Dr. Michael Omidi is a philanthropist who covers topics that deal with childhood obesity, general health and global poverty. In today’s blog post, he looks at the high cost of sports participation for school children.
We all know that the key to eliminating obesity is a good bout of physical activity.
Many of us played sports as kids. Lessons learned on the field or court not only benefited us physically but helped us all through life. Sports taught us about hard work, competition and integrity. It was also great fun to participate in team activities.
Unfortunately, sports are becoming more expensive for participants, and that is starting to shut out lower income families, many of whom are unable to pay the high fees. A study by the University of Michigan found that 61 percent of families paid to participate in middle school and high school sports.
Kelley Holland of NBC News cited the example of a Florida family that paid more than $18,000 in one season to keep their daughter on the traveling soccer team.
Pay to play?
While affluent families can afford the added expenses, the price tag can be more than half a lower income family’s annual income. Sports programs need to be able to provide the necessary equipment, uniforms, travel costs, and developmental camps to keep kids interested and even to help them excel at a given sport.
In some cases, parents may have to miss work hours to support their children’s sports dreams. Parents from lower income families may not have the time to drive their children to games. Even when they can get work time off, they lose pay and have to cover transportation costs on top of everything else.
The rising cost of organized sports has led to a decline in participation across the board. The Sports and Fitness Industry notes that participation in team sports recently dropped to 50 percent from 54 percent. For the 19 percent of families who make less than $60,000 a year, cost was the main reason for cutting their kids’ participation in team sports.
Organizations that help
However, there are organizations out there working to keep lower income kids in the activity loop. One is Kids Play USA.
The organization works with sports organizations and school districts to create affordable programs so that lower income families can participate. They also help those families with the cost of game equipment.
Play 60 is another example. The program was founded by the National Football League to encourage children to be more active. Fuel Up to Play 60 encourages schools to promote healthy eating and physical activity, and offers funding opportunities to help schools meet these goals. Approximately 60 percent of the schools they serve are in lower income areas.
A typical success story is the Jackie Robinson West baseball program in Chicago. Little League Baseball started its Urban Initiative in 1999 to aid organizations that help kids from lower income areas who want to play baseball. Jackie Robinson West was one of the organizations that benefited, and in 2014 the team became the U.S. National Champion of Little League Baseball.
Allowing lower income children to participate in team sports helps reduce obesity rates in poverty-stricken areas. It can also lead these children toward better lives through college scholarships and maybe take them into professional sports careers.
Yours in health,