The High Cost Of High School Sports

A WBZ Reports special series by Jim Smith

BOSTON (CBS) – Whether it was Little League, youth soccer, or the high school field hockey team, youth sports played a big role in shaping many adults’ lives. As the years pass, it is getting harder and harder for kids to get on the playing field. Cost has become a big challenge.

User fees, booster clubs and budget cuts are now facts of life for young athletes and their families.

 Listen to Jim Smith’s report

At Haverhill High School, it costs fans $5 to get into a soccer or field hockey game; it used to be free. That ticket price applies to the school’s students, and to parents of players on the teams.

“The admission fee is actually, I think, a little ridiculous,” said Dan Faircloth, whose twin daughters play soccer for Haverhill High. “It’s not nickels and dimes anymore. It’s dollars, fives.”

While those $5 tickets add up, it’s just a slice of the cost. Annual fees for kids to participate on high school teams can easily top $200 per sport, per child. Many towns establish family caps, but even those can approach $1,000 a year.

One solution – fundraising. Students and parents are being asked to act like sales agents, pushing candy and calendars to help foot the bill.

“In the last two weeks I have bought calendars as a fundraiser for these kids, and candy for these kids,” said grandparent Linda Baxter.

Administrators say budget cuts have left them no choice, so creativity is the key.

In Hull, where the high school sits under a Logan Airport flight path, they want to sell advertising on the school’s roof.

“Our idea is to approach the businesses and say, ‘hey, you want to put your logo up here on our roof? Give us some money for it and all these planes, all those thousands of passengers every day flying over this high school are going to see your logo’,“ principal Mike Devine explained.

Not every school system has fees. In fact, the state’s largest public school system, in Boston, does not charge students to play sports.

“I know it’s pretty expensive to play sports in most suburban schools, but we don’t have as many coaches as the suburban schools have,” said West Roxbury High School football coach Leo Sybertz. “We only have two assistant coaches, but they’re very good guys. They do an excellent job.”

You can hear Jim Smith’s series on the State of Youth Sports all week on WBZ News Radio at 12:05 and 5:05 p.m.

  • FireGuyFrank

    One word answer: Advertising.

    Sell sign space at the fields; get businesses to sponsor teams (banners hung by the benches); sell concession stand space to food vendors. Some school districts are selling ad space on school buses.

    Folks, we have to realize that asking parents and players to fund raise means the same parents and players are the source of the funds. You have to go for “other people’s money”. That is, get funding sources from outside the team, outside the school, outside the community, to improve the cash flow.

    Football and basketball will probably do the best, but that’s cash in the drawer that wouldn’t be there otherwise. That will reduce the burden on team sports that don’t tend to draw a crowd.

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