Kids were running all over an indoor athletic training facility on a field divided in half by a large floor-to-ceiling net. On the left side of the net was a lacrosse league, and to the right, a baseball team. I sat and watched both practices for a while, taking inventory of the equipment being used. Based on what I was seeing, I figured that several thousand dollars were out on that field.
That, as it turns out, was conservative.
A lacrosse mom sat next to me. I asked her what the average set-up costs were for a player’s stick, pads, helmet and shoes. The average was, by her estimate, anywhere from $250 to $600.
With at least 30 lacrosse kids, I was looking at nearly $20,000 in equipment and shoes. That was only half of the kids there, and that figure did not include league fees, facility rental, and the gas for getting everyone to and fro.
According to a 2004 piece produced by Mark Koba with CNBC, we spend upward of $7 billion on youth sports, and youth sports-related travel, in this country every year. Let’s try to put that number in context. That’s more than the GDP of the entire country of Monaco.
Recently, as I seem to do every off season, I spent considerable time in thought over plans for the upcoming soccer season. Where would my son play? Stay local or go with a metro club? Who would coach? What are the fees? Will it put my son in the best position to learn and advance his skills? These were just a few of the considerations. Notice, however, that my first question wasn’t “which option would be the most enjoyable for him?” In fact, I don’t recall even asking him about this at all.
Last May, Kevin Helliker, with the Wall Street Journal, wrote about a correlation between the increase in parental spending and the overall level of dissatisfaction our children feel regarding sports. It appears that the more parents spend, the more pressure we bring to bear on our young athletes. The increase in pressure seems to be creating stress and animosity. Imagine that: money and parents creating problems. That’s quite a news flash, isn’t it?
The NCAA provides estimated probabilities of your child’s chances of going pro. According to the NCAA, my son has a 1.2 percent of playing college basketball, and a .03 percent shot to make the NBA. His odds in soccer really skyrocket, though. His chances of playing in the MLS jump all the way up to .04 percent.
Even though I’ve never had a real expectation that my son would play sports in college, let alone go pro, I’ve always encouraged athletics as a way to build essential life skills such as physical fitness, goal setting and team building, and as a way to reinforce that nothing good happens without practice and consistent effort. Moreover, he really likes playing sports; at least I certainly hope he does.
I don’t recall ever spending $250 on equipment for a class in English; I do not transport him to math and science practice three to four nights a week; and I haven’t yet fretted over playing recreational or competitive social studies. There’s a 99.96 percent chance that my son is going to go pro as anything but an athlete.
I should really let that notion sink in, but we’re late to soccer practice.
Bill Filer writes occasionally for 816. He lives in Harrisonville.