Youth sports are meant to evoke feelings of excitement and opportunity. Young athletes refine skills, discover passions, and learn how to work as a team. Yet for many parents in America, the rising price tag for their kids to play has turned a beloved experience into something much more complex.
In 2017, Time reported that youth sports is now a $15.3 billion dollar industry. A 2014 University of Florida Sport Policy and Research Collaborative report stated that, on average, parents of travel-team athletes spend $2,266 annually, and sometimes up to $20,000. This same survey found that 67 percent of athletes whose household earnings reach $100,000 or more play a sport, while only 38 percent of children from families with an income of $25,000 play.
The issue is glaring: only those who pay can play.
By giving kids limited access to athletics, unhealthy stigmas will only perpetuate in terms of how a young person views their worth and ability. The issue is far greater than playing sports; it prohibits marginalized groups from opportunities that should have never been inequitable from the start.
In a 2017 article published by The Atlantic, Lisa Flanagan wrote about the dangers of this very concept:
“Early sports participation matters because the advantages that come with it can serve as an inoculation against some of life’s unhappier outcomes. Compared to those who don’t play sports, students on high-school teams graduate at higher rates, perform better on tests, secure higher grades, and are more apt to aim for college. Sports participation is also correlated with happier families, better physical and emotional health, and an overall higher quality of life, including less drug and tobacco use in high school.”
For most athletes, their introduction to sports occurs during childhood. As youth sports has grown into a billion dollar industry and only continues to increase, access for children who come from lower-income families will continue to decrease. What is undeniable is the negative effects of preventing a child from participating in sports. Access to sports participation can be the main factor in how a child develops and the trajectory of their life.
In a 2021 study, it was concluded that “middle school children from high-affluence families had three times higher odds of meeting physical activity recommendations, and high-affluence high schoolers had three times higher odds of ever participating in sports compared to peers from low-affluence families.”
In addition to the dangers of limiting access to children, it is undeniable that the idolized treatment of professional athletes heavily weighs into the exclusivity and price tag of sports programs. In order to receive the best, be coached by the best, and have a real shot, the cost skyrockets to a level the average family would not be able to afford. The joy and pleasure of rec sports has been overshadowed by private clubs, academies, and leagues. Youth sports have quickly elevated, but the consumer has been left behind.
So, how does society combat this ever-growing problem? While our team at Hiveclass wishes we could fully absolve youth sports of inequity, we are on a mission to make the fundamentals more accessible. Our platform is designed to provide users with the foundational skills of different sports and activities, from dance to basketball to field hockey, and more. Collectively, our team believes that every child, regardless of background, race, or socioeconomic level, should be able to play.