If you've been a parent for more than five years, you probably already have an inkling that encouraging your children to play youth sports will cost a few bucks. But exactly how much it will cost you depends on the sport.
According to a 2016 survey from Utah State University, the average American family spends $2,292 a year for their kids to participate in youth sports. That's a significant outlay considering the average U.S. household income was $61,372 in 2017.
Here are the most popular youth sports listed from most to least expensive:
A lot of kids, like mine, play more than one sport. My sons play a sport almost every month of the year. They've participated in baseball, basketball, soccer, flag football, and swimming. It adds up but it doesn't have to break the bank.
My youngest son has recently joined the lacrosse team at his high school, so it hasn't been cost prohibitive for our family. We've also managed to escape excessive expenses with soccer and basketball because Charlotte still has thriving rec leagues. Unfortunately, that's not the case everywhere in America and many families have been priced out of youth sports due to the rise of the "pay to play" culture. That's a shame.
As a parent and a coach, I've been an eyewitness to the many benefits of playing youth sports. It's good for kids' physical development and health. It teaches them how to work with others and function as part of a team. It builds confidence and self-esteem. Parents shouldn't have to spend thousands of dollars with travel leagues to provide those positive experiences for their kids. Simply put, every child should have the opportunity to participate in sports, regardless of socio-economic background. I'm grateful that families in our area still have some affordable options like Charlotte Junior Soccer, Playbook For Life Youth Basketball, and the YMCA of Greater Charlotte.
There's another aspect of this issue to consider. Since kids from low-income families are half as likely to participate in organized sports than those from high-income families, we may miss out on seeing the next LeBron James, Sidney Crosby, Giancarlo Stanton, or Diana Taurasi. As a sports fan, I think that's a shame, too.