SBJ/July 2-8, 2012/In Depth

Book delves into the excess of kids’ sports

Equipment. Skills training. Tournaments. Camps. Road trips. For anyone whose child has played youth sports, those are the elements that can quickly send costs soaring. Is it simply too much?

In his new book, “The Most Expensive Game in Town: The Rising Cost of Youth Sports and the Toll on Today’s Families” (Beacon Press), former SportsBusiness Journal writer Mark Hyman looks at the stresses, “financial and otherwise,” that youth sports can put on children and families. Hyman writes: “How is this great sloshing of dollars distorting the experience that we want for children as they leap off the starting block or dribble down the lane?”

Here are some excerpts:

The Parent Trap: “The sports life of adolescents should not be a four-figure annual investment. Yet when faced with a choice to spend or not to, we seldom choose the latter. The result can reflect a glaring weakness in judgment.”

Baby Goes Pro: “The fear of waiting too long nudges us to search out soccer leagues with nursery-school divisions for 3 year olds. Yet there must be an age that we can agree is just too young. There must be.”

Youth Sports, USA: “Turning kids’ sports into a summer-long road trip distorts and diminishes youth sports, changing them in ways that we rarely talk about. The more miles we travel, the more money we spend, the more time we invest crisscrossing the country, the more we expect from the experience and from our kids. It isn’t enough just to have fun. The unspoken, and often unintended, message from parents to kids can be that they have to deliver to make that summer of sacrifice worthwhile.”

Selling Hope: “The problem is simple: there are far more kids hoping to play college sports than roster spots for them. The math is quite discouraging. … According to the (NCAA), fewer than seven high school players in a hundred move from prep to college teams. … The idea that sports will pay for college is also a myth for all but a few.”

— Staff report

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