Who knew youth sports was a $15 billion industry?

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My daughter racing, a few years ago.

Who knew that the youth sports industry in the United States has turned into a $15 billion a year industry? According to Time Magazine’s Sean Gregory, “Across the nation, kids of all skill levels, in virtually every team sport, are getting swept up by a youth-sports economy that increasingly resembles the pros at increasingly early ages.”

As a swim mom, I understand how easy it is to get swept up in kids sports. “Before Swimming” is how we refer to the years before club swimming took over our lives. “BS” we used to take ski vacations in Snowmass, CO and ski weekends in Big Bear. I took my son and daughter to youth tennis where they laughed and ran around with their friends. My son tried Cub Scouts and my daughter went to ballet.

They did a number of activities back in those days. Then they both fell in love with the pool. After taking lessons for water safety since they were six months old, my son around age seven was skilled enough to join the Piranha Swim Team. We were so proud! Then my daughter soon followed and every evening we found ourselves with other parents around the pool deck.

During my daughter’s high school years, I’d add up the costs of swimming just to see….I won’t give you a figure—but with dues of $160 per month, private lessons, and hotel stays at travel meets, and meals out, it added up. Then we came up with the brilliant plan of buying an RV to avoid the hotel costs and restaurants. Thing is….we never used it for a meet. It never seemed to be convenient.

From the Time article called “How Kids’ Sports Became a $15 Billion Industry:”

“The cost for parents is steep. At the high end, families can spend more than 10% of their income on registration fees, travel, camps and equipment. Joe Erace, who owns a salon and spas in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, says Joey’s budding baseball career has cost north of $30,000. A volleyball dad from upstate New York spent $20,000 one year on his daughter’s club team, including plenty on gas: up to four nights a week she commuted 2½ hours round-trip for practice, not getting home until 11:30 p.m. That pales beside one Springfield, Mo., mom, who this summer regularly made a seven-hour round-trip journey to ferry her 10- and 11-year-old sons to travel basketball practice. Others hand their children over entirely. A family from Ottawa sent their 13-year-old to New Jersey for a year, to increase his ice time on the travel hockey circuit. A sponsor paid the teen’s $25,000 private-school tuition. This summer, 10 boys from across the U.S. stayed with host families in order to play for a St. Louis–based travel baseball club.”

I enjoyed reading the Time magazine article and I agree with most of the parents who are interviewed. If your child is passionate about their sport, it’s natural to do everything you can to help them out. My life soon got absorbed by the team. I was writing the newsletter, press releases, fliers to hand out at schools. Soon, I was serving on the board, planning banquets, fundraisers, organizing goodie bags and buying year-round gifts. I remember breaking down in tears when I had to chase one parent down to do a minimum of a few hours volunteering at a meet—and he refused. He refused loudly and rudely. But then, I also remember early on when our family was asked to help at a meet with set-up and tear-down and we told the president of the team, “Sorry, but we have a life.” I guess we did, but that was “Before Swimming.”

I don’t regret a moment of my swim parenting days, though. I’d do it all over again.

Are you involved in the $15 billion youth sports phenomenon? What sports do your kids participate in and how involved are you as a sports parent?

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Third place relay at Junior Olympics, 9-10 age group.

 

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What I learned from three grads about attitude and achievement.

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Yesterday I interviewed three graduating seniors in Desert Hot Springs for a small scholarship fund I’m involved with. 

Each girl was a joy and their spirit of kindness was refreshing. Our scholarship fund requires recipients to have high academic achievement, leadership, and a commitment to their community.

The high school we visited yesterday is poor compared to the one my daughter attends, although it’s only 10 miles away.

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All three girls had one thing in common — they are the first in their family to be attending college.

One girl was the fifth child in her family. The parents never went beyond 8th grade in their education. She loves her parents, but she has seen how hard life can be without an education. This is what spurred her to take AP and Honors classes to get on track for college. She volunteers while following a path that no one else in her family has attempted.

The second was the salutatorian. Not only did her parents not attend college, but she has an older brother in his 20s that is mentally disabled. I could tell that she was equally as proud of his accomplishments as her own. On weekends, this bright, confident girl, travels 30 minutes to volunteer with animals at the zoo.  Her goal is to be a veterinarian. I have no doubt she will achieve her dreams.

The third girl was very soft spoken and shy, but she had a warmth and grace about her. She has volunteered for four years at a local hospital and said she loves working in the surgery center. “The patients are cranky and I like to do everything I can to make them more comfortable.” Her mother is a single mom that makes $22,000 per year. 

imgres-6I’m proud and honored to meet these three girls. They have given me hope, especially after being around kids in my daughter’s world who are given everything they ask for, want everything and need nothing, have supportive parents, yet still act as though the world owes them something. 

images-5What are the parents of these so called “underprivileged” kids doing that we are not? Perhaps they’ve let their kids fail and learn from their mistakes. Or, they don’t believe their kids are perfect and never make mistakes. They didn’t spend their parenting years fighting every battle for them. These three beautiful girls had to make it all on their own. 

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My scholarship committee after interviewing the three girls.