Youth sports have been a major part of our lives for the past 15 years. Since my youngest started playing soccer in 2005, my Dudes have played several competitive sports: tackle football, flag football, basketball, swimming, lacrosse, martial arts, and baseball, and lacrosse.
We now have a high school varsity soccer player, two basketball players, and a tackle football player keeping us engaged in some form of organized athletics year round.
For my part, I am the Vice President of a large Maryland youth sports organization where we live, and have worked with the NFL and several other organizations to help increase awareness about the need to improve youth sports health and safety. I am passionate about helping to support and create opportunities for children to pursue physical activities that are fun, educational, and safe.
And, awesome side note, I am a certified Heads Up Football player safety coach, which means I could tackle you right now if I wanted to.
The True Cost of Youth Sports: A Look at How Much We Spend on Sports Each Year
With the number of youth sports programs we have been a part of over the course of the last 15 years, it shouldn’t come as a shock that they are a major line item on our family budget.
And yet, when I sat down to write this post and began tallying things up, I was 100% all…
I mean, this is real footage of me, sitting at my computer last week, looking at my probably-super-low-estimate of how much change we’ve dropped on our kids and their activities…
And by change I mean dollars.
Hundreds, noooo, thousands, of American dollars.
Had you told me when I signed my adorable toddler up for soccer 15 years ago that I would eventually invest upwards of $50,000 in sports, not including gas, car mileage, food, and time (not just for him, for all three of them) before he even graduated from high school, I can’t say I would’ve gone ahead and bought those baby cleats after all.
And that’s not to say I regret it. It’s just to say, had I known about the real cost of youth sports, I probably wouldn’t have been able to see past it to appreciate the benefits.
Why We Invest in Youth Sports for Our Children
There are so many wonderful things that our family has experienced thanks to the time and money we have invested in sports. We have made some of our closest friends, enjoyed some of our best family vacations, and had some of our most impactful learning moments thanks to our involvement in youth sports.
I love how being a part of these teams has tested them, humbled them, lifted them up, and required them to get back up after being torn down.
I know it’s not a feasible way to spend 50 grand for every person, and I know that many people couldn’t do it even if they wanted to, but I also know that for our family, it works.
Youth sports are the way my kids find enjoyment, build character, learn to push themselves beyond what they thought possible, grow their minds and their bodies to improve their overall physical fitness. They are passionate about the sports they play and I love seeing them do something they love with such commitment.
I want to support that type of drive and show them that things that light a fire in your heart are worth investing in.
And, before you ask, I am not trying to make them go pro.
They don’t need to be saved from anything, they have lots of other interests and abilities, and I don’t plan to momager them through trade negotiations and sneaker endorsement deals one day.
I am here because it makes sense for now and what it means to them today.
What We Spend On
While their breadth of sports has dwindled considerably in the past couple of years as they’ve gotten older (they each used to play one or two different sports each season), as competitiveness and the need for trainers and better equipment has increased, the overall investment in those sports has only grown.
What started as a $50 registration fee for a 6-week session of whatever sport through the local recreation center, has evolved into a $1500 fee with another $1000 for uniform, trainers, shoes, and indoor time, for a full year commitment to a travel club.
Let’s see if I can blow your minds even more.
Here is a basic breakdown of what we’ve spent on sports in the last 15 or so years.
Note: this is largely anecdotal and based largely on memory and rounded to the nearest like hundred or something. #IamawriterIdontdomath
What we spent on travel soccer (year round) total for 6 years: $27,360 (he is no longer on a travel team and only plays for his high school varsity squad)
- Player fee: $1500
- Additional indoor fee: $250
- Uniform: $300
- Shoes (cleats and indoor) and other gear: $250
- Tournament travel (assuming 3 per season): $1200
- Weekend travel (just food and gas): $1000
- End of season events: $60
What we spent on AAU Basketball (February to July) total for two kids 2 years: $14,300 (they will both return to AAU this spring)
- Player fees (includes uniform): $1100
- Trainer fees: $500
- Shoes: $250
- Tournament travel (assuming 2 per season per child): $3500
- Tournament entry fees: $550
- Weekend travel: $1000
- Fundraisers: $250
We also do football, but it’s a comparatively low cost program where they loan you the equipment. The registration fee is less than $250/kid each season and we have few other costs because it’s also local. Additional expenses include cleats, registration fees, fundraisers, entry fees, team snacks, coaches gifts, and apparel.
Cost of tackle football for two kids over the past seven years: Approx. $6,500
We’ve also done these sports in the past:
- Baseball: Approx. $800/season for 2 seasons
- Lacrosse: Approx. $1000 total
- Flag Football: Approx. $300 total
- Swim team: Approx. $4,300 total (3 kids, multiple seasons each)
- Tae Kwon Do: Approx. $800/total
Finally, we have summer camps.
We send each of them to two per summer which amounts to about $350 per kid. There have been summers they didn’t go to any and Dude 1 stopped going when he got to high school a few years ago, so a total cost is difficult to calculate.
Summer camp total estimate: $6,000 total for all three kids.
When you total it all up and recover from crapping an entire cow out your butt, you can do a little math and discover that we’ve spent a little over $61,000 dollars (Approx. $6,000/year for three kids).
I deal with it by reminding myself that at least I’ve never really had to pay for daycare. I’ve always been a SAHM or a WAHM. I sent them to preschool (very low cost programs), but other than that I worked to build my business around their naps and at bedtime.
For a brief moment when I was pregnant with Dude 3 I thought about putting them all into full-time daycare and going back to teaching.
When I discovered that it would cost me over $30k a year to send a newborn, a two year old, and a 6 year old to a center, I decided that I would not be doing that because that sounded crazy.
Kinda like spending $50k on sports.
In an effort to prove we aren’t entirely out of our minds, I asked the parents who hangout on the DudeMom Facebook page to be real about how much they spend on youth sports and other activities for their kids.
Here’s what’s real: WE ARE NOT ALONE!
15 Parents Share What They Really Spend on Youth Sports & Activities
Christy C. | 1 Kid | Piano | Approx. $3,620/yr
We spend just as much on music lessons as we do on sports, so I’m putting my 2 cents in with these stats:
Violin: $450 for a “semester” of lessons-2 semesters per year. (I’m including the gas to drive her to and from lessons). $500-$800 when she needs to size up her instrument (but that only happens once every 2-3 years).
Piano: $80/month. Dance: $80/month for lessons, $75-100 for costumes once a year, plus additional recital fees and gas to drive to and from rehearsals.
Kim H. | Dance and Riding | 2 Kids | Approx. $10,800/yr
My kids couldn’t have chosen more expensive sports – dance and horses! Dance classes and company fees run approx $600/month, plus another $200 or so for shoes and tights for the year. Competition travel expenses about $400 for a year. Volunteer time 25 hours total during the school year.
Horses are shockingly less expensive for us, but depending where and how you rise they could be much higher. $250/mo for pony lease, and show/trailer fees run $100+ for locals shows. We don’t show too far from home, so that helps.
Cassie H. | Baseball | 1 Kid | Approx. $6,630/yr
10u travel baseball….
* $900 for player fees (uniforms, umps, etc)
* 8 weekend tournaments a year = AT LEAST $500-$600each weekend (gas, food, hotel, admission fees)= $4000- $4800
* 2 bats = $120 for one, $350 for the other
* 2 gloves(hes a first baseman and a pitcher) = $180
* cleats = $80
*all the stuff I’ve made/bought for baskets for the team = $ 200
I’m sure there is stuff I’m missing but there is most of it!
Nicole H. | Dance and Riding | 3 Kids | $8,240/yr
Dance is about $275 per month.
Dance competitions – $200-ish to enter, then the expense of travel. So, maybe like $500 per competition. For us, we’ve done two per year.
Costumes run 50-60, 1 per class or competition dance. This year between my two girls we had 5 total. So, another $300-ish.
Horse lessons – $60 per lesson. So, $300 per month. Gear I’m still working on. We just started. Her boots were $40.
Eva W. | Dance and Violin | 1 Kid | $7,200/yr
Rhythmic is cheaper per lesson than violin, but the apparatuses. Hoop, ball, clubs, rope… AND they grow out of them! Then the leotard… 300 or so used. AND THEY GROW OUT OF THEM. Practice is an hour away, 3 times a week. I’d guestimate with gas, team fees, leotard, apparatuses, competition fees, admission fees, and toe shoes that it is about $600 a month now. That’s just one kid ????
Charles R. | Hockey | 1 Kid | $15,000/yr
My son plays Club Hockey where they travel all over USA and must attend expensive summer training camps. Expenses exceed $15 K per year.
Mary D. | Hockey, Robotics, Track, Football, and Baseball | 4 Kids | Approx. $10,000/yr
$1500 hockey reg fees (increases w/ age). $1500 to $2000 plus in goalie equipment every time he outgrows it. $400 to $500 every “away” weekend for hotels/gas/food (hockey lasts Oct to march). $60wk gas driving to Traverse for practice (roughly 16 to 20 weeks). Repeat for football season, track season, Robotics, baseball season times 4boys. I would estimate we are somewhere upwards of $8000 to $10,000 a year wrapped up in fees, equipment, and travel. This could even be on the low end. Ive never kept a spread sheet May be a good idea to start… tho I’m not sure I really want to know or comprehend actual numbers. Hockey is by far the most expensive but the rest adds up too. This does not include medical bills, chiropractor, and physical therapy for sports injuries. Lord knows we’ve had plenty of those.
Dawn B. | Soccer | 1 Kid | Approx. $4,780/yr
Well, let’s see. My daughter has been playing soccer since she was 3. She will be 17 in a few months. Those first few years of rec soccer don’t really count (financially). It’s REAL now. So let’s break it down.
Cleats-$160+- (once or twice a year)
Camps-$150 (2 per season)
Misc training equipment-$90 (this year was the first time for this)
Tournament fees-$60ish (this amount is what each player is responsible for as the total fee is split between however many players there are. And we do about 2-3 a season)
Hotel f/ tourney-$110ish x2 nights)
Gas f/season-hard to say. She has 2 practices per week about 18 miles from home. Then 1 or 2 games per weekend from August-November. Games can be anywhere in GA.
Pre-season Winter indoor team-$100
*Everything like uniforms & transportation are included in the one time fee.
Entrance fee to each game-$10 ($5per adult) and there are about 12-16 games per season
I think that’s it. Holy cow! ????I’ve never looked at what we pay like this before.
Michele P. | Formal Dance | 1 Kid | Approx. $13,300/yr
Formal dance training – NOT competition – including lessons, fundraising, clothes, performance fees, local studio camps, etc.. . . I’d say $600 – $800 a month. If you add summer intensives (not including audition fees and travel to auditions to just get into them), you add another $3000 – $5000 a year (depending on length and location of the intensive). Pointe shoes alone will run $75 – $100 a pair and depending on the level can last from a couple weeks or, if you’re lucky, a month if the dancer isn’t performing a lot.
Lori M. | High School Band | 2 Kids | Approx. $25,000/yr
I have 2 kids in high school band. It’s an amazing experience that I’m thankful they can be part of but the expenses are bonkers. They are in one of the top 20 marching bands in the country, and internationally recognized wind symphonies.
$100 sports fee
$1000 band fee
$40+ Required shirts
$3500 optional international performance trip
$500 wind symphony competition trip (sometimes twice)
$100 tickets to watch them play at football games
$1000 minimum for travel & hotels for parents
$250+ parent admission to competitions
$100+ water & snack donations
$500+ kids meal & spending money while traveling.
About $2500/yr in private lessons
$1000-$4000 if they buy a new instrument.
I’ve likely forgotten or blocked out a bunch of other expenses.
All of that times 2 because we have 2 kids.
This does not include the thousands in medical bills for injuries, nor the donations we make and concert admissions. This goes up if they make All-State, etc. and we travel for that.
This year we’re adding $6-7000 so both parents can join them on their trip to England & Scotland. We’re likely out a minimum of $23,000 just for band and band related activities. That’s very conservative. It’ll likely be closer to $25,000 in reality, especially if we fly to Grand Nationals. Plus the hundreds and hundreds of hours of our time we give for volunteering and fundraising. Our organization still has to fundraise about $450,000 to run the program, even after we’ve paid all of this.
No wonder I’m broke!????
Oh crap, Thing 2 needs a new tuxedo and dress shoes this year as well! Just put it on my tab!????
Natasha B. | Golf, Dance, and Tennis | 4 Kids | Approx. $13,200
$1100 for 4 kids monthly. (golf, dance x’s 2, tennis) And I think my oldest is going to do marching band ???? Golf being the pricest because of how often he plays and practice time in varying courses.
Sharlene H. | Tae Kwon Do | 1 Kid | Approx. $3,540
Tae Kwon Do:
$175/month (it’s year-round)
$60 per Belt Promotion
$500 for Black Belt Promotion
$50 per dobok (uniform); only when he’s outgrown current dobok
$80 per tournament (2x a year)
$600 for TKD Summer Camp
$20 for breaking boards (2-3 sets needed per year)
Shell R. | Soccer and Distance Running | | 2 Kids | Approx. $4,115
Soccer (for one child): easily at least $3,000 for the year. When he was young and in rec soccer, maybe a total of $100 for the year because uniform was included, shoes were inexpensive, and there was no travel. But now uniforms are expensive, there’s a lot of travel involved, team fees, etc. That 3k is probably too low of an estimate. Adding this one in here, too: my oldest is a distance runner. Which, on the surface, doesn’t look that expensive. It’s about $150 for him to participate in two semesters of his school’s running club each year. Running shoes about $100-150 at this point. But then you’re nickel and dimed for every 5-10K. Or more like $25’ed and $50’ed.
Nic R. | Soccer, Art, and Piano | | 2 Kids | Approx. $4,370
Travel ⚽️ $650 per year & that includes 3 tournaments & new uniform every 2nd year. This year we are adding 3 more tournaments so another $300. Art classes $85 per month ( military discount )
Piano lessons – teacher comes to house $60 . ( 1x week , 30 min lesson , 2 kids )
Jill H. | Hockey and Figure Skating | 2 Kids | Approx. $6,800/yr
1st kid – $800
2nd kid – $350
They each need new skates/sticks this season = $500
Spring/Fall skills x2 – $200
Hockey camps – $500
We only do a few overnights so I’ll guesstimate $1000 total…..
Figure skating: quasi year round…
New skates this year: $600
Competitions – $600 not including travel
Lessons/ice time: $1500
Acro class (only during school year): $40
Soccer (only spring and fall): $150 (we don’t travel yet)
Baseball: $100 (same, no traveling)
I ain’t even gonna both adding this up. ???????????? I know I’m missing some stuff…. ????
Average reported annual expense for one child: Approx. $5,086
You can read all of the reports from parents here: Real parents share how much they spend on youth sports and other activities for their kids.