Just how expensive have youth sports become?
A 2016 survey from Utah State sought to answer that very question.
The researchers discovered that the average American family spends $2,292 a year on youth sports. Considering the average U.S. household income was $61,372 in 2017, that’s quite a chunk of change. But some sports cost considerably more than others.
Let’s take a look at the most popular youth sports, in order of most to least expensive:
- Lacrosse, $7,956 a year
- Hockey, $7,013 a year
- Baseball/Softball, $4,044 a year
- Football, $2,739 a year
- Soccer, $1,472 a year
- Basketball, $1,143 a year
Raising a youth hockey or lacrosse player is roughly seven times as expensive as raising a youth basketball player!
Many children also play multiple sports, so raising, say, a kid who plays both soccer and baseball may cost roughly $5,500 a year, on average. No wonder children from low-income families are now just half as likely to participate in organized sports than those from high-income families.
“Some parents just can’t pony up for it,” Travis Dorsch, one of Utah State’s researchers on how parents shape youth sports, told TIME. “How many Michael Jordans and Michael Phelpses are out there who don’t have the opportunity?”
While parents often feel like they need to “keep up with the Joneses” and put their kid on the most expensive teams, this can create a lot of extra stress around youth sports, which is counterintuitive to their purpose. We’ve lost an appreciation for rec league sports and the massive benefits of free play. As long as kids are playing, that’s a good thing. Parents don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on equipment and travel fees to make that happen.
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