I love watching young parents taking their toddlers to dance, soccer, gymnastics and hockey. They are so completely adorable in their ignorance. I can’t help but smirk, er, smile I mean, when I see them beam at their little darling in their team uniform. They really have no idea what awaits them once they have kids in competitive sports.
The reality is that there’s a whole other side to this. A darker, more cynical side that parents of older children reside on. We used to be like them, so innocent as we helped our children find that sport they would be passionate about and now that we’re up to our eyeballs in it, there are certain inescapable truths, no matter what sport they play.
Universal Truths that Parents with Kids in Competitive Sports Know
You will be broke. At first you’ll manage, but the moment you begin to sacrifice things, you’ll know for sure how deep you’re in. According to experts, parents of children in competitive sports spend on average $1658 a year for their child’s competitive sporting endeavours. Before you jump all over me because you’re positive you spent at least a cool million last year on your child’s extracurricular pursuits, remember that this is an average and not everyone drives a BMW to the Tim Horton’s while their child begs for money, er, I mean fundraise.
That dollar amount, by the way is for the smart ones that had one child. Heaven forbid you have another child, or two and whamo, you can start kissing some things goodbye, like a new car, that dream vacation to Paris, a new summer wardrobe. Oh well, you didn’t really need anything, right?
I’d also just like to add that this amount seems ridiculously low to me so it was obviously averaged out with the annual tuition of competitive ping pong. Finally, don’t ever think you have extra money in the bank. The instant you do, someone will grow out of their hockey skates or cheer shoes. It’s like the Murphy’s Law of competitive sports.
You will never have summers off again. The organizations and teams like to suck you in at the beginning by running their programs in conjunction with the school year. Come May or June you skip out of their last recital or competition so proud of your little superstar and then spend two months thinking this gig isn’t so bad. Don’t fall for it. Seriously. Yes, yes, it’s totally okay to get two months off of school (who needs math anyway) but two months away from a sport? This simply can’t happen. I vote we move to a year round schooling system to keep in conjunction with competitive sports schedules.
The most popular brand in your house will be *insert your team name here*. Forget Apple, Nike, and Skechers. Your child’s team name will be the most branded item you see for the next ten years. You will have t-shirts, hoodies, jackets, track pants, luggage, water bottles , backpacks, iPhone cases, flip flops, sunglasses and rubber bracelets. I bet your last mortgaged dollar they didn’t include that in the “annual cost” mentioned above. Don’t worry, you can cry about it into your branded team coffee mug.
Your child’s club will become your second home. And it’s smelly. Enough said.
Your social schedule will now be dictated by practice, competition, team building, fundraisers and team parties. In fact, just kiss your old friends goodbye when you write those first cheques and say hello to your new best buddies, the other parents…..because you’ll be seeing a lot of each other.
You will practice questionable judgment….a lot. You will keep your kids home sick from school with a fever, but send them to practice so they don’t disappoint the team. You wouldn’t dream of sending them out to play in a thunderstorm, but you’ll let them run over an open field chasing a ball in one. You’ll shout “You’re not injured, you’re hurt! Suck it up and get back in there”. You’ll wonder who you are.
You will travel way more to less exotic places than you ever dreamed of. Think of the worst place you could spend your hard earned money and then multiply that times four. This is where you child’s team will compete over and over and over again, like you’re in some weird sports version of Groundhog Day. Uncomfortable mattresses, unsanitary swimming pools and greasy, barely digestible food is in your future. You’ll commiserate with your fellow parents over cheap wine and warm beer in the hallway of the crappy hotel your team is staying at. Forgetting what a real holiday looks like, you’ll find yourself enjoying this.
You wouldn’t stop doing it for all the hot cars, dream vacations and stunning clothes in the world. The bottom line is this, the kids are happy. They are involved and passionate and light up when they play their sport. You helped them find this passion and now you’re on the hook for it for a very long time and you wouldn’t stop doing it now because they love it and you love them. And that’s the most universal truth of all.
You are not wrong. At. All. Thankfully, only one of mine plays at a “rep level” or “competitive” level. Everything you wrote is true (not too bad on the logos/fashion stuff).
Honestly, I’ve come to really hate it. When DD2 decides, at age 9,that she doesn’t want to play “rep” anymore because “There’s just too much soccer and too much pressure in our lives, Daddy”… Well, methinks the system is broken.
I may be entering this world soon – all of this information is exactly what I anticipated. eek
I always feel so guilty that my kids aren’t currently in anything extra-curricular, really.
Reading this makes me feel a little giddy that they’re not.
Am I a bad Mom?
So very true! Our oldest (8) plays hockey. The husband had him on three-four different teams this year and it is so expensive. Because we live in the north we had to travel at least 2-4 hours for tournaments. Hotels, meals, etc. all adds up. And yes, that number you quoted is very low!
It does all add up because it’s not just the fee for the kids to compete. For us we pay cheer fees, competition fees, practice uniform, competition uniform, cheer shoes, plus travel and then all the extras. I find the number they quote extremely low. I’m sure many would agree with us.
Not at all. You have to do what’s right for you. I hope that I got across in my final point that my kids love it. They absolutely light up when they go to the gym. I have huge respect for the coaches, not to mention all the benefits that come with being part of a team. With all that being said, the moment they stop loving it, is the minute I pull them and take my tired butt to the spa 🙂
Yeah, sorry about that.
Currently my girls both love competitive cheer. I never get any resistance to attending (in fact they beg me to double team – um, no) and they love it. That being said, when it becomes a burden to them, I’ll relieve myself of the financial burden and pull them. Not worth it if they’re not happy.
This was *spot on* (as I drop my credit card for another hotel stay in a place I wouldn’t choose for a vacation but I’m sure is very nice…hello Windsor!). My DD is in competitive synchronized swimming and who knew a competition swim suit could be so expensive? I agree the number seems low. But I wouldn’t change it for a minute. She loves every minute of it and when she doesn’t anymore we’ll move on.
Sooo true. In early April, we spent seven nights at the Hilton in Toronto for a big hockey deal. Because the team had won the regional title, the kids got to go on to the provincial finals. Oy.
To say I hadn’t budgeted for that little addition to the schedule is $1600 beyond an understatement. Good thing the kid is cute. : D
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when reading this! I have two sons in competitive travel hockey and a daughter in travel soccer. Hence, why our family just headed off in a motorhome for the next 7 months to regroup! These youth sports rule a family! The teams are all holding spots for our dear athletes when they return mid season in January. For now, we will relish the down time as we know once we get back, that’s it and sports will dictate our family life from here on…. Thanks for the great article!
Hi There, I’ll be following your journey closely. We too have a motorhome and we often talk about hitting the road for an extended period. It will be fun to follow your adventure. I will admit that I’m also slightly jealous that you get to miss all those team commitments 🙂 Enjoy!
And all the madness makes perfect sense because the only thing greater than achieving success is seeing it in your children.
So very true Suzy.
I am just entering this “trap” with my daughter, and I’m surprised with how much parents have to pay for kids to play competitive sports in the public school system per sport. It’s not cheap, either. My nephew is serious about competitive basketball, and my sister spends almost 10 times the amount you posted on this sport. It blows my mind how much it costs to help a child achieve their dreams.
The cost you quoted is drastically low…. It will be that plus about $10,000 more.
I know it’s low, that’s why I suggested it was averaged out with the cost of competitive ping pong, which I imagine is quite low.:) For two girls in competitive cheer, I am paying almost $7000 a year.
WOW!!! Do you guys read what you are writing??? $10,000 per year! Falling into this trap! Youth sports rule our family! This is what is wrong with kids today. What ever happened to kids playing for the fun of the game? Playing to hang out with friends or even make new friends? Don’t get me wrong, I have kids, I am competitive and I LOVE youth sports. So much that I have spent the last 19 years working in the world of youth sports. Did you know, by age 13, 80% of kids will drop out of youth sports because they aren’t having fun!?? 80%. Do you think kids don’t know how much you are spending on their sports? They hear you talk about not getting a new car because you can’t afford it or how there will be no ‘family vacation’ this year. What kind of pressure do you think that is putting on an 8 year old or even a 12 year old?
My question to all of you is “what is YOUR ultimate goal?” For the child to get a college scholarship? For your kid to go pro? Or for you to re-live your glory days? Think about it, if you are spending $10,000 per year for a child 9 years old to play sports until they are 18? That is $90,000. Pretty good college payment right there. More scholar dollar is given based on grades. Do you spend that much on a tutor or give that much to your school to buy new computers or educational items?
I am not saying competitive sports are bad, just think before you add this pressure your bank account, your family time and most importantly your child.
Certified Youth Sports Administrator
I don’t think any less of you. It is best to pick your priorities – a house payment or the kids sports – I would pick the house payment 🙂
I agree that competitive sports has gone off the rails when it comes to cost. We’re in our fifth year and we’re taking a step back next year, for a combination of reasons that include cost and family time. For me, my ultimate goal has always been for my kids to have fun and understand the correlation between fitness and a long happy life, it’s that simple. I did know that by age 13, 80% of kids drop out of youth sports and I think that’s tragic. It’s up to all of us to start pushing back on the expectations clubs are putting on us. I wrote this post that you commented on two years ago and for some reason it has struck a chord now. This year, as my disillusionment with the system grew, I wrote this post: https://www.lifeinpleasantville.com/hey-sports-organizations-stop-treating-parents-like-money-trees/ Who knows, maybe in two years it will catch on too 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.
Thank you!! You hit on so many good points. We complain about how much these things cost and all the traveling and such but yet we keep doing it. It is time to stand up and say no more!! There are so many awesome recreation leagues that are close to home, cost WAY less and are just as good if not better. I get tired of hearing “but if they want to play against better competition, they need to travel”. What if all those great travelers played in their home town, then the competition would be right there in their own back yard.
This is an issue that is very close to my heart and I thank you for bringing it to light. Have a great day.
Thank you. 😀 I wish I had a house payment. Hmm. maybe I should be careful what I wish for. 😉 Thanks for reading and commenting! That means a lot.
Ten years, yes ten!! Our daughter was a competitive cheerleader and this article is very true. Parents will give up their freedom once your child plays a competitive sport. Unfortunately the world hasn’t recognized cheerleading as an official sport due to the fact that officials continue to be close minded and still think that it’s all just , Rah Rah. I can assure you it most definitely is not. If anything it requires the individual to practice as much as if not more than most competitive sports do. Oh and travel well I’ve had the opportunity to see so many places I’ve lost count. Honestly when I think of how much discipline, and commitment it takes to be a cheerleader it is astounding! As for my daughter she no longer cheers due to the fact that she wanted to concentrate on her school work . I am so proud of her accomplishments, and I will never forget the teamwork, devotion , and determination she put forth in a sport that isn’t recognized as such. Who knows maybe one day it will be but as for now one can only dream!
$1650 doesn’t even cover the cost of costumes when your teen is in competitive dance – and the thing is – the dancers are rewarded by being given more dances – duos-trios-group – with the brass ring being chosen from the team to compete in the coveted solo spots…so parents are forced to set financial limits – therefore seeming not to value their child’s skill set. Talk about a no win situation.
No, it really doesn’t but those are the stats. Like I said, I feel like those costs are averaged out with competitive ping pong 😉 It seems ridiculously low.