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Coping With High Gas Prices in Youth Sports

What MomsTeam families are doing

By JulieD

With gas prices hovering around 4 dollars a gallon, and the cost of everything, from groceries to restaurants, having a child, or two or three, playing on sports travel team is becoming a luxury many American families can no longer afford. 

So what are families doing to save money on the cost of playing on a travel team or to afford playing in a tournament five hundred miles from home? We asked parents in the MomsTeam forums.

Playing school sports, dropping travel teams

Many schools are cutting interscholastic sports because of budget constraints, with others avoiding cut-backs only by increasing user fees. Parents in our forums report that user fees have gone up from about $50 to between $100 to $125 per sport.

One way parents are coping with the higher user fees and rising cost of gasoline is by cutting back on their child's participation in non-school related travel teams, or limiting them to just one sport per season.

Eliminating unnecessary expenses

Because of the well-documented benefits of interscholastic sports for both boys and girls, it is critical that everything possible be done to avoid cutting back or eliminating school sports.

One way suggested by forum readers was for parents to demand that local school boards run schools more like businesses to eliminate unnecessary expenses:

  • Cut back on uniform expenses: One parent suggested eliminating separate home and away uniform jerseys and shorts  (which can cost over $100 per set) and going instead to single reversible jerseys and plain gym shorts, saving at least a couple of thousand dollars. 

  • Play double headers. In some sports, such as baseball and softball, instead of home and away games, teams could play doubleheaders, so that everyone only travels once but plays twice.  Playing doubleheaders could also shorten the season so that there would less travel. 

  • Eliminating travel programs for younger children.  Some parents suggested eliminating some travel programs, especially for younger kids.  There is no evidence that travel programs for kids before grade six increases the chances that they will be successful athletes at the high school or college level.  Kids were able develop their athletic skills just fine playing against other kids in their community before travel programs existed; they can do so again.

An Exception to the Rule

Recently, the NCAA Double A-Zone official Blog expressed the concern that "The high gas prices around the nation are affecting more than just your wallet at the pump. Many youth sports teams are unable to travel to national tournaments because of the price increases, which make it more difficult for the teenagers to be seen by potential college coaches."

Maybe children won't benefit any less if they stay in their local communities, but when they get to the high school level and know what sport they want to concentrate on, then they should travel to national tournaments in hopes of being seen by college scouts.

Share Your Ideas

If you or your community has come up with innovative ways to save money on sports travel expenses and coping with the high cost of traveling these days, whether it be by car, bus, or plane, we invite you to share them by participating in our forum.  Help us make this an open community where parents can give and receive ideas on how to handle these issues.

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