Paying to Play: How much do club sports cost?

USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Jason Smith is a former NCAA DIII athlete and college coach at all three division levels. Jason is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.

It’s no secret that club sports are a huge investment—in time, emotion, and money. Yet, too often parents find themselves blindsided by a dwindling bank account once the season is in full swing. Equipment, tournaments and dues can add up quickly. But to exactly how much?

A study conducted last summer by TD Ameritrade found that parents whose children participated in “highly competitive or elite teams run by a non-school organization” were spending on average $100 to $500 per month, per child. And at least 20 percent of them dished out $1,000 per month.

So, we rounded up coaches among our staff at NCSA to help you understand the costs associated with some club and travel sports:


Travel baseball averages out to $3,700 per year. But families can pay upward of $8,000 if they opt for extra training services and play in out-of-state tournaments—travel costs are the biggest determining factor here. Your child’s equipment and uniform typically cost $200 to $500.


Team fees, which are usually just over $1,000, don’t include travel and hotel costs, but do contribute to tournament fees. Like baseball, gear can range from $200 to $500. Lessons are $75 per session, meaning families may carve $3,000 out of their budget for 40 weeks of training. Take four out-of-state trips? That’s an extra $1,600 in travel and $1,900 for hotels.


If your family is lucky enough to be on a Nike or Adidas sponsored AAU team, the cost for spring and summer comes to $500 for meals, hotels and travel. Without sponsorship, the price tag is $5,000, especially if your child is playing most weekends and traveling. The actual membership fee, though, is only $15 a year.


Depending on the level, membership dues can range from $2,500 to $5,000 per year. Plus, some teams have a registration fee. These costs typically cover salaries, league and referee fees, state and national registration fees, and player insurance and player development programs. So, parents also have to pay for travel costs, which vary depending on how far you go—anywhere from $500 to $6,000 from spring to fall.


Volleyball can range significantly depending on how elite the team. Very high-end teams with extensive travel nationwide will easily average $8,000 to $10,00 per year, with club fees making up $4,000 to $6,000 of the cost. The less competitive, more regional club programs are usually $1,500 or so. These teams tend not to travel as much and have shorter seasons.

Learn more: Do you have to play club sports to get recruited?

It turns out we’re talking thousands of dollars. That’s, frankly, a lot of money. But many parents hope it will pay off in the future. In fact, 40 percent of respondents said they were banking on athletic scholarships to cover more than half of their child’s college costs.

While every family’s path to college looks different, you can make the most of your spending by evaluating where your athlete is at in their recruiting journey. For example, children in youth sports will benefit most by focusing on skill development. It really isn’t necessary for 6th and 7th graders to splurge on camps and showcases when they aren’t being actively recruited by college coaches. But high school student-athletes on the other hand, especially juniors, want to play in front of as many college coaches as possible.

Maximize your opportunities at the right time and your investment can surely be worthwhile.

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