Cost of the Game: Parents spend thousands on youth sports - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Cost of the Game: Parents spend thousands on youth sports

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SPOKANE, Wash. -

School is winding down, but for many families, summer vacation will consist of trips to sports tournaments and endless practices as part of a select league.  With gas, food and lodging, families are now spending a staggering $7 billion a year just on travel to these sporting events.  It turns out, all of the money spent might not be making our children better athletes after all.

Fuzzy Buckeberger started coaching fastpitch softball 36 years ago.  In that time, he’s seen the game he loves turn into something different, with families spending thousands on their athletes to compete at a competitive level.  Fuzzy admits he knows all about it.  He coaches a competitive team and his 15-year-old granddaughter, Skyla Mangis, is part of it.

Skyla and her mom, Tami, say they love the sport and the competition that comes with being part of a competitive team that plays year round.  They both say it’s not just about the game, it’s about finding friendships and camaraderie with other girls on the team.

While it’s still just a game for the girls, Tami has seen first hand how families are sacrificing time and money for their kids to be on the right team.  She says she met one dad who took out a second mortgage on his home to pay for his 12-year-old daughter’s softball career.  Fuzzy says some parents spend $15,000 to $20,000 a summer to compete. 

It’s not just fastpitch, parents tell KHQ that they are paying thousands for kids in every sport.  One dad told KHQ, he pays $6,000 for his 16-year-old to play select soccer.  One volleyball coach says parents on his team pay $8,000 for their high school daughters to play.  And one dad of a 12-year-old gymnast says he pays $8,000 for his daughter to participate on a mid-level competitive gymnastics team.  A mother of a 10-year-old hockey player says there is also a huge time commitment.  Her family drives to Canada 2 to 3 weekends a month between October and March for her son to play.

Tami admits she’ll get a second job to pay the $700 dues for Fuzzy’s team and for the 6 weekends they’ll travel this summer for tournaments.  She says each of those tournaments will have college recruiters in attendance.  Fuzzy says a college scholarship is parents’ main goal in investing in their kids' sports careers.

Statistics from the NCAA show the odds are stacked against athletes when it comes to a Division 1 scholarship.  On average, only 2% of high school boys and 3% of high school girls go on to play at the Division 1 level.  Research from George Washington University shows kids enjoy sports for the positive team dynamics, and positive coaching and learning.  It showed kids cared less about playing in tournaments, fancy uniforms, expensive equipment and winning. 

There is still the option for kids to play in recreational leagues.  Kids can play SYSA and for the Spokane YMCA for less than a hundred dollars.  There are also scholarships available for those who can’t afford it.

For Fuzzy, Tami and Skyla, they say they’re happy with their commitment to their competitive team.  They don’t treat the experience as a sacrifice, but instead as a way to truly enjoy the game and the relationships and fun that comes with it.

Helpful Links:

SYSA Financial Assistance Application 

YMCA Financial Assistance Application 

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