to a top ten. They had, after all, been on a traveling team for 9 years.
I see it as a colossal waste of money to fulfill parental ego. It is just another way of keeping up with the jones.
Play school sports and don’t whine that you may have to pay.

Diane
Diane

Um, should this title be “Kid’s Sports” she asked oh-so-gently?

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski

No, it should be “kids’ sports”.

Kay Lynn
Kay Lynn

Tyler, you were right. Thanks!

Laura
Laura

My son (now 14) didn’t do professional team sports other than the local Little League. One of his best friends was doing LL and he both wanted and needed more socialization with kids outside of school. On the younger-age level, LL was great; the focus was on teamwork and having fun, so although they lost nearly every game, he had a great time. The cost was $35 + purchasing cleats + dinner at McDonald’s. When he moved to the older group and it was clear LL would become competitive, he & I agreed it was no longer a good fit.… Read more »

Erika
Erika

Thank you so much for your perspective. Even smaller-scale activities get expensive. My kids aren’t crazy about team sports, but they love art classes, skating classes, camp, swimming, etc. I don’t want to “deny” them their passions, but we are working on finding some kind of balance.

Kay Lynn
Kay Lynn

Thanks. I was hoping our experience would help other parents understand what’s involved before they get into travel teams.

Ross Williams, Grand Rapids MN
Ross Williams, Grand Rapids MN

These kind of hyper-organized sports leagues have always been more about parents than kids. That is not necessarily bad. As the author points out, the result is a lot of attention from their parents.

As a practical matter, there really is no alternative for kids to organized leagues, whether school or independent. They live in auto dependent communities where the other kids in the “neighborhood” are largely strangers. They spend their time with friends chosen by their parents. If their parents don’t organize it, its not going to happen.

krantcents
krantcents

Team sports teach our children great skills. I spent many nights at games where my son was playing literally minutes in the beginning. Eventually, he was a starter on a championship team. I think he learned a lot from the experience.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski

You can’t tell me about the “high cost” of sports without saying how much they cost. It’s like writing an article about housing prices or health insurance that just says, “they’re expensive”.

It cost me an extra $300/month to add my daughter to our health instance? Is that “high cost”? Is it more or less than you were spending on hockey? Based on the article, I have no idea.

Jennifer+B
Jennifer+B

Ok, to give you some perspective on the pricing. My daughter is on a local swim team. It’s not the cheapest in our area, but it’s the most convenient for us with the pool only 1.5 miles from our home. And given the amount of time we’re at the pool, convenience is worth a lot for us. My daughter is 10, in the 2nd level of 5 or 6 that go through high school (they’ll also coach college students home on break etc.). She has scheduled practices 5 days per week and a swim meet one weekend per month that… Read more »

Kay Lynn
Kay Lynn

Tyler, that’s a good point but our experience was so many years ago I don’t have current figures.

In 1996, ice time alone cost $2,000 per year. Add in equipment, tournaments, travel costs and I would say that was another $1,000 for a total of $3k annually.

First+Step
First+Step

My daughter plays volleyball on her high school’s team in the fall, and many of the local high school (and some middle school) athletes play “club” volleyball during the winter/spring. Based on skill level and desire to travel, fees can range from $1,500 to $6,500 for a 3-5 month season. Practices are twice a week, and tournaments are 1 or 2 weekends per month.

We will skip this time and monetary expense and wait for spring rec league, which is $33 for 2.5 months. The skill level is definitely lower, but so is the stress level.

DebtTips
DebtTips

There’s not only the financial cost but the emotional one. Having coached youth and high schools sports I’ve seen many a kid “burn out”. Sure, there are those who reach a high level. But that can happen equally to those kids who start at a young age, and those who start later. So don’t be so sure that early, intense sports experiences will lead where you (the parent) want them to lead to!

Ru
Ru

Plus all the injuries, which can really mess with emotional wellbeing. I’m on the cheerleading squad at university (we’re an arts university in the UK and we’re a fairly low level team, nothing like university level in the USA), and have seen girls get injured time after time. A ligament in my right arm was damaged fairly badly in the run up to, and during, our nationals competition. I’m studying ceramic design, so I’m expected to lift heavy bags of clay, throw clay on the wheel, etc. The last few weeks of term were absolutely frustrating for me as I… Read more »

Stacy
Stacy

We have four children (9y-21m) and from the beginning have limited activities because of financing. We often only let one child do one activity per season, but soon had only one activity with as many children could play per season to limit being pulled in many directions. Now, b/c of finances and time, we do scouts (with poor attendance)and have made biking our primary mode of transportation (economic choice but also great exercise). My eldest recently choose the free fencing close by with no commitment year round over the expensive swim team with nightly practice and away meets. We didn’t… Read more »

Chris
Chris

I think that’s a great approach! I’ve done two cycling trips in Europe where I paid $3,000 for several days of touring and one trip with my son’s scout troop where we paid $120 each for several days. Of course with scouts we slept in tents and there was no wine served, but the trip was world class and we took a route that was being traveled by two other tour companies charging the higher rates. If my kids were extremely competitive in a specific sport I’d be more inclined to invest, but I agree it’s nice to have them… Read more »

Becka
Becka

Score another one for the “no kids” camp. 😛

/unnecessary comment

Esme
Esme

Then why bother making one? Does it make you feel morally superior somehow?
Lame.

Becka
Becka

Nope, I sure don’t. Kids bring a lot of value into the lives of those who choose to have them, and while they know those kids cost them a lot more money, I’m pretty sure most of them would say it’s worth it. For me? It’s not. And I’m glad that I don’t have to deal with these types of dilemmas – I know my parents made some tough calls on activities for me they were on the borderline of being able to afford, and it sucks to have to be in that situation.

Esme
Esme

Then why did you bother to say anything at all? Seriously, go read some other blog if this post doesn’t apply to you and spare us your self-righteous ‘See I don’t have kids so I don’t need to worry about any of this expensive crap haha’ garbage. Maybe you’ve been pressured to have kids and you feel its some sort of triumph to buck the status quo or something, but to toss a smarmy comment like you did in a conversation that you have absolutely nothing relevant to contribute to, is completely inappropriate and childish.

CT Smith
CT Smith

Becka’s just being funny! Being someone who also doesn’t have kids, we have to make light of the fact that EVERYONE is ALWAYS nagging us about having kids. Whether we can have them or not…

Anyway, I just love reading the comments!! Seems like there’s so many good parents with good values out there! It’s a nice change from all the “sky is falling we’re a bunch of narcissists” news!

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski

Every time people make this sort of comment I’m reminded of people like my father-in-law, or J.D.’s mother. Where would these people who no longer have their spouses and have difficulty taking care of themselves except for the help of their grown children? But hey, with all the money you save on hockey gear, I’m sure you can spend your golden tears alone in a really nice apartment in managed care facility! Yo udon’t have to have kids. It’s your choice, and nobody’s going to complain on the internet about what you’ve chosen, unless you are going to be all… Read more »

Becka
Becka

Is that why you had children? So someone would feel obligated to care for you without you paying them when you’re old? I don’t know what my life will be like when I get up in years, whether I’ll be independent ’til the end or completely helpless. There are things I’m willing to do to hedge my bets on that front – save money, stay active, don’t smoke/drink to excess, eat healthfully. Not on that list is, “birth and raise a child I want for no other reason than elder care.” Does it occur to me? Hell yeah it does;… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski

I didn’t have kids for any other reason than because I thought it would be an adventure unlike anything else I’d done before. What Christmas will be like when I’m old has crossed my mind, though.

I’m not saying you should have kids. I’m saying you should not throw out inflammatory comments about how great you are because of that decision.

Becka
Becka

Tyler, perhaps you might want to follow your own advice and not throw out comments like, “I can’t help but think what it’s gonna be like for you when you’re old and can’t take care of yourself. Enjoy your managed care facility.” I mean, really.

I don’t think I’m superior to parents. I think my husband and I made the right choice for us, and besides simply not wanting kids, financial issues like this are a big reason why.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski

I was following my own advice and not saying anything like that right up until you had to go and start provoking people (me). You probably meant your initial comment in jest, but it did not come across that way. I’m sorry I responded in kind to yours with another inflammatory comment, but when you said, “I mean, really.” in response to my “managed care” comment, the way you were feeling when you read my comment was pretty much how everyone else probably felt when they read your initial “non-parents WIN!” comment. That’s why I posted it, it was supposed… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda

Tyler I disagree. From your first comment of the day you’ve been cranky.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski

Thanks for your insightful comment Amanda! 🙂

Becka
Becka

I’m sorry you felt my comment was meant completely seriously, despite my smiley face (oh lord, it’s hard to take myself seriously using that as a point) and clearly tagging it as “unnecessary,” but I did at least try to communicate my playful tone, which you did not. I don’t judge others’ choices to be parents; I only judged it as the wrong choice for me, and am glad that I don’t have to make these calls.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth

@Tyler and Becky– I suggest you spend some time in a long term care facility and see how people really treat their parents and grandparents. They are stories that will touch your heart — and others that will break it. Just because people have kids doesn’t mean they will get any support. Many seniors get more support from their family, church and community than they do from their family. I know people who didn’t/couldn’t have kids and never did without support because of other family members and friends. If you two want to feel superior to someone, feel superior to… Read more »

Becka
Becka

I hope you know there’s nothing I can feel about your situation other than truly sorry.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth

lol. Can you tell I’m sometimes caught between friends in the “it’s all about the kids” and the “why the heck would you want kids” camps?

Contrary to what both sides think, I’m not a write-off yet 😉

PawPrint
PawPrint

Sadly, sometimes grown children are not the help you think they’re going to be. They have their own lives and their own problems, and sometimes they end up with spouses who really aren’t disposed to caring for their in-laws. And, even worse, sometimes our kids have spouses who make it difficult, if not impossible, for our kids to even visit us. I’ve known several people in that sad situation.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth

I agree with you there. Some of the research I’ve done on retirement trends suggests that people are afraid of becoming burdens to their children rather than relying on their children for support.

I think we all just and support and companionship throughout our lives, and that sometimes comes from sources we don’t expect — and not from sources we do expect.

Callie
Callie

Good point, Tyler – here are the specifics for my area, though I’m sure they vary by region. My boys are 8 & 10 and they play for their elementary school. The baseball and basketball teams are about $125 each, including a uniform and some shared equipment (catcher’s gear and batting helmets) but most kids have their own bats and gloves. They have two practices a week and two games a week (often the practices cease once the games start, but depends on the coach). Cost wise, I find this quite reasonable – it’s really in the same range as… Read more »

getagrip
getagrip

I’ll take some exception to this. My son has played a variety of sports, baseball, karate, soccer, etc. He got on the high school swim team, tennis team, football team, and the volleyball team. He was never on a travel team. There may be some advantages due to practice and play time via travel teams, but knowing some general rules of conduct and expectations of the sport can still get you on the teams. Now if the question was was he their top performer on each of these teams the answer was no. However he was good enough to make… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen

This is very much a situation thing. I live in a subarb of semi-large city and what Callie says applies to our experience. Our boys played on their HS soccer teams that were made up entirely of boys that played soccer year-round. Zero played rec soccer. Of course, this is a state ranked program, but it’s more common than not in our conference.

Football is a different story, Cross Country and Track are different, and probably swimming, but I do think most sports trend this way these days.

Katy+@+The+Non-Consumer+Advocate
[email protected]+The+Non-Consumer+Advocate

My kids both play soccer, and have done so since their shin guards were a few inches high. However, we made a decision for them to play “Recreational Soccer” rather than “Classic Soccer.” This meant $45 vs. $1000 and no traveling for games. The focus is on individual development vs. winning and it’s part of our local community. Then my husband decided to coach, then he decided to join the non-profit board. He now volunteers at least 30 hours per week for soccer, but you know what? It’s been a great thing for him. He’s made great friends, he’s contributing… Read more »

Sara
Sara

I agree. Both of my kids play rec sports through the town. One sport each of 3 seasons. Soccer, basketball, baseball/softball. Cost is about $20 per team. Coaches are great, supportive, motivational about effort rather than results. There is one practice and one game per week. They both have learned a lot about playing on a team, challenging themselves, losing gracefully and just having fun learning something new. And they make new friends and get some exercise. I think it is an all around positive experience for them both. I do wish there were still neighborhood whiffle ball games or… Read more »

Doug
Doug

As a boy I very much enjoyed (still enjoy) informal neighborhood baseball and football, but my taste for organized team sports was ruined in little league in the 70’s – and this was well before the current insanity with youth sports. I turned onto bicycling (Greg Lemond days and “Breaking Away”) and competitive shooting. These two sports plus Scouting made me real happy as a boy – to the point where I PAID MY WAY on most of the expenses and even better – I still engage in all three activities thirty years later. I see so many 20 to… Read more »

Jacqueline Ross
Jacqueline Ross

Great post! It’s so true but the increasing time, financial and other costs are not limited to just ‘elite travel teams’. My son is not an ultra competitive player but loves sports. We steered clear of the ‘competitive’ travel teams and signed up for the local Little League instead. It was a 2 yr nightmare. In addition to shelling out a couple hundred dollars for registration, there was another hundred or so demanded for practice uniforms, coach gifts, snacks and weekly batting cage time. The kids were expected to spend 2+hrs 4 nights a week at practices plus show up… Read more »

Amy+F
Amy+F

We signed our 7 year old up for Little League this spring ($100 plus occasional snacks and a little volunteering at the concession stand) and while it did feel like a big time commitment, it wasn’t nearly as much as you’re talking about. He had 2 90 minute practices a week and 1-2 games with total time of 2 hours with warmup. All the practices and games were under a 10 minute drive — usually in easy biking distance. The coaches and parents were wonderful, fostering love of the game and learning the basics. Yeah, they were excited to win,… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda

Thanks for the well written post. N/a as I don’t have kids but I see friends going through the emotion of feeling poor compared to other acquaintances cause they can’t put their kids in a lot of activities cause of cost.

Linda`
Linda`

My daughter swam for years,just quit. Even on a not so elite level, had we known exactly what we were in for, we may have discouraged it. Practice started at four days a week, went to six plus doubles a couple of times a week. We live over 100 miles from the nearest competitive team and meets are all weekend. We were relieved when she quit. The moral to this has been that there are a lot of sports you don’t want to participate in unless you are in a metro area with easy access to competition, where the travel… Read more »

Shawn G
Shawn G

I coached youth hockey for several years, and it amazed me how many parents were willing to spend extra time and money on travel hockey. I still don’t understand what the upside of travel hockey is. It costs more money, takes up more time, and can be less fun than house hockey (local teams). Whenever parents asked me if their kid should try out for the travel team the next year I would always encourage them to stick to house hockey simply because it was typically as fun or more fun for their child, and less of a time and… Read more »

Jaime+B
Jaime+B

A friend of mine has 2 children, 12 and 10. Her husband volunteers as a soccer coach for the 10 yo and is so good with the kids that there are waiting lists for his team. Last year, he even coached 2 teams just because there were so many parents wanting their kids on his team. This is NOT a competitive league, so his goal is for everyone to play and everyone to score a goal sometime during the season. He encourages the kids, teaches them how to play and his approach lets them have fun. It’s lovely to hear… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa

We don’t do team sports. I won’t say we never will, but I am very hesitant to sign my kids up for anything that disrupts the dinner hour or our family time together. My kids are athletic and thin….if there were neighborhood games that would be fine, but I refuse to cart them all over town, eating fast food, sitting my butt on a bleacher. Today, they jumped on the trampoline, pushed each other in the garden cart, dug weeds and mowed the lawn. They are upstairs vacuuming their rooms as I type. They take only piano, and it is… Read more »

Mark
Mark

We have made the same decisions and while we occasionally question it, it’s the right choice. We have five kids — how could we possibly manage a hectic sports schedule? I think the kids will turn out fine.

G. M. N.
G. M. N.

I was unable to spend loads on our kids and their activities. We lived in the country and they needed to participate when possible for us. Both my husband and I worked. He was a school bus driver. Luckily we lived near a small town & school. I told my children no more than two activities each, each year. My daughter signed up for Campus Bowl and worked on the school newspaper. Her last 3 years she worked on the newspaper only. No travel, money, etc. It was all done in school, about school activities and learning experiences. My son… Read more »

Sandra
Sandra

My DH and I decided that our 6yo DD could do two activities – Girl Scouts and the choice between soccer, gymnastics, or dance. She chose gymnastics, but then told me yesterday that she also wanted to play soccer (some of her friends play). We will probably let her revisit her choice in the spring…

denise
denise

My 13yo dd has been involved in ballet for 7 years. Ballet has become increasingly more expensive and time-intensive with each passing year. DH and I do not keep dd in ballet for our own satisfaction/glory. On the contrary, we would drop all of this in a heartbeat if dd ever tired of it. However, since ballet has been a great source of enjoyment, accomplishment and friendship for dd, we make it work financially.

PB
PB

My youngest did ballet for 9 years until she blew out her knee at age 12 (showing off, I might add). This triggered a profound depression which she is still dealing with 10 years later. In any discussion of costs, we must also consider the psychic ones. All she ever considered being was a ballerina, and when that was not possible she could not develop a back-up plan, in spite of all we have tried to do to help her. On the positive side, she started dancing again for the first time last week. Her last knee surgery seems to… Read more »

joanne
joanne

Ok here comes my 2 cents! I feel that since you never get those childhood years back, no do-overs,if you can manage competitive sports, and your kids like it then go-for-it!! We have a competitive dancer in ballet-pointe, lyrical and jazz (she dropped hip hop and modern this year due to the fact she is graduating). She has always been an honor student, and her time-management skills are amazing!! Many hours of technique classes are required to excel in dance so kids learn persistance. Her years of dance have inspired her to want to become a physiotherapist. Our other child… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five

I agree with you. I really think being a good parent involves finding and supporting your child’s passion. And all of it takes a ton of time and probably money – and if that’s sports or dance or music or art or magic – whatever it is isn’t nearly as important as the heightened sense of accomplishment and self esteem your child will gain from practicing and succeeding at something he loves.

bkwrm
bkwrm

Our family doesn’t really do sports, but last year, when I went to the scholarship/award assembly at our daughter’s high school, I couldn’t help but notice that many non-athletic scholarships frequently required or favored participation in some kind of school sport. Some of the students receiving college scholarships were involved in so many activities I can’t imagine how they got more than a few hours sleep each day. I guess that’s what it takes to appear “well-rounded.” Yikes! Participating in class government or community oriented groups also seemed to be a favorable factor for scholarships. Unless a kid just loves… Read more »

Andy
Andy

Am I the only one who feels like this is a parenting blog…

Amy
Amy

This article couldn’t be more perfectly-timed for us. We have 3 children in rec sports–soccer and baseball, depending on the season. Over the past couple of weeks, my husband and I have been discussing whether or not to have our oldest (5th grader) start playing travel ball. Here’s the issue for us. Our 10 year-old son is VERY competitive and VERY into sports. He plays on rec teams, plays sports on our street with friends, plays sports video games, has 2 fantasy football teams…you get the idea. He is naturally athletic, and is generally the best or one of the… Read more »

sandycheeks
sandycheeks

I agree about sports/activities having the potential to indirectly save money. We are busy on the weekends so we can’t go to every birthday party (at $25 a gift.) We don’t have time to wander the mall for entertainment and spend unnecessarily. Also, some of these activities actively teach financial literacy. Did you know that there is a brownie patch (ages 2nd and 3rd gr) for “money manager” and “philanthropist” these are in addition to patches for the cookie business. Even the youngest participants (daisies in K/1st gr) can earn patches for “Money counts’ and “Making choices” For us, it’s… Read more »

Jaime+B
Jaime+B

Honestly, your son may be the flip side of the coin. He genuinely wants to play and he wants and needs to play at a higher level (assuming the traveling team is a higher level – something you’ve checked out?). And really, while most kids don’t go on to get sports scholarships, compete in the Olympics or play pro/semipro sports, you can’t forget the ones who do. As long as your kid has the desire and you can afford to fund it, why not? He might end up as an elite athlete and even if he doesn’t, he still gets… Read more »

Coach D
Coach D

I’m a travel hockey coach, just starting my 8th year as a “non-parent” coach (I don’t have any kids (yet)). I understand the costs associated with competitive hockey. This season we’re paying more than $1000 per tournament (for the team) – with 4 tournaments, association fees, jerseys, sticks, gas (the majority of our road games are an hour away). It all adds up. Honestly, in my opinion, it’s not the financial costs that are the hardest to bear. In addition to the direct costs, the players go through a lot of stress. It is “competitive” youth hockey, with a high… Read more »

KM
KM

The Midwest is really insane about kids sports. I looked into it for my 2 kids when they were in grade school, but I was WAY turned off by the intense commitment (practice EVERY day after school, and you had to commit to games every weekend and also the traveling games, and if you missed even one practice/game they punished the kid by not playing them) and the coaches (screaming at kids, stressing winning above all else etc). Their dad and I both work full time–if we had done the sports thing it would really have meant that we wouldn’t… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five

How did your kids get black belts without huge time and financial commitments from you? My kids do or have done all the things you’ve mentioned and they’ve all cost a fortune and/or took huge time commitments (with the exception of swim lessons which are generally cheap and convenient). Piano lessons might be convenient but they’re not usually cheap. The only thing missing from all that stuff you’ve described is the outwardly aggressive parents. But Lego robotics and Tae Kwon Do both have uber competitive parents all over the place – it’s just that the coaches themselves are more encouraging… Read more »

KM
KM

Yes Tai Kwon Do was pricy but it was only once per week with the occasional Saturday competition if iyou want to participate. If you miss the class, that’s your problem–your kids aren’t ostracized or kicked off the team, and they can progress through the belts at their own speed & level. Lego robotics is fun–no uber competitive parents, just fun, or my kids wouldn’t be doing it. Swim classes in the summer were taught by the Red Cross. I’m more worried about the time cost and psychological pressure of kids sports, than the monetary cost. But I am happy… Read more »

Jan
Jan

Having worked on the managment end of traveling hockey for 10 years it is pretty common knowledge that it is evident by 8th grade if a child will ever be good enough for the pros. If a kid has “it” they will shine through by that age on the local club teams too and, believe me, the college/pro coaches will find him/her and will find the parents too.

Kristen
Kristen

I’m surprised at all of the negativity surrounding travel teams! I’m going to be one of the few dissenting voices here when I say that having my daughter play on a travel soccer team this season has added a very negligible amount to the cost of playing rec soccer. The fee was slightly higher, but included a much nicer uniform (with two jerseys!) and we spend a little more on gas driving to away games every other weekend. It could be because soccer, compared to other sports, doesn’t require much in the way of equipment? My daughter was frustrated playing… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five

Our daughter is in competitive Irish dance. She competes on the national level and one day hopes to go to the worlds. It’s expensive. At this point, we can afford it. However, she makes money teaching dance and doing the occasional performance – she could fund her costumes, shoes, lessons and travel if we couldn’t. I don’t know if she’d be as committed if she were funding her own dancing. As it happens, Irish Dancing has been a wonderful activity for her self esteem. We’ve all made lifelong friends. For our family, the time commitment has been much more troublesome… Read more »

Tiffany
Tiffany

The fees and time add up quick. My son want to ride dirt bikes and in the beginning we thought no problem hes dedicated lets do it. Between purchasing the motorbike and gear then traveling to the races not to mention as he go older he needed a bigger bike. Lucky for us he changed to basketball. We were going through the same thing except there was not other child to deal with.

Tanya
Tanya

I have a younger brother who was involved in travel hockey from age 7 to 15. A LOT of pressure was put on him to perform (by my parents, other parents, coaches, and team mates), plus keep his grades up. Being able to function at school after a 5:30 am practice was unrealistic. And forget about relaxing on the weekends. My sister and I were required to tag along on all weekend games, which I guess was ok. But make no mistake, travel sports affect the whole family. My sister has her son in travel hockey. A few years ago… Read more »

Dan M53
Dan M53

Hockey is the greatest sport, but the toughest on the wallet. I worked with a guy in the 80’s who had 2 kids on elite means in MA, where hockey can be a lifestyle. Back then he figured it cost him $15,000. Not to mention the separate weekends for his wife and him as they each traveled with one kid.

The kids are adults now and still play in adult leagues!

29 and holding
29 and holding

I remember watching Dorothy Hamill (sp?) in the Olympics. They had one of those “up close and personal” stories about her. Her family had spent everything on costumes, hair, poise lessons, motivational counseling, psychologists, not to mention skating. Her siblings were just sitting there, and no one asked them anything. It made me feel very sad for them, though the parents stated that this was a family commitment.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth

In addition to learning skills, teamwork, and time-management from high-commitment activities, kids are also given the chance to show perseverance, dedication, performance under pressure, graciousness in defeat, etc. All these skills are highlighted in competitive sports or other activities. Rec leagues are great for exercise and learning (and have some fantastic coaches), but they don’t prepare kids for hyper-competitive educational or professional environments they may encounter. I know personally I received more interview offers coming out of school because I had demonstrated leadership in an athletic activity (captain of the dance team at my school). Especially with the lack of… Read more »

KittyWrestler
KittyWrestler

I am a very competitive mother, but I am never a supporter to enroll young kids in competitive teams. I was on the travel school basketball team as the captain curing my entire middle and high school years, that was my least favorite thing to do. Too much stress. My favorite part of my childhood was to play freely with my neighbor kids in the afternoon before dinner or hang out with my mom and dad (mostly dad) in the parks and museums. Or go to my cousins house to hang out and do whatever. I have seen too many… Read more »

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