The cost and time commitment of playing youth sports have escalated to the point that some are calling it the Youth Arms Race. There was a time when a young athlete could practice with his friends and go on to play high school varsity or even a travel club team if they had the inclination. Nowadays it takes more time, more money and more determination than ever just to make the varsity squad.
Journal News/lohud sports writers Josh Thomson and Mike Dougherty, along with photojournalist John Meore, fanned out this past spring and summer to investigate the growing world of youth sports in the Lower Hudson Valley. Using their years of experience covering the fields and clubhouses of the area’s burgeoning high school and club sports, they interviewed national experts, local athletic directors, coaches and sports training facility owners, as well as parents and the athletes themselves.
What they found is startling and will likely fuel the debate about how much is too much when it comes to participating in youth sports.
The Journal News/lohud is proud to present this series, Pay to Play, written by Thomson and Dougherty, photographed by Meore, and edited by Sports Editor Leif Skodnick and Watchdog Strategist Frank Scandale.
Josh Thomson was born and raised in Putnam County and has been with The Journal News/lohud.com since 2003. He primarily covers high school football and basketball, and Iona College men’s basketball. He lives in Westchester with his wife and two daughters.
Mike Dougherty has been covering sports in the Lower Hudson Valley for the last 25 years. After writing extensively about local high school and college athletics for The Journal News/lohud, he spent a decade on the New York Knicks beat and four seasons chasing the New York Giants. Mike has filed stories from the Super Bowl, the World Series, the NCAA Final Four, the NBA Finals, the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship. He graduated from Kennedy Catholic and Slippery Rock University, and resides in Brewster.
John Meore has been a visual journalist with The Journal News/lohud.com since 2015. Before that he was a freelance photojournalist and sports photographer working in the Hudson Valley. For 20 year, he worked in the photo industry as a technical service and sales representative, regional and national sales manager. Meore is also a former Navy photographer and lives in Tuxedo, N.Y.
Leif Skodnick is the sports editor at The Journal News/lohud. He is a 2002 graduate of St. Lawrence University with a degree in Canadian Studies and History, and holds advanced degrees from Mississippi College and Columbia University. When not covering sports, he enjoys golf, sailing and cooking. He lives in Rye with his wife.
Frank Scandale joined The Journal News/lohud last summer as its watchdog strategist in charge of investigations. Born in Brooklyn, he has edited at The Record (Bergen County, New Jersey), Digital First Media and The Denver Post, among other news outlets. He lives in Bergen County with his wife and children.
PAY TO PLAY: The high cost of youth sports
THE PATH: Experts explain the path to high school varsity squads
COSTS: Money and time add up in youth sports
PAY TO PLAY: The findings
JOE GIRARDI: Yankees’ manager not a fan of specialization by young athletes
EXPENSES: Cost of youth sports creates bigger divide
PLAYING THROUGH PAIN: Does youth sports specialization lead to more injuries?
ELITE PLAYERS: The top high school athletes are in a different class
GOLFERS: Private club access boosts high school athletes
YOUTH SPORTS: A good fit is crucial on a travel team
DRIVING THE COSTS: Are parents of young athletes behind the frenzy?
YOUTH SPORTS: The best quotes from the Pay to Play project