By Ken Reed
It used to be that youth sports was a local community activity. Youth sports teams — “little league” teams if you will — would play other teams formed in their neighborhood and perhaps a few teams from close surrounding neighborhoods.
In today’s club sports world, youth teams are formed with players from all across a given city or state. Once formed, these teams develop schedules that have them traveling to games and tournaments hundreds of miles away, often requiring plane travel.
Travel club teams — many of which require the athletes to play the same sport year-round — are inaccessible to a significant segment of children due to economic reasons. Moreover, athletes that would like to play more than one sport during a calendar year can be shut out of these single sport teams if they don’t give the coach a year-round commitment.
Certainly, these travel teams can place a lot of pressure on kids to perform, many of them as young as 10-years-old. It’s produce or get dropped from the team. But many parents also feel pressure, often of the economic variety. Parents have to come up with the money for their child to play on these teams, and many times it isn’t easy. According to a Harris Poll survey, 27% of parents spend at least $6,000 a year on their children’s athletics, with 8% spending more than $12,000 annually. Parents are taking fewer vacations (36%) or working a second job (19%) to meet youth sports expenses. Moreover, 21% of parents are delaying retirement funding in order to pay for youth sports expenses. For parents in lower economic classes, steps like these aren’t even options. They’re priorities are things like paying rent and keeping food on the table.
There’s also a time cost involved with youth sports. Nearly 20% of parents spend 20+ hours per week on their kid’s youth sports activities. Time spent specifically for traveling often takes kids and their parents away from school, work and other activities. According to a youth sports app called GameChanger, the average club softball and baseball team travels about 1,200 miles a year for games and tournaments. Teams in Colorado travel an average of 2,551 miles a year. Club soccer, volleyball and basketball teams typically travel as much or more than softball and baseball teams.
The result of the continued growth of youth club sports is that the gap between youth sports “haves” and “have nots” continues to widen.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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