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The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

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The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

Old 02-16-16, 11:09 AM
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The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

The expense, time commitment and effort required to support a kid who wants to participate in any sport these days in the US have all reached levels of absurdity.

For example, my 14 year old daughter is a competitive cheerleader. Here's the annual expense:
1. 1 year club membership: $2,800
2. Annual clothing and equipment costs (each year the kids get a new custom wardrobe including workout and competition clothing, custom shoes, custom bags, custom warm-ups etc): $1,000
3. Competition entries: $150 each, 5+ a year
4. Annual travel costs (competitions include Atlanta, Tampa, Ohio and potentially Arizona): ~$4,000

Total cost is approaching $10K / year. For one kid. I have two kids so multiply these numbers by 2X.

Add in effort: entire weekends spent at events, driving to airports, packing bags, finding dog sitters, driving to 4x weekly practices etc.

I'll be frank, I make an income that puts me in the top 2% in the country and yet I simply can't afford this sport. Savings, college funding, mortgages, etc all are hugely expensive. I can't understand who can afford these sports. And yet, when we went down to Atlanta this past weekend, there were so many cheerleaders that the entire city center was clogged with traffic. Tens of thousands of people pay these costs and invest this time every year.

Other sports are similarly expensive. Look into any travel team's costs in soccer, tennis, swimming, Hockey etc and they're comparable. This means hundreds of thousands of families spend this money and invest this time. Many families must be going into debt to support these activities.

I certainly value the exercise my daughter gets (competitive cheer is no joke in this regard) and I appreciate the feeling of accomplishment she gets from competing. I'm someone who places great value on fitness and responsibility and these sports do provide both. On the other hand, surely there are ways to garner those benefits without the over-the-top commitment these sports require these days.

These sports thrive because they put parents into an impossible situation: you want your kids to have good experiences and get some exercise so you enroll them. Parents don't want to feel that their time or money is being wasted so the sports get a little more professionalized, requiring more money and more commitment. If you don't make the commitment, you're a "cheapskate" or even a "bad parent". "Money should be the last concern when it comes to your kids" is the mantra. Over time this ratcheting up keeps escalating and eventually you're buying $1K worth of custom cheer clothing every year for 14 year old girls. It's maddening.

I've thought about sitting my daughter down and walking her through the numbers, but I don't want to make her feel guilty. On the other hand I want her to understand the value of a dollar. This is a tricky conversion.

You can just say no (as I've done with equestrian in the past) and then you feel guilty for "depriving" your kids. This is first world-y but a real problem for many, many parents. A better solution is for clubs and coaches to simply stop it: create local competitions, back off on the equipment demands, set up dual meets etc. The problem is that coaches and clubs are incented to up costs and commitment, not lower them. As a result, these lower commitment options basically don't exist. Parents bite the bullet, pay the fees and the cycle continues.

I did lots of sports as a kid and I don't recall anywhere near this level of professionalization. I was a nationally ranked swimmer as a kid and never flew to any competition. This seems to be something that just happened over the past twenty years. It needs to stop.
Old 02-16-16, 11:17 AM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

I'm guessing a lot of this has to do with cuts in education funding over the last few decades. Naturally, extracurricular activities like sports - especially 'niche' sports - will be among the first to be cut.
Old 02-16-16, 11:19 AM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

To be honest, if I was paying that kind of money for a competition sport, it would be one that would make it more of an investment. A sport where the child has a good chance to receive a scholarship or possibly a professional career.

Obviously, as long as parents are willing to pay, these places will exist. These places make a lot of money off of these competitions and the road to get there. But once you start on the road, it's difficult to stop. And you really can't use the excuse of "we don't have the money" because I'm sure your daughters are aware you do have the money.

Good luck.
Old 02-16-16, 11:32 AM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

The Booming Business of Cheerleading
August/September 2009

You Pay To Play

Parents usually pay between $2,000 and $3,000 in annual tuition and competition fees for an all-star program. The cost of uniforms — including makeup, hair ribbons, shoes, and more — can easily add several hundred dollars to the annual cost.

Most all-star squads attend 8 to ten competitions each year. Although many of the events are local or just a few hours away, most teams take at least one big trip each year, often cities such as Atlanta or Orlando, Fla. Parents pay for their own travel, lodging and often admission charges if they attend the competitions, which can last an entire weekend.

Families regularly spend hours at fundraisers, booster club meetings and parties. Private lessons that cost upwards of $25 for half an hour are common, and extra programs like Midwest’s “Flex Zone” flexibility class are popular as well.

There’s also plenty of merchandising to draw out the wallets at competitions; for example, you probably won’t escape a Jambrands event without some version of “Jammy,” the company’s mascot. Gyms often have team stores, which offer everything from luggage to jewelry, and they rent out space and equipment for parties and events.
http://cincymagazine.com/Main/Articl...ding_2796.aspx

Pretty much what the OP stated.
Old 02-16-16, 11:34 AM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

Originally Posted by wishbone View Post
Yeah, all true. The problem is that EVERY sport is like this these days.
Old 02-16-16, 11:35 AM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

Thanks for the heads up. Now I know what my 10 year old daughter won't be doing in the future.



Old 02-16-16, 11:48 AM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

Old 02-16-16, 12:28 PM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

I wish more rants could be that well thought out and put forth.

The time and money costs of sports are something that concerns me, too. My kids are too young now to worry about, but I imagine the time will come. If they are into sports, I want them to do well, especially since I was terrible and I remember how much it sucked at the time. On the other hand, I kind of hope they are bad at sports, so we can all spend our efforts elsewhere. On the other other hand, maybe if I would have been better at sports, I wouldn't have started drinking as a much as a teenager.
Old 02-16-16, 12:42 PM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

Personally, I think it is either the mothers or the kids. If that was something that came up in my house, I'd say no. "We will not pay $10,000 a year for your cheer career. Sorry." Nothing more than that.
Old 02-16-16, 01:03 PM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

Originally Posted by kvrdave View Post
Personally, I think it is either the mothers or the kids.
Because Dads never encourage kids to go into sports?

Last edited by cungar; 02-16-16 at 01:14 PM.
Old 02-16-16, 01:07 PM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

I have a 8 y/o niece in gymnastics and it's the same story. I feel sorry for the kid, she is at the gym 5 days a week and meets most weekends, often missing school on Friday. She also goes twice a day during breaks. Even the school sponsored sports now require private coaching and cost as much.

We tried sports when my son was young, and it is not his thing. He is in scouts and geeky games which both combined are tons cheaper, and more fun for us parents.
Old 02-16-16, 01:29 PM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

*Following for the inevitable photos of 18+ cheerleaders*
Old 02-16-16, 01:35 PM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

Both my daughters were in gymnastics up until last year and the price is equally comparable to cheer. I have a friend whose daughter dances and says it's nearly the same.

My wallet breathes easier, but I miss them doing it. It was fantastic exercise but they were at the gym 10 hours a week. Not to mention they went on different days so they never had a night together to just play and be kids.
Old 02-16-16, 01:40 PM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

I'm starting to face this with my kid, he loves Hockey. I'm thinking, there goes my retirement. He is 5 and they start ramping it up at around 7-8
Old 02-16-16, 01:46 PM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

With all due respect, if you're in the top 2% income threshold, then you have to be well educated. You know as well as your little 10 year old this is a matter of choice. You can get out of it if it's deem ROI is negative. You CHOSE to be like the every other poor parents in the convention. You CHOSE to folk over your precious money each and every time. You CHOSE the smile on your daughter's face is more important than the number in your bank account. Oh, I forgot this is just a rant, and not a call to action. Nevermind!
Old 02-16-16, 01:54 PM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

I have a 9 yr old daughter and 11 yr old son, and we stressed about this for awhile. For us it wasn't so much the cost (though definitely expensive) of the "club/travel" teams, but the ridiculous amount of practice time and stress to win that is put on the kids. My daughter was starting to hate gymnastics, because practices were so often and they spent so much time stretching, etc. We finally said screw it and dropped her back to a fairly basic tumbling class. She is so much happier now, just spending a little time each week out there. She really enjoys it again, and now she can't just walk through the family room, but instead cartwheels through. The same went for dance. There are CRAZY moms in dance, so instead she goes to a local dance class once a week where she learns a couple of dances a year and has a long-ass recital at the end.

For my son it was much the same. A lot of his friends started moving to club soccer a couple of years ago. While he really enjoys soccer, he also really enjoys the other sports at the school. The level of commitment needed by club soccer was such that it would be really difficult for him to do club soccer and basketball (or baseball). Instead we kept him at school soccer (with fewer of his friends), and able to still do the other things he wants to do. It's actually to the point now though that some of the boys that went to club soccer are asking to come back, because they miss playing with all of their classmates.

I feel like we kind of found the happy medium, and I think the whole family is better off for it. I don't want to completely disparage club though. Some of those boys are really good at soccer (or baseball) and have really thrived in those more competitive leagues. That just wasn't for us, and I am fine with that.
Old 02-16-16, 02:02 PM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

Took a kid to a shooting range the other day.

Cost?

About $20. Including me.

I did cheer her on, however, as she's a hell of a shot.

Of course, I'm not including the Red Robin visit.

If kids can get involved in the most simple of things, they will be excited and if you give them the attention and encouragement they need/want...the cost doesn't have to be (shouldn't be) outrageously expensive.

Instead of cheerleading or hockey, how about something that actually benefits a kid. Hiking skills, climbing skills, shooting skills, nautical activities, driving skills, etc. Feel-good competitions are so readily available because skills aren't necessarily required. Just the skill to process your credit card.

Rant was noted, however and there is just no way I'd ever fork out that much cash and not get something I could tell myself was making a great difference in a child's life and would help them in the future.
Old 02-16-16, 02:19 PM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

Your expense sounds light compared to some sports like baseball or hockey. Some parents are willing to provide whatever it takes to enable their children's success.

The early pressure does winnow the field quite considerably compared to prior generations. Some teenagers simply can't handle it, though one might say if you can't stand the pressure there never was much chance of success at an elite level.

Forget about your high school son becoming a quality collegiate or MLB pitcher unless you are prepared to fork out serious cash for training. Kids in high school now are throwing in the 90s with ease due to very sophisticated training techniques. Only the most dedicated and financially advantaged kids need apply.
Old 02-16-16, 02:25 PM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

Good rant, I could have said the same things as the OP myself, but not cheer-leading specifically, all sports however.

How most people do it is on credit, or at least that is what I have seen and heard from other parents.

You forgot one expense, private lessons/training over and above the normal team level stuff. This is at least $100 /week on top of everything the OP stated - maybe only applies to other sports and not cheer.

People have gone insane about making their little professional superstars the center of the world. I have found it impossible to have a child in any sport without this excessive behavior.

The other option is to just have your kid sit and watch TV all day and not be involved in sports at all. Yes it is an option, and those that can't afford sports do this, but for anyone that can even afford the credit to have their kid on a team does it.

It sucks in my opinion. I wish their could be a 'lesser' division that isn't insane and includes kids that just want to play instead of be professionals (but then all the other teams will make fun of you for being the shitty team ) It's no win

I hate to see where this is going to evolve to in 10-15 more years.

Parents are to blame more than kids. but it is what it is at this point, no turning back...
Old 02-16-16, 02:27 PM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

You have to remember, kids are into things like cheerleading for the social interaction and being part of the popular group that always goes along with it. If they have a strong desire for that aspect, taking them to a shooting range isn't going to cut it.

Luckily my kid currently has no desire to be part of the "in crowd". I'm praying that doesn't change.
Old 02-16-16, 02:28 PM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

So my kids should just stick to what they they're currently doing, playing video games?
Old 02-16-16, 02:35 PM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

My daughter plays hockey. It's not nearly as expensive as the OP's costs, but it can be if you want it to be. I figure we spend around $5k a year.

My wife and I had a good laugh when her lacrosse coach sent an email out asking if it was ok to add another tournament to the schedule because it would cost each of the girls an extra $30 (on top of that HUGE cost of $180 for the season).

I think a lot of the problems with sports is the year long commitment now. If you want to stay competitive, gone are the days of playing a sport during its "season" only. Obviously with dance, it sounds like there is no "season", but with hockey there's the regular season of Oct - March and then the "summer hockey" which is March - Sept. Then sprinkle in clinics and "weekend tournaments" and it basically never ends.

A few of the parents on her team and I were joking about wondering what they were going to do with all the free time during the 2 week break (first 2 weeks in March) until summer hockey starts up.
Old 02-16-16, 02:41 PM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

Originally Posted by Hiro11 View Post
Other sports are similarly expensive. Look into any travel team's costs in soccer, tennis, swimming, Hockey etc and they're comparable.
There are other options other than competitive traveling teams. Most the basketball leagues my kid have been part of play all their games within 50 miles with the costs usually under 1k.
Old 02-16-16, 02:48 PM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

I think I'll just steer my children toward band geekery.

I find it laughable the parents who spend thousands of dollars on their child's young sports career in the hopes that one day the kid will one day get a scholarship. That's certainly rolling the dice. The money would be better spend (if higher education is the goal) by simply saving the money to pay for tuition out of pocket at a later date.
Old 02-16-16, 02:49 PM
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Re: The professionalization of kids' sports: a rant

Originally Posted by cungar View Post
Because Dads never encourage kids to go into sports?
Cheerleading is not a sport. And dads may, but I doubt many dads saw the bill that others paid in cheer and said, "I gotta' get my daughter into that!"

In a hick town, where lots of underprivileged live, there are not $10,000 a year hobbies.

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