Pay To Play Sports Essay Topic

Earlier this year, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen wrote an essay for the Players’ Tribune titled “Left Out.” In the article, McCutchen describes growing up in Fort Meade, Florida – a small town where most families scraped to get by – and how that affected his ability to play sports.

…nobody outside of Fort Meade knew who I was… When you’re a kid from a low-income family who has talent, how do you get recognized? Now, you have to pay thousands of dollars for the chance to be noticed in showcase tournaments in big cities. My parents loved me, but they had to work hard to put food on the table, and there wasn’t much left over.

According to McCutchen, had it not been for the generosity of a coach who was willing to cover his travel expenses and tournament fees, he might have never been able to play with the best, flourish as a ballplayer, be noticed and, eventually, become a first-round draft pick.

Many young athletes aren’t so lucky, and the escalating costs are a growing concern on sidelines and in bleachers across this country. Ultimately, the price of play threatens something fundamental about sports for our kids: the expectation of a level playing field and an egalitarian spirit.

One family’s burden

When researching my book about the business of youth sports, I documented many ways that commercialization is changing and distorting sports activities for children. In the process, I interviewed dozens of children, parents, coaches, sociologists, economists – and one blogger.

The blogger was a Cincinnati-based father of three named Fran Dicari, who had titled his blog StatsDad. For an entry titled “Youth Sports Costs,” Dicari meticulously recorded each sports-related purchase made by his family over the course of a year. By the end of the year, there were 43 different items ranging in price from a few dollars to more than US$1,000.

Dicari listed two dozen recycled golf balls ($10) and a pair of softball socks. He recorded two soccer trips to Dayton, Ohio and baseball trips to Kentucky and Indiana. Finally, there was a baseball tournament that took the family all the way to Cooperstown, New York (accommodations alone cost $1,000).

The final total? The Dicaris’ youth sports bill for the year amounted to a whopping $8,921.

Others speak out

Though Fran Dicari’s blog tracked one family’s spending, it wasn’t an outlier. Many parents have made an uneasy peace with the expense of youth sports, but others are less sanguine.

I heard from a number of parents who noted the burden youth sports can have on a family’s budget. Here’s a sampling of their responses:

  • I’m a single mom and having kids in travel soccer is very expensive (well, whether you’re a single parent or not – it’s expensive). Now teams have parents on monthly payment plans (like a car payment!).

  • Parents will stop at no cost to pay for the best coaching or equipment for their kids. I have seen thousands of dollars spent on nonsense items and camps because of names and name brands, without any considerations for what they may be getting in return.

  • It’s sad to me that youth sports are really not all about true talent anymore. With the new technology and travel and showcase teams being where all the scouts go it’s turned into a rich person’s game. If you don’t have the money, you are a lot of steps behind…

  • When I think about how much we’ve spent over the years, I’d say we’re nuts.

Sport sociologist Jay Coakley has written extensively on the economics of youth sports. As he explained to me, “If you’re not upper middle class or middle class with three credit cards, you’re going to have a hard time keeping your kids involved in sports at a relatively elite level. The average household income in this country is about $52,000. The cost of one kid playing can be six or seven thousand dollars. Where does that leave the average middle-class family?”

Keeping up with the Joneses

It’s not difficult to understand why youth sports have attracted an unprecedented level of attention, from conglomerates like Nike to individual entrepreneurs: there’s huge demand.

About 41 million children participate in sports each year, and many parents are eager (too eager) to spend if it means even a remote chance of giving their child an edge. This arms race has whipped up a frenzy that, at times, turns comical. Have you heard of training DVDs for babies and infants? (I’m not joking.)

The youth sports economy has been estimated at $5 billion. That’s probably low considering the spending that goes on beyond the core categories of equipment, registration fees and instruction. For example, if your child has traveled to a different state for sports, you’ve probably paid for a hotel room, a meal at a fast-food restaurant and a hotel bed.

Most troubling are the effects on low-income families: it’s no longer a given that a child with a desire to play sports will have the opportunity. As McCutchen details in his essay, many poorer areas or neighborhoods lack basic infrastructure, such as recreation centers or safe athletic fields, while public funding for these facilities in most municipalities has dried up.

Despite marvelous sports organizations that serve disadvantaged communities – Soccer in the Streets, Girls on the Run and Squash Busters, to name a few – these organizations do little to solve systemic problems of inequality in youth sports.

Misplaced priorities

Youth sports too often are driven by what adults are seeking – prestige, validation, perhaps a college scholarship. This isn’t just the overly ambitious moms and dads. We’re all vulnerable. It’s in our DNA.

As sports psychologist Richard Ginsburg once told me, “The question isn’t whether we’re emotionally invested in our children, because we are. It isn’t whether we see ourselves in our children, because we do.” Kids typically take a more practical view. In study after study, they say they play sports to have fun and to be with friends.

Most children who play organized sports won’t be great athletes. They won’t play for their college teams. (In most sports, fewer than 5% of high school athletes will have that opportunity.) And they certainly won’t go on to earn millions of dollars as professional athletes. (The odds against that are longer than hitting the lottery.)

For the overwhelming majority of children, playing sports is about acquiring skills that, as they age, will carry over to other aspects of their lives: learning to be a good teammate, gaining self-confidence and dealing with adversity.

It’s important to remember that those things do not require the latest, most expensive piece of equipment.


This article is part of our youth sports series. To read the others in the series, click here.

  • Hi there buddy

    Pay-To-play
    Some people think that Pay-to-Play is bad, but it can be argued that it is great and that Pay-To-play means paying money to the school sport and it can be argued that it is good because it helps the school with funding and it helps the teachers with stuff.

    So first off Pay-To-Play is good because it gives money to the school to get chromebooks and sport stuff so we can have sports and if we did not have this the school would have to pay everything for the sports like the equipment every year like new basketball hoops and in are school microwaves so that is just half but there is more stuff that help with money for the school this came from , “should we have pay-to-play?”

    2 reason is that it helps teachers with stuff like pencils and new stuff that would help teachers teach and the money that go smart boards that would actually be smart and would work and this why need pay to play so people don't get so mad about the smart boards

    So some people would say that people don't have money to get in to sports and they can’t buy the equipment well what i say to that is if they don’t have the money then they cant go to the sport and if they did they would have got in and the have to do try outs and maybe get cut and then your money is all gone and you wasted it

    To rap this up that we should have pay to play because it helps the school with money for stuff like Chromebooks and equipment to play the sports. So then there can be more sports

  • Yes we should

    Pay-To-play
    Some people think that Pay-to-Play is bad, but it can be argued that it is great and that Pay-To-play means paying money to the school sport and it can be argued that it is good because it helps the school with funding and it helps the teachers with stuff.

    So first off Pay-To-Play is good because it gives money to the school to get chromebooks and sport stuff so we can have sports and if we did not have this the school would have to pay everything for the sports like the equipment every year like new basketball hoops and in are school microwaves so that is just half but there is more stuff that help with money for the school this came from , “should we have pay-to-play?”

    2 reason is that it helps teachers with stuff like pencils and new stuff that would help teachers teach and the money that go smart boards that would actually be smart and would work and this why need pay to play so people don't get so mad about the smart boards

    So some people would say that people don't have money to get in to sports and they can’t buy the equipment well what i say to that is if they don’t have the money then they cant go to the sport and if they did they would have got in and the have to do try outs and maybe get cut and then your money is all gone and you wasted it

    To rap this up that we should have pay to play because it helps the school with money for stuff like Chromebooks and equipment to play the sports. So then there can be more sports this is a essay hi

  • They should have to pay!

    Kids should have to pay to play sports because it allows the schools to maintain a monopoly over higher learning and they can't do this if they keep having to use their own money to give kids the exercise they need. Also, the schools already have to pay for all of the equipment and field time.

  • They should have to pay!

    Kids should have to pay to play sports because it allows the schools to maintain a monopoly over higher learning and they can't do this if they keep having to use their own money to give kids the exercise they need. Also, the schools already have to pay for all of the equipment and field time.

  • Hi, today I will be telling everyone about why you should pay to play sports.

    First off, the money you pay to play, can go to public schools, or the coaches, and if it goes to the schools, then they can use that money for better equipment, school books, and maybe even better schools. Plus, the coaches who teach you about sports like soccer, and football, usually start off in a bad situation because they are teaching beginners.

  • Hi my name is russel wilson qb for the seattle seahawks

    Me and my friends are lit at football and could beat your team anywhere at anytime.This is jack from deathvalley avenue. Our team is national champions of the world because you are the losers of the world!! We do not pay for sports but we have fundraisers at the deathvalley middle school

  • Yes they should

    Kids would be able to get better equipment and the school will be able to pay for better fields and better up the school. The school will be able to afford lots of thing to make it better. So i say yessssssssss, kids need to learn how to pay for their stuff

  • Yes some times

    If you can afford it then you should pay because otherwise the team wont run anymore. My son does competitve swimming and it costs almost 2000 dollars canadian. That money goes to the pool maintenace the coaches the lifeguards the plumers and the university. That is why you should pay

  • Yeeeeeeeeeessssssssssssssssss tthhhhheeeeeeeeeyyyyy ssssssshhhhhhhhooooooooooouuuuuuullllllllddddddd

    Because if you are the next Michael Phelps or Lionel Mess or Wayne Gretzky and you have the potential body type and everything but you can not afford it you will not get that potential. Also it is a waste of potential and you will never ever get that back

  • No its to expensive

    Think that students shouldn't have to pay to play is because some families don't have the money to pay for the sports their child might want to do. So not doing these sports may lead to no exercise through out the weeks and obesity is a big problem in the United states.
    Report Post

  • Categories: 1

    0 Replies to “Pay To Play Sports Essay Topic”

    Leave a comment

    L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *