TAMPA (WFLA) – Many kids have dreams of making it to the big leagues, but for most families, that requires investing a lot of time, and a whole lot of money, into their children’s goals.
The costs of youth sports are skyrocketing.
Would you believe the $17 billion industry rivals that of the $15 billion National Football League?
“It’s a good business to get into because you know parents are going to pay the money to get their kids better…in their minds,” said Jim Delaney.
Delaney should know.
He recently left his position as a recruiter for high school athletes. He was turned off by where he saw the industry heading.
“It’s not everybody,” he said. “But for the most part, it’s become more about the entertainment for the adults rather than the development of the kids.”
Delaney says many parents feel the need to “keep up” and they think there’s only one path to college in scholarships or professional sports for their kids. That mentality requires money and can sometimes equate to some absurd decisions.
“I’ve seen 90-minute batting lessons for a 9-year-old kid,” Delaney said. “You wouldn’t do that with a major leaguer.”
It’s that expectation, along with the rising costs of youth sports in general, that’s extinguishing those dreams for young athletes.
Professional soccer star Hope Solo warned families about this very trend.
“My family would not have been able to afford to put me in soccer if I was a young kid today,” Solo told Hashtag Sports during an interview.
Take soccer, arguably one of the cheaper sports.
It will run families around $1,500 per year on average to play the game, according to a study by Utah State University. On the high end, that cost can climb to nearly $6,000 per child, per year.
Costs to keep your child competitive are surging for things like equipment, league fees, camps, training and the endless travel to games and tournaments.
Hockey is considered the most expensive youth sports.
The average cost is about $7,000 per child, per year.
For those who really go big? That number can easily top $19,000 annually, again, per child.
Adam Hall can tell you about the costs, financially, emotionally and physically.
Hall played four seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He’ll tell you it was a long road to get there, literally.
“I remember at the age of 11, I made a travel team,” he remembered.
“I grew up in Michigan and made a team across the state in Detroit. It was two hours in the car one way, just to get to practices. My parents would drive me a couple times a week.”
Hall sees a lot of himself in his son who’s very early in his hockey career and equally excited.
“My goal is if I make it fun for him, and he wants to come back the following week, I did my job,” he said.
After retiring last year, Hall now helps athletes manage their money as a financial adviser.
He also coaches hockey.
While he may be crafting the next round of professional hockey players, he said he’s not focused on that.
“I don’t ever want him to feel like that was expected of him or I would rather have him pave his own path in life whether it’s hockey or anything else.”
It’s a mentality that’s, sadly, lost on many competitive parents today.
“If they’re using the words ‘I’ or ‘we’ when talking about their kids’ games, look yourself in the mirror,” Delaney said.
He says advancements in technology and social media are partially to blame. Society is losing patience, especially on the youngest of players.
“Everything is available to us,” he said. “Let’s make them better, faster and quicker.”
Both men say it’s important to go back to where it started in the first place: the young athlete.
“They should be focused on how much fun they had and what kind of pizza they want after the game,” Delaney said.
Both men say you don’t need to spend the big dollars to find competition and make your child a better athlete.
They say ask around, do your research and you’ll uncover countless programs like the Lightning’s Learn to Play program.
That program offers kids head-to-toe gear for free and gets them involved in hockey fundamentals at an affordable price.