Sports They Ever Knock the Wind Out of You?

Updated on April 07, 2014
J.B. asks from Boston, MA
18 answers

More of a vent and some musing than a question. I love that my kids have activities that interest them, I really do, and I love watching them learn new skills, get better, work hard and complete. But oh my gosh the expense LOL! What the heck!?!

We're playing catch up on the past season's final payments and are also paying next season's tryout fees and first payments for hockey...for two players, just these "small" payments were $1575. Their remaining payments for these programs next year will be $1350. My youngest is playing a league with no tryouts so we don't have to pay that until the fall...$800. The two oldest are doing a skills program over the summer - even with a coupon I won at a silent auction, that's $ oldest will play for his high school team...$550. Then the two youngest are also playing lacrosse @$225 per player for the season. My daugther does mixed marial arts...$129 a month for her gym plus additional fees as needed for matches and one on one coaching. So yeah...more than $6600 a year on sports...and they're by no means elite athletes...they'll play through high school and that will probably be it, which is fine. Oh and did I forget fall soccer? I think that's only $85 so it doesn't even register. Oh and of course equipment because someone is always growing out of something. And one of them is now taking piano lessons but thankfully my in-laws have that covered...

Do you ever look at a choice you've made as a parent and wonder if you've totally lost your mind and then go ahead and do it anyway, year after year? I guess I should just put the money we pour into sports in the same mental bucket as daycare used to be...staggeringly expensive but just the cost of being a parent.

So what do you spend a relatively large amount of time and money on for your kids and is the joy they get from it worth it? Can you afford it? These fees are why I work a second job...we couldn't pay for this out of our regular budget.

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So What Happened?

@MOM2KCK Dance moms always make feel totally friends with girls who dance talk about the costume, make up, hair, and competition expenses - not to mention basic studio time and then extra sessions - and I literally can't fathom going through all going to competitions where you seem to travel forever to get there and are trapped in an auditorium all day waiting for your kids' performances. And the injuries? Yep, dance makes hockey seem totally sane LOL.

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answers from San Francisco on

My daughters are ballet dancers. The older one is in a pre-professional program; the younger one is in the student division. Tuition for the older one is $2500/year, and tuition for the younger one is $1100/year. Add to that the cost of pointe shoes (a pair a month at ~$100), auditions for summer programs ($35/audition), and the staggering cost of the summer programs themselves (we are looking at $3200 for a 3-week program, which does not include spending money or airfare to/from; it'll end up costing us around $5K). Soooooo... yeah. I live in terror of the younger one also ending up in the pre-professional division. I know it's going to happen eventually. Maybe I'll win the lottery before then. :-P

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answers from Dallas on

My son does competative gymnastics and we pay $200 a month plus his comp fees which is usually over $1000 for the season. I never thought that I would put my child in a sport let alone one that cost so much but it's so worth it he loves it and does plan on this getting him into college.

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answers from Dallas on

Yep, I question my sanity all the time, but then look at how much they love their activities and the life lessons they're learning and realize it's worth it. Son plays competitive soccer and is on the area Olympic development squad - fees/uniforms/tournaments/skills/camps etc etc top $5000 a year. Daughter plays only rec sports, but she does quite a few of them - soccer, volleyball, golf, swimming, horseback riding all add up to around $1000/yr.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

My kid had to find activities she enjoyed that fit the budget. That turned out to be drama (through school or community theater, so it cost me nothing extra), piano ($25/week but I was able to trade babysitting her teacher's kids for part of the cost), voice (same teacher, same deal), dance (lessons at the local public rec center - $8/week). And I limited her to one activity at a time. I did not have several thousand extra dollars to spend on EC activities every year.

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answers from Washington DC on

My daughter is a ballet dancer but not a competitive dancer. The main cost is the tuition fees for her studio, for four classes a week but that also covers all rehearsals for shows that she's in. We pay a pretty small (to me) fee each year in addition because she is in the studio's performing company. Costume fees are extra but again it doesn't seem huge to me and some costumes as girls get older are ones that the studio owns, so no fees there (eventually, right now we still purchase all costumes). And there are the shoes -- expensive but essential. But I don't think it begins to approach the $5,000 a year that the competitive dance parent mentioned. We do also pay for three to five weeks of dance lessons in the summer (mandatory).

It's worth every penny because she loves it; it teaches her discipline that carries over into other parts of her life every day; it teaches her to use her time wisely so that she has enough time to keep dancing and still do schoolwork which is top priority; it teaches her to take criticism and correction; and it introduces her to some really nice kids. It also builds her confidence to get up and do things in front of other people.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Right now I am very happy that we live in a small town. My daughter plays between JV & Varsity for three sports: volleyball, basketball, softball and has played JO. I pay a $35 to the school per sport and any equipment she needs personally - new shoes, cleats, jersey, warm-up, etc. I spend probably an additional $150 on average per season.

My son was a 3 sport kid, but now just plays varsity golf. His clubs and bag were not cheap, but he gets a free golf course membership. He has nice shoes and he got a new jacket this year, but nowhere near the expenses you all have.

Happy mom right now!

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answers from Albany on

I think some of the sports fees are absolutely ridiculous and way too expensive. My son has played youth soccer and is doing karate, and they aren't nearly as expensive as sports like hockey and lacrosse. And dance and music lessons can be pretty darn hefty too. I cannot imagine spending so much money on a child's sports, but then I stop myself and realize that, I'm the mom who is willing to shell out $200 or more for a dress, tiara and veil, shoes, hairdo, makeup and accessories so that my 10-year-old son can dress as a bride for a day (long story). So I guess if it makes our kids happy, we're more willing to spend the money.

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answers from Washington DC on

My daughter is a competitive dancer (average of $5k per year) and my boys do football, basketball, and baseball (probably combined $1k per year). The boys are starting to get older and may get into travel leagues soon, and the cost will sky rocket from there.

I hate the money, but I love seeing the joy they get from doing what they love. So it's worth it.

Ah yes....we were gone this past weekend and will be gone this weekend as well. Back to back is hard, but it's fun. I love watching most of the dances and fortunately the dance families are like it makes it better. We have been with the studio for 8 years so it helps. But it is so worth it. If she didn't love it, it would be another story :). You nailed most of it though - all of those things are our life. My daughter (10) actually missed October-December this year for a broken foot. Fun times!

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answers from Grand Forks on

I consider myself quite fortunate that my boys do not play expensive sports. I only pay $60 for winter soccer, $220 for spring soccer, $40 each a month for martial arts and swim lessons are part of our Y membership. They do choir, band and theatre through school, so that is very inexpensive. In Canada kids sports/arts are tax deductible up to $700/year. If I were to pay for any of those really expensive sports I don't think I would be able to save for university.

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answers from Boston on

Wow, I feel better now... I've been sitting here for a couple of hours researching how much my husband should charge for group, come to you, hour long archery lessons. We've been struggling with charging what we need to make it worthwhile (this would be our only income) and not wanting it to be so much money it is unattainable for families to sign their kids up. Maybe I'm out of touch with what is okay to spend. Ah, more research.

That said, I have spent lots of money on lots of things for my kids over the years. This is their chance, now is their time. They are never going to have the opportunities to "do" gymnastics, swimming, dance, etc when they are grown up. Now is their time to explore what interests them and learn and grow from dabbling into as many things as they can. We often struggled for the money for things but I wouldn't change a thing. Well, it would have been nice to play a few less Little League games in a cold drizzle...

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answers from Dallas on

I get where you are coming from.

Our daughter was involved in Orchestra and her violin was $3000 alone before you throw in the orchestra clothing, and violin lessons for 4 yrs. yes she still plays but is not active in an Orchestra.

She was also trained in martial arts but that was not too bad... about $150 a month (about 6 yrs) and testing fees. Her black belt test was the most expensive and when that was all said and done, we spent about $1000 on it (test, certifications, etc)

She was also in cheer for 5 yrs and that averaged $5000 a year with competitions, training, etc.

She graduated this past June 2013 and we have all these extra funds laying around from NOT spending on her extra curricular activities anymore. Ah yes, there will be something coming up for college study abroad, etc that will hit soon enough!

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answers from Boca Raton on

ha. told my kids, one sport, the same one for both. i was complaining more about running all over kingdom come to take them to different activities.
last semester we had art, soccer, and tennis between them two. never again. now they both do tennis, which is 50 per lesson (once a week. so 100 for both, 400 a month), plus tennis membership, annual 1200. that is it. plus once they get somewhat good at tennis, i will stop private lessons, and just do competitive games and group lessons which are about 10 per kid.

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answers from New York on

ha! I signed my girls up for a Lacrosse clinic for only $60 each. I was thrilled! So reasonable. We already have ice skating, gymnastics and girl scouts so I did not need to spend alot. Well then I had to go buy equipment. Yikes! $200 later...And with ice skating there's ice skates for each of them and sharpening and my own skates so I can take them for practices on our own....
ay yay yay. Even girl scouts which is almost nothing, we have outings and buying cookies, etc.

Things cost alot!

I guess we can afford them but we go without other things sometimes for ourselves but I am lucky to have what I have so I'll shut up.



answers from New York on

One sport each. My kids had to pick one thing each. There are four of them. My daughter got involved I. Horses. Never paid for a lesson, pair of boots etc. maybe a helmet here and there and some chaps but that's it. She worked for her lessons at the farm and also worked for the boarders who provided her with boots etc. she is now 38 years old and horses are still her life. She teaches riding, trains horses and manages farms. There is nothing wrong with having your kids help with the cost.


answers from Boston on

It's insane, isn't it?

We made some choices early on so as not to participate in this merry-go-round. First of all, our son was not allowed to be in endless scheduled activities at an early age. Yes, that meant going up against people who had their calendars color-coded so they knew which kid had to be where, when. We lived in a neighborhood with a lot of kids, so most of the kids were available at least some of the days to just run around, ride bikes, play frisbee and shoot hoops in the driveway. Our son did one scheduled activity (he chose sports but it could easily have been drama or crafts) and we did that through a town recreation program for minimal money. Another day he had religious school. That was it.

When he got to middle school, he did a little casual cross country program for no fee - they just stayed after school, ran a little, and maybe had one "meet" with another school just to practice sportsmanship and dealing with a starter's gun. In high school, he ambled over to the track team, which never cut anyone - a great program! There was a $175 fee for the year for any activities (sports, school plays, musical groups, social action club, etc.) and that was to pay the advisors (but many volunteered). There was a family cap of $350, and there was financial assistance available.

Some of the elite athletes did participate in travel teams through middle and high school, and I'm sure there were fees associated with that. And of course there were kids who did dance and gymnastics, some of whom were clearly driven and gifted - one kid is dancing on Broadway, for example. We just never saw the need for all of this, and our son never had that level of passion and talent to require something really extraordinary in either finances, time or training.

There are Olympic athletes, for example, who choose to leave their families to live with or near a nationally-ranked coach - but really, they are so few and far between, and I think you kind of know if your kid is in that category. But then that's where your money goes - they are going to the Olympics and not to college at 18.

We thought we'd give our child a less stressful childhood and help him find his own path. We didn't pay for outlandish sports fees (and we had good sports and music programs in the schools), we didn't put him in SAT prep classes or lots of AP classes or extra math classes from outside vendors. If he needed work, he stayed after school to meet with the teacher. If the school offered a one-day SAT practice class, he took it. (Okay, he took driver's ed, but that was for other reasons.) Otherwise, he had a social life and he made friends who didn't do everything at a super cost.

Meanwhile, our friends went broke paying for ice time and hockey equipment, dance lessons and recitals and costumes, and so on. The parents spent endless hours organizing, driving, sitting and waiting for performance times, and writing checks. We went on vacation, had kids over in the back yard or in the basement, and had small birthday parties in the yard or with 3 kids at the movies (no parties of 30 with bounce houses and party venues). We also didn't go to 35 birthday parties a year (with the cost of presents) because we didn't do whole-team or whole-class events. As he became a top runner, we did invest in good running shoes, but the local running store gave a 10% discount to everyone on the school teams. But he wore old shorts and hand-me-down jerseys if we had access to them.

Our kid is not a genius but he got into a great college with great financial aid, he ran track & cross country for 4 years. He found the ACT was his test and not the SAT, but not because of the classes he didn't sit through. He only took one AP class in high school, and that was senior year, and it was his choice. He's got a strong work ethic because his chosen activity (track) was a "work against yourself and the stopwatch" sport, not a big money maker from ticket sales. He didn't perform for a huge crowd of spectators but he learned team spirit and hard work. He took a lot of engineering classes with kids who had no social life because all they did was study. He got Bs and Cs and a few As, he got 3 internships and a great job. So I wouldn't do it any differently.

If you're not happy with the way things are, you can change it. Don't let anyone tell you your kids won't succeed or get into college without a long resume. Our kid had a home business of walking dogs, mowing lawns, spreading bark mulch, and taking care of homes when people were away (trash, mail, feeding cats/fish/gerbils, emptying dehumidifiers, whatever needed doing. He had a 6-year business to put on his college activity resume, he learned to work with a lot of different people, and got lots of references.

He had Hebrew school and a normal bar mitzvah that was about the rite of passage into adulthood and not the size of the party. He designed a social action project that would knock your socks off - so he was part of the outside world but more for giving and living those values the school was teaching. We just didn't spend on that party stuff. He survived. He flourished.

So don't be afraid to get off the hamster wheel and make your kids choose what's most important. That actually prepares them much better for college and for life, where they will have to schedule their own time, come up with their own fees, and make their own choices.



answers from Minneapolis on

With three kids we tried "all" of the sports. The main sports we ended up with was hockey for one, alpine ski racing for another and softball for yet another. It turns out that even though all of them were very expensive, softball was the very most expensive because of all the out-of-town traveling, hotels, etc.

My thoughts on it are that the cost is worth every, single penny and every stressful moment of running kids here, there and everywhere. It kept mine very busy and out of trouble through the difficult teen years. It also taught them that sometimes they had to get up early, miss parties, etc. because they made a commitment to their various teams. Those sports have served my children well and will help yours too. Yep, I worked to pay for the kids' activities.



answers from Las Vegas on

We did the dance thing with the older daughter. We traveled a lot and had all the expenses you already mentioned.

This second child is by far more expensive. She plays hockey, figure skates, plays tennis, and does triathlons when there is one available.

She wears 3 different skates, between figure, forward, and goalie. Oh yea, if you hear them mention goalie, shoot it down right away. There's another small fortune.

I coach her on her swimming, biking, and running. Most of her running is done in school, so I don't worry so much about that. She has a private coach for figure skating and takes part in any hockey and/or goalie camp available. This summer, as well as last, she did the Pro-ambitions goalie camp. Most of her tennis will be done at the YMCA summer camp, but right now, she goes with her dad and does a drop in class while he plays tennis.

I refuse to add all of this up.


answers from Dallas on

Im so in the same boat! My son is 17 and has played baseball for his high school since freshman year. He wants to play ball with a select league at the cost of $800! I threw up in my mouth a little.... I do want him to because I love to watch him and he is growing up so fast but man! If I can swing it I will but it's irritating. Our daughter is 7 and has great gymnastic potential but there is no way! I don't really have any advice because I know there is nothing you can do about the fees but throwing support your way! Just enjoy it! Before you know it they will be starting their senior year :(

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