How "Big" is Youth Sports?

Boy under hurdle.jpg
so big that no one knows quite how big it is.
— ESPN.com

One estimate by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association that studied youth sport between 2009 and 2014 has put the number of kids participating in youth sports as high as 50.2 million kids.  This does not include another 5 million or so kids that start sports before the age 6.  

The "Big" Business of Youth Sports

Youth sports is $15.3 billion a year business.  Winter Green Research, a private firm tracking the industry told Time Magazine in August 2017, the youth sports industry has grown by 55% since 2010.

Where is all the money coming from?  You guessed it, American families just like yours.  Many are overly bullish, to a fault in some cases, on youth sports.  A bigger youth sports does not always mean better as an ever-growing number of horror stories of families being swept up by youth sports reveals. 

Youth sports often start out as fairly innocent.  They act as an outlet for our children.  They are things for them to get involved in and do.  Unfortunately, as it progresses youth sports can become quite serious taking a professional-like life of its own.  Inside it, a “second mortgage” mentality has emerged for some families.  

Youth sports is capitalizing off the love we have for our kids and sports.  It knows we, as parents, are willing to spend in excess to give our children the best.  And so the cost of youth sports continues to rise.  

Financial Implications on the Family

Mike Trombley told USA Today, “Most youth sports parents, even those with the best of intentions, have their financial priorities backwards.”  Trombley, a former Duke University and 11 year pro baseball player with the Minnesota Twins now runs Trombley and Associates.  It is an investment and retirement planning firm in Wilbraham, Mass.   

When it comes to integrating youth sports into your budget, Trombley's advice is simple.  He suggests the following when prioritizing:

·      Fund your 401K account first

·      Take advantage of your company’s matching contribution

·      Save for college

·      Stash some cash for emergencies

·      Funding for youth sports should come last.

Are Soccer Moms Real?

What do you do if you feel your getting swept up?  If you realize financially that you need a smaller youth sports presence in your life, then population statistics say that you should move either to the city or to a rural area.  Why?  Because the suburban soccer mom (and dad) are real things.  Intense youth sports cultures, according to a 2013 ESPN article entitled, “Hey, data, data—swing!” lie just outside major cities in the suburbs of metropolitan epicenters. 

It is in the suburbs where article writers Bruce Kelley and Carl Cachia say the greatest concentration of wealth exists fueling an often very pricey youth sports culture.  In stark contrast to rural and inner-city kids, suburban kids, suburban kids often start sports before they start elementary school.  Upon reaching elementary and middle school-age, suburban kids are playing on three four or five teams.  And upon suburban parents reaching this point, life revolves around practice. 

The Odds of Making it to the Pros

Your child’s odds equal nearly a zero percent chance of playing Division 1 (D1) sports according to Trombley.  In an effort to quell families’ large investments into youth sports, the financial planner told USA Today of the statistical unlikelihood of seeing returns on large investments into youth sports. 

Odds of a child, boy or girl, growing up and playing D1 sports

Basketball – 1%

Football – 2.6%

Golfers – 2%

Hockey – 4.6%

Trombley further says the odds get even longer at the next level based on the small number that made it to the D1 level in the first place:

Odds of a child, boy or girl, growing up to play in the pros

Basketball – 1.1%

Football – 1.5%

Hockey – 5.6%

The lesson is not to bash youth sports, but to encourage you not to get swept up.