Sports dreams for kids is a financial sacrifice

By Janis Meredith | Posted 12/10/2018

What kind of financial sacrifices are you making for your kid’s sports to pursue their dreams at playing at a higher level?

In the article Behind every Olympian is a financial sacrifice, the evidence is clear: It can cost thousands of dollars to raise an athlete, let alone an Olympian, yet many parents make the sacrifices to do it.

How do you determine whether the financial sacrifice is worth it? How do you know whether you should make a huge leap to paying for more expensive training or coaching for your young athlete?

Your kids have dreams when they are little. And as parents, you are torn between cheering your kids on and reminding them of the realities because you don’t want to see them hurt or disappointed.

RELATED CONTENT: Why kids should play sports

How can you know if your child really has potential to go further than most of their peers? How do you know if their childhood dreams have a chance for becoming reality? How far should you go to fuel their hopes when the reality is that only 0.2 to .05 percent of high school athletes make it to the pros, and only 242 athletes made it to the latest Olympics?

Birth of the dream

When your kids are small, let them dream as much as they want. Let them dream big, let them dream ridiculous things. Those dreams will motivate them to try and grow as well as stretch themselves.

Parents sometimes feel they need to force their children to face reality. I would encourage you not to crush their dreams — life has a way of re-shaping those dreams for your children without your help.

Growth of the dream

When kids get to upper-middle and high school, the dream-chasing can get costly. If your child wants to make the team, get playing time or get noticed, this ultimately makes the journey to college or pro level worth it. They may also feel the need for travel ball, skill lessons, skill camps and a myriad of other wallet-draining demands.

And here is where you need to decide just how far you are willing to go to help your child chase that dream.

Dream test

To decide how far you should go, how much you should sacrifice or spend, ask yourself these important questions.

1. Does my child really have the drive or passion? It takes a lot of determination and hard work to make it to the college level in a sport, on any level, not just Division I, or even to make the high school team.

2. Does my child have the skill? Here’s where many parents need a severe reality check. We all see our kids as great players — sometimes we see what we want to see, not what is real. This is when we need other eyes to help us see what is real and what is not.

My husband coached a young softball pitcher in high school whose mom was convinced she was headed for Division I college level ball, Division II at the least. But on the varsity level, she wasn’t cutting it. She got little pitching time because even though her pitching speed was decent, she didn’t have enough pitch variety and hitters found it very easy to get hits off her. On top of that, her batting was sporadic. And on top of that, she had poor over-arm throwing skills.

RELATED CONTENT: What Olympic parents want to tell sports parents

However, her mom was convinced she was headed for a stellar college career. The fact of the matter was, her mom was the only one who thought that. No schools recruited her, and other coaches saw her shortcomings as a varsity softball player.

If you are the only one seeing your child’s amazing abilities, then it’s time for a reality check. Their skills may not be so amazing after all. And if that’s the case, if no one sees the potential or the skill in your child’s ability, then you might want to reconsider spending a lot of time and money on their dreams.

3. Is the family supportive of these sacrifices? If one child’s dream is being pursued, it’s important to let the whole family in on the decision. Not that you have to ask permission but having a family meeting to discuss how chasing their sibling’s dream may affect them is important.

The last thing you want is for your family relationships to suffer because other kids feel neglected, for your marriage to disintegrate or for your family to suffer from unmet needs because finances are stretched too thin.

RELATED CONTENT: What it takes to become a leader

Tough issues, I know. But it’s important to keep in mind that sacrifices for one child should not mean running over and hurting others in the process.

What does it take to raise a child to become an Olympian? The article I mentioned above talks about one family whose 11-year-old daughter is now at the intermediate skating level. Funding her dream costs them roughly $60,000 a year — including lessons, registration fees, ice time and travel. For their sakes, I hope she makes it to the Olympics.

When asking yourself the question, “How much should we sacrifice for our child’s dream?” I cannot tell you that there is a right or a wrong answer. That is a question for every family to ponder. Take time to count the cost for your child and for the whole family, and to get a realistic evaluation of your child’s abilities. Be smart, be loving and be ready to accept the sacrifices that will change your life if you pursue the dream.

Janis B. Meredith is a parenting coach. She provides resources to help parents raise champions. Learn more about how she can help parents Raise Champions.