Among the findings by The Journal News/lohud team that produced “Pay to Play,” an investigation into the growing world of youth sports in the Lower Hudson Valley, are:
- High-level high school athletes can spend as much as $20,000 a year on team fees, equipment, travel, private coaching and personal training. It could be as low at $2,000 for a team that stays close to home with a limited game schedule.
- Outside competition and specialized training have become almost commonplace for students who want to play varsity sports in high school, according to high school coaches, athletic directors, academics, parents and young athletes.
- A full season of soccer, baseball or lacrosse can easily reach the $10,000 mark.
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- Many clients pay for weekly individual pitching or hitting lessons at $100 a pop, or golf lessons at $150 an hour.
- A top-shelf baseball bat runs $450. A quality lacrosse helmet is $280. A pair of durable hockey skates go for $550.
- The exploding costs have created a divide between the haves and have-nots. A 2014 University of Florida survey found that parents of travel-team athletes average $2,266 annually. In 2015, that same survey found 32 percent of parents from households with an annual income of less than $50,000 said youth sports were too costly and affect their child’s ability to play. Only 16 percent of parents with an annual income of over $50,000 agreed.
- More than 25 million kids between the ages of 6 and 17 participated in some kind of organized team sport in 2015.
- Nearly 8 million participated in high school athletics in 2014-15. About 480,000 roster spots exist at NCAA member colleges and universities.
- Statewide, 37,394 boys and 33,866 girls play at the high school level in Section 1, one of the largest sections that includes public schools in Westchester, Putnam and Rockland, and parts of Dutchess counties. The number of participants from all 11 sections of New York State Public High School Athletic Association teams is 575,903.
- Participation in team sports is down 4 percent since 2009, but the demand for spots on travel rosters is climbing, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.
- Insiders estimate the youth sports club and travel industry generates nearly $9 billion in yearly revenue.
- Tom Farrey, who leads the Sport and Society Program at the Aspen Institute, says that high schools are the primary reason behind the explosion of club and travel programs, citing a culture that caters only to the best athletes at the varsity level.
- The amount of money offered in NCAA athletic scholarships has grown from about $250 million the early 1990s when the travel team environment accelerated to at least $2.7 billion, said Farrey, who authored “Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children.”
- Karl Erickson, a faculty member at the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University, said the shift to “club and travel teams, which tend to be more expensive and year-round time intensive at times, are becoming par for the course or mandatory just to take part in a high school sport. Now, you’re either all-in, full bore, year round, or you’re not even in the system.”
- Currently dominated by mom-and-pop outfits, equity firms and media companies are waking up to the huge market that is youth sports and developing products that are going to meet the demand of this market better than it has been met in the past, experts say.
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