The price to play: covering costs for youth sports

The price to play. How much are you willing to pay for your child to participate in sports?  

A 2012 University of Michigan study found 61% of parents pay out-of-pocket costs for middle school or high school sports. It goes on to show that in lower-income parents 1 in 5 say their kids are participating in fewer sports because of cost. 

Marisa Melcher’s from Massac County, IL has two children who play baseball and basketball through their schools.

“I think it helps children to be a team player and I think it develops discipline and responsibility in their lives,” Melcher said.

She finds the school’s costs to play  is reasonable

"We just have to pay for shoes and extra things like a baseball glove and things like that, but as far as other equipment the school is very good about supplying those things."

Low costs don’t translate to all sports, especially those outside of school.

“I think travel ball seems to be a little more expensive, but most parents feel it’s worth it because of the memories they make with their children,” Melcher said.

A Washington Post article reports travel ball can cost up to $2,000 on average per player, per year, leading some parents to look for more creative measures to cover costs.

Elijah Pleasant’s mother started a GoFundMe account as a way to help pay for his travel ball costs on the Kentucky Prospects. She says players working together through team fundraisers can help too. She wants to raise awareness about the price to play, saying community support is necessary so every child can participate.

Utah State University research finds spending on sports can take up to 10.5% of a parent’s income, meaning a family making $50,000 a year could be spending $5,500 on sports a year.

To save money, parents can try selling or buying used equipment. Sites like make it easier for parents to save money on sports gear.

In some cases, sports expenses can be tax deductible, but Forbes finds that’s only if your child can win prize money or medals through sports competitions. The report says you can offset taxable income from those prizes by deducting the associated costs.