How much does it really cost to play football?

By Michelle Hill | Posted 5/12/2016

High school football players just don’t jump onto the field and shout, “Here I am, put me in coach!” There are costs to count, and not just financially. Often, the highest cost is the time commitment required for practices, home games, and the travel time to and from away games.

Let’s explore the real costs of playing youth football.

Equipment Costs

Youth sports is a $5 billion annual industry, and about 45 million youth, ages 8-16 participate in youth sports just in the U.S.  Roughly 25 million youth compete in school sports and 20 million play organized out-of-school sports. Parents pay an estimated $671 annually for their child’s sports-related activities. About 21-percent of parents spend $1,000 or more on their child’s sports activities every year. These stats do not include health care costs for sport-related injuries.

The costs can really add up: equipment costs, registration fees, summer sports camps, uniforms, coaching fees and other sports-related expenses. According to a survey of over 1,000 parents of student-athletes, football is the most expensive sport to play.

Solutions for the Money Crunch

  • Budget early Instead of having to come up with all the money when football starts, start early by budgeting a certain amount every week and putting it into a separate account. It will grow and maybe even accrue some interest by the time the season starts.
  • Seek out used sports gear Craigslist, EBay, and other online auction sites often offer equipment at deeply discounted prices. This is a wise decision, especially if it’s your child’s first year playing and you don’t know if they will continue the sport.
  • Start small If your child expresses interest in playing youth football, let your child try a city, county or church recreational league instead of diving into a sophisticated organized sport.
  • Work for it Encourage your child to work for his or her equipment. Doing odd jobs around the neighborhood or getting a part-time job before the season starts can help your child gain a sense of ownership and healthy pride.

The Time Factor

Besides the financial investment necessary to suit up, it’s crucial to count the cost of how much time it takes to keep your child in youth football.

It starts with off-season conditioning, then a rigorous schedule of pre-season practices, including two-a-days for at least two weeks. That means no less than three months of necessary transportation to conditioning and practice and traveling to and from games.

That doesn’t take into account getting school work completed and taking time to prepare mentally to face different opponents every week.

All that means is your youth will need transportation back and forth to practices, back and forth to school, and back and forth to away games if a bus isn’t available.

It is a huge commitment of time.

“During the season, we don’t get home until around 7:30. You get home, you get something to eat, do your homework and then it is time to go to bed. It’s hard to do anything,” said one high school senior football player. “During the season, it is football, school work and that’s it.”

Solutions for Time Challenges

  • Carpool and rideshare with other parents While this seems obvious it takes some organization and syncing schedules to make it happen successfully. Connect with other parents of student-athletes and coaches, and coordinate rides to practices.
  • Utilize Uber A lot of students are using it to transport themselves to and from destinations. It’s convenient, relatively low-cost, and relieves you safely and quickly when you’re not available.
  • Consider one of the many emerging youth transportation services Although pricier than Uber, a simple Google search can reveal local school and athletic transportation services that might be available in your area.

Weighing the financial investment and time commitment required of your youth to play football should be discussed seriously long before the season starts. The famous adage, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” holds true here. It will require sacrifice from all involved but if the family is supportive of their child playing football, it will discover creative solutions.

Michelle Hill, the Strong Copy Quarterback at Winning Proof, is a sports and fitness content writer. She writes championship content for pro athletes, coaches, sports agents, sports psychologists, fitness professionals and transformation/success coaches. Her writing includes websites, e-newsletters, e-workbooks, brochures, press releases, blog articles and book development. Let’s call an audible for your next writing project that moves you from the red zone into the end zone.