Costs In Other Youth Sports
So where does that leave us? We’ll use the mid point in some cost ranges – remember we’re trying to get a rough idea here. $1000 for a year of Classic league play. We’ll assume hotel stays for 3 tournaments and just driving for 2 tournaments. So that’s $1850. Equipment – $150. Summer camps/training – $400. All told the average competitive soccer player could face $3400 in costs per year. Again – we made some VERY rough assumptions here. I hear $5000/yr bounced around by many parents of Classic players. But other players may skimp through a season for $2000. It’s still a sizable chunk of money, especially for a family trying to get by on $40,000/yr for a family of four. You better be make serious cash if you have two or more kids in competitive sports.
Clearly competitive soccer is expensive. But is it drastically different than other activities? I know AAU baseball players travel to tournaments often. I’m sure there are tournaments fees, training costs, and more. I’m not involved in it, so it’s hard to judge the true cost – any AAU parents out there want to chime in? I also know some parents can take ‘soccer development’ to the extreme by hiring private trainers and taking their kids to all sorts of additional events. But that is more of an exception. I’m trying to keep things semi ‘normal’ where a player participates on a team twice a year, and does some activity in the summer. Indoor teams are also quite common, but are usually limited to teams in areas with indoor complexes.
Yet there are plenty of other children’s activities that can add up. Competitive dancers at our local dance studio pay around $1440/yr in dance fees. Costumes can cost $200-$300. Recital fees can add another $100. Travel to competitions a couple times a year, and suddenly you’re getting into the $3000/yr range. Tae Kwon Doe has become really popular in our town lately. My son loves it. But we’re paying somewhere in the neighborhood of $1400/yr in monthly fees. Belt exams cost around $50, usually twice a year. He isn’t on a competition team, but I know they will often compete twice a year. If they travel – the costs go up into the $2000/yr range.
So clearly competitive soccer is expensive, but it’s not the only sport that costs a fair amount of money. There is no question that activity fees for my four children (two of whom aren’t even started yet since they are 3 and 4) consume a sizable portion of our family’s annual income. I haven’t added it all up (probably because I fear what I’ll find) but I bet we spend $6000/yr on kids activities between soccer, basketball, dance, and TKD. And I wouldn’t change a thing. But not every family has that luxury – which is what we started off talking about. Many of these activities also aren’t serving as the ‘farm system’ for national sports teams. In soccer they do, so access for all is even more important.
Basketball, baseball, and football differ from soccer in one important way. Most top level athletes play on travel teams when they are younger, but move primarily into school based programs when they reach 7th grade. So the teenage years often see primary development handled by schools, not non-profit organizations, at least for part of the year. Soccer programs in many schools are neglected and must compete with sports like football and basketball for scarce funds. So school teams often become the ‘2nd level teams’ in an area, with the top players playing on club teams during their school seasons (some play on both) in regional leagues (i.e. ‘Premiere’). The key being that sports costs for top players remain sizable even when they are in high school.