I was having another butt-numbing day on a bleacher at my daughter’s swim meet when I started to ponder the actual cost of her enrollment in a competitive sport. There is the fee for her training (lessons) and her equipment, but then how many weekends had my husband or I spent a day at a pool and how many other incidentals were there? What would this amount to if she continued in the sport and, shudder the thought, what if our other daughter wanted to pursue a different sport? I had never actually considered all of this BEFORE signing up.
So I started asking around to the YMC parents. How much were we spending on sports? Not the one-off karate lessons and weekly dance class, but the sports kids were dedicated to for multiple hours that included competitions against others. I would have bet money that dance was the most expensive with the costumes but I was wrong. It turns out every sport has high costs. I talked to parents with kids in competitive dance, karate, gymnastics, softball, equestrian riding, rowing, cheer, swim and basketball. It all boils down to the same basic elements in money and time.
Almost every sport that is governed has a fee to be paid annually to the respective association (eg. Canadian Rowing). This ranges from $20-$200 and typically covers insurance as well.
The bulk of your financial cost is on hourly practices or training. Keep in mind that the rate per hour of training often goes down as time increases. So you may pay $500/year for one hour of class but $1500 for 4 hours of class. Consult your club or studio schedule to get an idea of what an ‘elite’ athlete would need. Sometimes it’s as little as 10 hours but can be as high as 25 or 30 hours of training weekly. Expect this to climb in the thousands of dollars as they age.
From dance shoes to shin pads, find out what equipment your child is expected to have at the onset of their training, and then in later years. A full set of hockey gear, which they outgrow frequently, costs a small fortune. Also, the more a child trains, the more equipment they tend to go through. Even martial arts belts have a cost. This is where some good second hand equipment store may help!
Some sports require a specific uniform for training but almost all have something for competitions. Personally, I cheap out on training swim suits for my daughter because the chlorine just kills them. I am obligated to buy the $90 club suit for competition. Visual sports, like dance, gymnastics, and cheer, can have very pricey costumes. I have talked to studios who budget $200/competition and others with $400. My friend’s two daughters were in comp dance and one year she paid $5k just for costumes alone.
Almost all competitions, meets, and games have an entry fee. These fees cover the administration work to set up the competition, the rental fees for the venue, and other incidentals. Depending on the venue, you may also be required to pay a ticket fee. And don’t forget about parking. Expect $10-$200 per competition.
Every parent of a tween or teen that competed had incurred travel. It may be places within an hour but at higher levels, most sports teams will need a long distance travel and hotel fees. Again, ask around with your sport where the competitions take place. This could be $100 for gas money or thousands for flights and hotels.
This one is huge. For your child, all those hours come out of social time, homework time, and down time. For the parents, it’s weekends, evenings, and early mornings of chauffeuring. Not to mention schedule coordination for you and other children. I highly recommend carpooling for this. There was a time I loved watching every minute of practice but at 8 hours a week, I love having a few evenings back for other things.
Do not underestimate the toll it takes on your kids, or you, to spend a weekend at a competition or 3 hours in training. On a calendar a practice may go from 5pm-7pm, leaving time for homework, but by the time kids get home, they may not have the energy to anything else.
Competitive sport is certainly not for every family, so start by asking yourself why are you registering your kid in competitive sport? If it’s too much time or money, or they are not that interested in one thing, there are loads of recreational sports that kids can do. This is by no means the only option for sports!
For those that are committed to competition, where the kids really loved the sports they were in, I asked the parents if they thought it was all worth it. The answer was a resounding yes. Supporting a child in a passion they have made every parent feel they had made the right decision.