As the chairman of the department of tourism, recreation and sport management at the University of Florida, Michael Sagas had a pretty good idea what to expect when his daughter started playing travel soccer. But even he was taken aback by the tally when her team started playing in regional and national tournaments.
Her latest season, which ended July 24, cost the family $18,115.41, Sagas said. "It's ridiculous."
Sagas' daughter is lucky: Her parents have the resources to make high level soccer happen for her. Yet in soccer and other sports, the rising popularity of expensive club and academy teams and the spread of costly tournaments all over the country, are making it harder for low income youth to participate.
Even school teams are getting more expensive. A study by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital found that 61 percent of respondents reported paying to participate in middle school and high school sports.
The end result is that a significant share of lower income children and adolescents find themselves shut out of team sports.
"From a sport development perspective I think we're in trouble," said Sagas, who just left the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships. He said the crowd there was "a sliver of the upper middle class, mostly upper middle class to wealthy. We're seeing the best of that group, but we're definitely not reaching the entire population.