Psychology of Sport

From the games of youth to the big leagues

Economic Correction Factor in Youth Sports

will parents pay high fees for club and travel teams?

While Steven Kotler's recent blog post "High Cost of Playing of Playing Ball" raises questions about the trickle-down effect the economy will have on professional sports, will youth sports also experience a correction factor? At the professional level, Kotler indicates that fewer fans will pay high ticket fees to attend sporting contests. Given this progression, will parents of youth in sports continue to pay high seasonal fees for club and travel teams?

Recently, in the Boston Globe, a youth sports facility director said that many families are continuing to enroll in their sport programs and offerings because youth sports are still an affordable and healthy way for families to spend time together on weekends. Yet a sizable group of parents report spending thousands of dollars seasonally to support the travel, equipment and playing costs of their children's travel teams. Families with several children in youth sports are spending much more.

For some parents, they may simply decide that the cost is not worth the potential benefit and resort to playing for less expensive and demanding recreational teams. I wonder how many parents are making these decisions now. Clearly, many children derive great enjoyment and benefit from their travel sporting experiences, but perhaps these times are taking us toward more community play as opposed to regional or even national competition. And while some kids may miss out on a higher level of play or more exposure to potential college recruiters, they may also benefit from more time at home, greater rest, and opportunity to enjoy school and neighborhood friends.

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But this is also another and perhaps more important correction factor to consider. With various examples of poor leadership and decision-making among our business leadership, youth sports offers a key arena to teach the values of fair play, hard work over time, and respect for the rules and the integrity of the games they play. Clearly, winning at the expense of values is not really winning at all in the end.

 

Dr. Richard D. Ginsburg is co-Director of the Sport Psychology Program and PACES Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital.

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