Youth Sports is an Estimated $17 Billion Industry Now And We Keep Supporting It
That Makes Us Partially To Blame. But what are we getting for our money?
People complain about the skyrocketing costs of participating in youth sports often.
The costs of having a player participate in highly competitive soccer are extremely high, especially when you add the travel costs for participating in U.S. Soccer Development Academy, ECNL and even US Youth Soccer Regional and National competitions.
Youth sports is now an estimated $17 billion industry, largely driven by travel teams, or as it is known on the West Coast, competitive soccer.
Travel is expensive. The hospitality industry is the real winner.
Of course, parents want to watch their kids compete. A family’s youth soccer travel budget usually expands from the costs to cover just one player traveling with a team to absorb airplane tickets, car rentals, and hotel accommodations for adults.
While it is lovely to cheer your player on from the sideline and enjoy being with the other parents at the bar, these travel expenses are luxuries.
But how many parents actually say the word no?
- No, I am not paying several thousand dollars for my kid to travel to Florida or California to maybe be seen by unidentified college coaches.
- No, I will send my player with the team and stay home, saving thousands of dollars.
- Or, say no to footing the bill for their kid to play in tough competitions far from home and spend a week in a hotel?
A huge problem is the costs of travel.
We — soccer parents — are all guilty of wanting to see our kids compete. The glamour of traveling around the USA and experiencing the life lessons team travel affords is hard to refuse. But by never saying no, we are silently agreeing to pay for these soccer-related costs, all contributing our share to the multi-billion dollar sports industry.
And, let me not get started on the money spent on private training and $200 plus cleats.
Many people say the big problem is the pay-to-play system, but I disagree.
Has anyone else done the math on the typical club fees?
If you pay $3,000 to a prestigious youth soccer club for your player to be on a U.S. Soccer DA team, that ten-month season breaks down to a monthly cost of $300.
Note: $3,000 is a lot of money. While many clubs offer installment plans to play club fees over a period of time or accept credit cards, $3,000 is a large sum of money that can be used in many different ways … the choice of what club to join and what is affordable is a highly personal one. The purpose of this financial breakdown is to explore the value of accepting a roster spot and participating on a high-level Development Academy team.
Divide the monthly cost of $300 by 4.2 weeks per month (the average number of weeks in a month) and the weekly cost is $71.43. DA teams practice four times a week, so the actual per-practice session is $17.86 for 1.5 hours to 2 hours. That breaks down to the per-player training session cost for a DA team of $11.90 an hour.
A licensed professional is supervising your kid in an outdoor activity where they are getting exercise instead of being tied to their screen for $11.90 an hour seems like a great idea.
This is a good deal, and less than most teenage babysitters want per hour.
For less an hour than the costs of a Latte and a Protein Box at Starbucks, my kid is getting trained outdoors and is physically active.
What this means is that the basic costs of participation in high level, top rated and usually expensive youth soccer clubs is actually a real value when you break down the fee to join the team.
Based on this math, the cost of the daily youth soccer team training per player — often with an experienced, U.S. Soccer ‘A’ licensed coach, is less than the hourly rate of $12 for minimum wage.
This does not mean everyone can afford it. And, for those in financial need, the majority of DA clubs offer scholarship programs to talented players. Are there enough scholarships available? Never. Are there families with too much income to really qualify to help but not enough money to afford to pay for their kids to play? Absolutely. Does something need to be done? Yes … but the culprits in this scenario are not the club’s fees.
Who Get’s Hurt the Most?
The Aspen Institute‘s new survey confirms that kids from lower-income homes participate in organized sports less often than children from wealthier homes. The average income in the USA is $59,039.
According to research from the
While travel costs are the costliest expense in youth sports, surprisingly, youth soccer does not earn the rank of the most expensive youth sports.
From the Aspen Institutes Survey: Kids Quit Most Sports By Age 11
On average across all sports, parents spent more annually on travel ($196 per sport, per child) than equipment ($144), private lessons ($134), registration fees ($125), and camps ($81). For all the costs associated with youth sports and how the sport of youth soccer compares, please look at the 2019 National State of Play Report.
Personally, I could only dream of such low prices for equipment and camps, but still, I believe I am giving my child a great gift.
Participating in a high-level team dictates a healthy lifestyle; good nutrition, not staying out late at parties and staying away from drugs and alcohol. Maybe the gift is really for me.