Whenever school districts go into austerity mode, the very first things that get slashed are the school’s extracurricular activities. That includes the school’s band, theatrical productions, and of course, the school athletic teams.
Cutting back on these items is nothing new, and in years past, invariably, after a year or two of having the parents chip in and pay a “participation fee” for their kids to play on teams, the budgets are re-balanced and the “pay to play” syndrome usually goes away.
But as noted on my show today, Bill King of Sports Business Journal did extensive research from all around the country, and found that pay-to-play situations are dramatically rising, and even worse, the fees are averaging $200 per sport per kid, and in some cases go as high as $950 per sport.
What does this mean? To me, it means the following: that parents better get used to paying a lot of money if their kid (or kids) want to play HS or middle school sports. I also get the sense that this is one of those trends that may not go away, and in fact, will become part of the national landscape. And of course, when it comes to teams which are already paid for in full by parents – e.g. travel teams — they are only going to become more popular as HS sports begin to fade away in popularity.
In short, due to economic pressures, we are now getting very close to where HS sports are becoming nothing more than a vestige of what they used to be, and that travel (or club/premier/elite) teams will become the norm. As one caller suggested this AM – why not have volunteer parents coach the HS teams? Sounds nice in theory, but it would be disastrous.
All in all, these pay to play programs are a real cause for concern for sports parents everywhere.