Breaking the Bank by Gambling on Youth Sports

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Did you know that nearly 20% of U.S. families spend more than $12,000 a year on youth sports per child? Most families have multiple children and pay this fee every year as their children grow up.

Although it can be expensive, playing sports as a child offers many character building experiences and skills that are useful throughout one’s life, including hard work, leadership, teamwork, and communication. Sports are a great way for children to socialize, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and stay out of trouble. It is only when parents take sports to the extreme that the essence and enjoyment of sports can be lost.

In today’s society, there is a great emphasis on sports, as it is a large part of American culture and enjoyment. Millions of children begin to play multiple sports at a young age, and they continue to progress through various sports programs. As competition thickens and parents become more emotionally invested in their child’s sports, they tend to spend more and more money towards the growing $15 billion industry. Secondary schools and colleges are looking to recruit athletes earlier on now, further motivating parents to pump money into their child’s athletic development.

Years ago, athletes would take part in town organized or recreational sports, but now, the options of travel teams, club sports, camps, and private coaching are popularizing in order to further develop their kid’s skills to gain an advantage over their peers on the playing field. With these additional commitments comes a multitude of expenses, because on top of the tuition, parents must pay for equipment, tournament fees, gas, sleep accommodations, injuries, and even airfare.

The increasing price for sports puts many families in difficult financial situations where sometimes they have to choose between a vacation or sports. Financial advisors recommended that parents save for retirement and college before spending money on sports. Because of the sense of love and gratification parents receive from their child’s joy, they are apt to spend large amounts of money on their child’s sports. Parents also face competition and peer pressure from other parents and coaches, causing them to invest in their child’s sports in hopes of them being the “best.”

Consequently, many parents have high hopes of their child playing a sport in college or professionally and even earning a financial scholarship. It is not necessarily bad that parents are so supportive of their children, but this can lead to a sense of arrogance and can put unnecessary pressure on the child. The reality is that every other parent on a given sports team feels the same way towards their own child because 67% of parents expect an athletic scholarship for their child. The chances of playing past high school are very slim, which is why parents should let their children play sports simply if they enjoy it, and not because they seek to gain a financial return.

When a child is playing multiple sports for town and club teams, the majority of their free time is devoted to sports. This does not seem to be a problem if the child enjoys playing the sport, but if they constantly play and are pressured by their coaches and parents to perform well, kids are susceptible to “burning out,” or losing interest and motivation for the sport. Someone will only reach a goal, such as playing a sport in college if they truly want it, so athletic dreams and work ethic cannot be forced onto a child.

Because playing sports is so beneficial for children, it is still important that they take part in them, but the extensive amounts of money spent on child athletes to improve their game is ridiculous. Parents should not put as much pressure on their children to succeed because they are going against stacked odds. It really all boils down to how talented a player is and how much effort they are willing to put in on their own, not what equipment they wear or what club team they play for. The life skills and enjoyment that children can gain from playing sports are far more valuable than any athletic scholarship.