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Inflation puts more pressure on already expensive children’s sports

It took only seconds for Rachel Kennedy to pick up her cell phone after leaving the checkout line at a sporting goods store where she had just finished buying new gloves, pants, belts, cleats and other equipment for her son. did. , Liam’s upcoming baseball season.

“I texted his dad and asked, ‘Did you really spend $350 last year?'” Kennedy said.

Sticker shock in youth sports is nothing new. .

A recent study conducted before inflation began to affect daily life across America found that families spend about $700 a year on children’s sports, with travel and equipment making up the largest portion of the spending. increase.

Everyone from soccer coaches to swim meet coordinators struggle to find cheaper ways to keep their families through the door. Soaring – all the product of an onslaught of supply chain problems, hard-to-find staff, shortages of coaches, exacerbated or sometimes caused gas and travel costs. by the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted and sometimes canceled seasons altogether. His 12-month annual inflation rate through September had him at 8.2%.

Kennedy, who lives in Monroe, Ohio, described his family as “at the bottom of the middle class,” and excluded Liam from the Summer and Fall Balls. Includes all necessary equipment. “

For a complete list of the weekend games and tournaments that dot a typical youth baseball schedule each season, “Gasoline prices have reached a point where there is no bandwidth to drive an hour or two. The Kennedys rarely stayed overnight in hotels for multi-day tournaments.

According to research conducted before COVID-19, published by the Aspen Institute, on average across all sports, parents spend more on travel each year than on any other aspect of their sport (children 1 $196 per person, per sport). Equipment, lessons, registration, etc. Such. According to many reports, hotel prices in some cities are about 30% higher than last year, and before the pandemic started he was about the same as in 2019.

Venues will cost more if they hire referees to call games, groundskeepers to prepare the fields, janitor to clean the indoor venues, and coaches to run practices. Even sports that are traditionally on the cheap end of the spectrum face problems.

Steve Rausch, a former leader of the Olympic world and now executive director of sanctioned Southern California swimming, said, “I would talk to people and say, ‘What does it mean to be paid $28 an hour as a lifeguard? ?'” he said. He is one of the most expensive areas in America. “The current rate is just through the roof. I’m here.

One Denver-area dance studio director said he didn’t want to use his name, citing business competitiveness, but started looking for a new uniform supplier as a way to keep costs down for his family. Some of his two out-of-state convention destinations, which are typical of a given season, have been changed to cities with more, and therefore cheaper, flight options. Some of these teams only make his third trip to major competitions if he receives a “paid” invitation.

“It’s going to cost them a third trip,” said the director. “Often February or March he doesn’t know if he will get that bid or not, and in April he has to turn back and move to the place. ”

At stake is the future of the youth sports industry, which generated nearly $20 billion before COVID-19 slashed spending in 2020.

Inflation has also given some families a chance to revisit the problems that first arose when COVID-19 more or less canceled all youth leagues for over a year.

“There was optimism that families might say, ‘Okay, let’s take a more balanced approach’ to how to get involved in sports,” said Jennifer Agans, an associate professor at Penn State University. Told. youth sports. “But until this economic wave, everyone was so excited to get back to normal life that we forgot the lessons we learned from slowing down. We will give it another chance to re-evaluate it.”

Not everyone wants it, but it’s an option imposed on middle and lower class people. Another report from the Aspen Institute before the pandemic concluded that children from low-income families were half as likely to play sports compared to those from high-income families.

Kennedy said he has long been lucky to have a supportive family, including his grandparents, who help cover some of Liam’s baseball expenses. I did. Travel team spots can run up to $1,200, and that’s before equipment and travel.

Still, Liam loved baseball and quitting it completely wasn’t a real choice.

“This is a whole parental ‘I’m going to make sure my kids get what they need’ hunger situation,” said Kennedy. “So if I let go of Starbucks and the little extras, there’s value in allowing him to play. But it’s never cheap.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Inflation puts more pressure on already expensive children’s sports

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