This year we dived into youth sports for the first time with our boys. Before this, we had done a few gymnastics classes here or there and a season of soccer for Sawyer. Now that they are five and seven, we took and plunge and did full seasons of soccer and now swim team. What we soon discovered is the high cost of youth sports.
There is a definite sense of pressure to involve kids in sports more now than ever. EVERYONE is doing it. My boys hear about the other kids playing soccer and other sports and want to do it. (Note: we do NOT do things just because other kids are. I actually love the lesson my kids learn when we say we are choosing not to do something or that we can’t afford to do something.) It seems more than ever that if your child doesn’t start sports at a very young age, they will be behind. We could tell that the other kids on my boys’ teams had a lot more experience in the sports, even at their young ages. I don’t want to worry about my kids not making a high school team if we choose not to play sports in preschool or early elementary.
The Cost of Youth Sports
- Money. To sign up, even “affordable” sports are expensive. We are living on one full-time income, so we cut corners however possible. Trying to do even two sports took its toll on our monthly budgets.
- More Money. There are often hidden fees. Like: uniforms and equipment and sometimes even a volunteer fee, team pictures, meals at meets, etc. Swim team was a little over $100 for a season per kid. Plus $30 team swim suit per kid. Plus a fee if you don’t volunteer. Plus a fee if you didn’t have someone buy a ticket for a fundraiser we didn’t know about. Plus food for the kids for those 5 hour meets. Plus goggles. Plus my therapy bills after a swim meet.
- Time. If you have more than one child and more than one child in sports, you know what I mean. Even if you can find carpool, that means you have to drive all over the place. Hour practice is more like two when you add in driving time and getting rest. We signed the boys up for soccer at a park two minutes from our house. Of course the practices were not there. And the boys were on different teams, sometimes with practices the same night in different places at slightly different times. It was utterly macabre.
- Quality Time. We have had a hard time with family dinners because Rob and I have weird schedules. Finally in the last year we started having a somewhat normal and regular and slightly enjoyable dinner. (If you struggle with family dinner, here’s a great post about that!) We eat at five or five-thirty and the kids go down around seven. Because so many parents on the teams worked, practice moved form five to six, which meant that ALL our kids were having to run around with us on those nights to one or the other practice. Same with swim team, which was four nights a week (until summer, when it’s now in the morning). Our dinners were destroyed and all bedtimes affected. All four of our kids were impacted by two of them being in sports. Plus we were in a rush to get there, so rushing = cranky = not quality time.
The Pros of Youth Sports
- Teamwork. It’s great for kids to interact with other kids and to learn to play well together. I loved seeing the boys enjoy team sports.
- Fun. This is debatable. I mean, sports are fun, but half the time when we were walking out the door, my boys were wanting to stay home and just play. Despite the fact that they BEGGED to do soccer and swim. But other times I would watch Lincoln on the field, laughing and screaming with joy as he ran after the ball and I had just as big of a smile on my face.
- Exercise. Yes! We try to be active in general, but sports are a great way to get those kids moving if they aren’t already.
Foundation for Serious Sports. As I mentioned, our boys were behind starting sports at 5 and 7 years old. Clearly the other kids had been playing longer. This may result in burnout, but it also may mean that our kids aren’t going to start for the high school football team.
- Skill Development. Your kids aren’t just learning that sport’s specific skill. They learn hand-eye coordination and listening to a coach and so many other life skills. They learn how to lose well and win well. (Hopefully—this may take some teaching on your parts, parents!) Sports can be a great teacher of all kinds of skills for your kids.
We are torn as a family. It really wore us out this year to shuttle two out of the four to sports. I can’t imagine doing this will ALL the kids. We have talked about waiting until the sports are attached to school, as in junior high soccer and baseball. I also found that despite the hard work of the coaches, Lincoln erupted as a great soccer player only after I spent two afternoons one week scrimmaging with him playing one on one in the backyard. How many of the pro’s up above could be accomplished by just parents playing with kids? Surely some of them. Plus—the bonus of YOU playing with your kids! Here is another family’s take on why you SHOULD have your kids in sports.
Have you experienced the high cost of youth sports? Are you a firm believer or do you stay away by choice or because of the cost? I’d love to hear your take!