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How Do You Pay for the Rising Cost of Youth Sports?

Description

As parents, what do we owe our children? When is raising money a “want" and not a “need?”

All of us are aware of the expanding role sports plays in the lives of kids. When I was growing up, we had a little league baseball season each year, and, of course, school sports once you reached junior high school. That was it.

Today, it’s a different story.

Kids are playing sports in preschool and may play for 12-13 years by the time they graduate from high school. The Club Sports community is gigantic where I live. If you’re serious and good enough, you can play travel ball and actually find a way to play three or four sports a year (if you like soccer, football, baseball and basketball). As you can imagine, the cost for playing a sport is also rising. The game “ain’t what it used to be.” Between equipment, fees, snacks, uniforms, travel and lodging—a family can spend thousands of dollars before the year is over. And that’s just for one kid.

So here’s a first for me.

According to a local news station, more families are seeking help from outsiders to pay for all of this. They are using sites like GoFundMe to raise money to cover the cost of having their son or daughter involved in a sport. In the same way you’d raise money for a charity, a humanitarian mission trip overseas, or to dig wells in Africa, they’re asking for donations to provide the opportunity.

This got me thinking.

On the one hand, this sounds like an ingenious idea. With the Internet today, we have the opportunity to contact others and raise money for all kinds of causes and needs. There are a number of sites young entrepreneurs can use to get funding for a business start-up; there are websites you can use to solicit donations for a charity or ministry you believe in; and there are even sites to cover the cost of a trip you’ll take to Haiti or Zambia to serve for two weeks there. Why not for a sport? Especially if it’s a low-income family that could not afford for their child to play a club sport, perhaps this is a legitimate way to make it happen. It could even be seen as an investment.

On the other hand, this is quite a shift in mentality. I grew up in a middle class home where my dad made enough money for each of us to have what we needed: food, clothes, school supplies and a roof over our heads. There were a number of times, however, that he would say to my requests, “We can’t afford that,” and I learned it was okay. I became content without that request. There was something to be learned from not having everything we wanted.

I wonder if we’ve bought into a new report card as parents, one that assumes if we are to be “good” parents, we must furnish our kids with everything they want. Then I wonder: Is that really true? Is that really good for them? Is using a site like GoFundMe appropriate to raise money to play sports? Is it raising money for a “want,” not a “need”?

I thought this might spark a conversation. Consider these questions:

  • Where do you draw the line on parental responsibility?
  • What do we owe our children?
  • When is it better to teach kids to “do without” instead of “I will pay for this”?
  • How does using a creative method for paying for fees train our kids to think?
  • Could using a site to raise money be a good filter to determine whether your child will be able to play in a league? (If you raise the money, they can play; otherwise, they cannot).


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