Travel sports are a financial disaster

My home sits less than a half mile from youth soccer Mecca. Nearly everyday I’ve spent in my home involves interacting with youth soccer players and parents, near this giant soccer complex with 15-20 perfectly manicured fields. I’ve seen thousands of chartered buses, tens of thousands of out-of-state license plates, and hundreds of thousands of man hours go into youth soccer. To say it’s overwhelming is actually an understatement. How can so many resources, both time and money, be spent on something as seemingly trivial as children’s soccer? I’ve been searching for answers on my quest to understand what’s actually happening, and more importantly, the impact this use of resources has on the lives of the participants. While I don’t have definitive science, I do have several theories and probable outcomes that I’d like to share with you.

What does it cost to be a young athlete today? More than it should. If you want to stay competitive, you need to go to clinics and camps. You need to be on a travel team with extraordinary fees and time commitments. You need uniforms, equipment, and Marriott Rewards points. You are, in many ways, a miniature professional athlete. But instead of being paid for playing a game, you are paying to play a game.

Travel sports range from lacrosse, hockey, and soccer, to gymnastics, baseball and softball. Each sport has its own hierarchy of leagues, policies, and costs. Each travel sport has its own level of prestige and social status. But at what cost? Do parents allow participation in these activities due to peer pressure and to keep up with the Joneses? You gotta think love and dedication to your child has something to do with this, right? Or do people subject themselves to this as part of well-crafted financial plan?

Overvaluing The Insignificant

What are you teaching your child when you spend thousands of dollars on youth sports? Some people may argue that you are showing your child how much you love them. But when has it ever made sense to measure love with money? Think of the sacrifices that parents willingly make in the name of youth sports. I’ve personally seen people take on extra shifts, or even an extra job, in order to pay the expenses associated with youth sports. While it certainly is none of my business how someone chooses to spend their money, I would like to offer up a strange financial/psychological side-effect that can appear in the children of those people that spend thousands of dollars on youth sports: a lack of financial perspective.

A commitment to travel sports, in spite of finite financial and time resources, isn’t simply a way to display your love and support of your child. I think it can actually suggest the unwillingness to say no to your child in the midst of a tremendous number of facts and math. Is it possible you are teaching your child a terrible lesson when you are saying yes to a situation that calls for no? Because if you are prioritizing youth sports over college, or youth sports over debt-free living, you are being irresponsible. Your children can either sense the obvious absurdity of your irresponsibility and vow to never repeat it, or they might just adopt your flawed way of thinking.

Take a look at the ideal household budget. Where do you think youth sports fits into that budget? In my opinion, it fits into the entertainment category. Entertainment can occupy 5% of your household budget (based on net income), if you don’t have consumer debt. The youth soccer fields, or any sports field for that matter, isn’t necessarily filled with the children of the wealthy. The fields are filled with people of all socio-economic demographics. In this spirit, I will use a family making $60,000 per year in household income as my example.  What is 5% of the net pay (after taxes, insurance, and other employee benefits) for a family that has a $60,000 gross household income? I would say $1,950 (based on a $39,000 net income). This money can be earmarked for things like youth sports, vacations, movies, concerts, et cetera. And again, these entertainment expenditures are generally justifiable if a family DOESN’T have consumer debt. If a family is dealing with the crush of debt, entertainment is truly a luxury you can’t afford.

The Scholarship Argument 

In an effort to justify the money spent on a game, many parents have turned to the scholarship argument. The scholarship argument is a lie told to oneself in the midst of spending money on something as trivial as a game. “My son is the best player on his team. We’re really hoping all the time and money spent equal a scholarship.”

According to Active, there are 1,970 Division I men’s soccer scholarships and 4,480 Division I women’s soccer scholarships. US Youth Soccer insists that over 3,000,000 children ages 5-19 sign up through their programs each year. While your child isn’t competing with all 3 million players, given the different ages, they are competing with kids three years ahead of them in school, kids their own age, and kids three years behind them, when it comes to getting and keeping a scholarship. If the 3 million players were perfectly distributed by age, then your child is still competing against 7/15 or 47% of the 3 million players, or 1,410,000 players. Gender aside, this means your child has a .4% chance of earning a soccer scholarship. And this figure doesn’t account for any youth soccer players that aren’t signed-up through US Youth Soccer, which would make their chances even worse. Let’s reframe this, your child has a 99.6% chance of getting jack squat for their soccer skills. This isn’t to suggest that your child shouldn’t play soccer, or any other sport for that matter. It’s simply to illustrate that probability isn’t on your side.

Wasted Resources

Why would a group of 9 year olds from one community drive to another state, stay in a hotel, and spend two days of their lives to play soccer against another group of random 9 year olds? Why? Step away from your situation, your knowledge of youth sports, and your relationship with your little person, and ask yourself the question: Why would a group of 9 year olds from one community drive to another state, stay in a hotel, and spend two days of their lives to play soccer against another group of random 9 year olds? It’s a very important question. It doesn’t make sense to use valuable resources, both time and money, to bus a group of children hundreds of miles away to play a game against other children.

In what I find to be a powerful twist of irony, the parents that are making these decisions generally didn’t live the travel sports lifestyle when they were kids, and are no worse for the wear. The popularity of travel sports has seen exponential growth in the last decade, yet what are we getting in return? Are we paying for more college educations with more scholarships? No. Are we better financially? No. Are we teaching our children the value of a dollar? No. Are we improving the quality of athletics in our country? Yes, but who cares? When you weigh all the costs, including opportunity costs, the math doesn’t work. Our investments don’t pay off.

The Solution

I’m not suggesting that anyone who spends money on youth travel sports is doing something wrong. I am, however, suggesting that viewing the costs as anything other than an entertainment expenditure, is a mistake. You can sacrifice for the sake of your child’s entertainment and games, but wouldn’t it make more sense to sacrifice for their financial future? Wouldn’t it make sense to rally your budget to defray the cost of the child’s education? It’s a terribly difficult decision. Put another way, your child ends up paying for their youth sports experience with student loan money. The less you save for college, the more student loans they obtain in order to pay for that education. Given the complexity of some student loan programs, your child may be repaying their student loans some 25 years post graduation. This is to suggest they may be paying off their youth travel sports experience while their children are playing youth travel sports.

I suggest you weigh the risks associated with your travel sports “investment”. I suggest you operate in the both/and, and not just the either/or. You can both fund your child’s education, and their participation in travel sports, if you are purposeful and wise with your money. The default behavior leads people to either spend money on youth sports, or save for college. Unfortunately, the reality is saving for college isn’t the default behavior. Increased student loan amounts suggest this. The solution to this problem is increased scrutiny of one’s finances. Budgeting is often looked at as a practice which limits possibilities. The opposite is true. Budgeting makes things possible.

37 thoughts on “Travel sports are a financial disaster

  1. Pete, I have always thought of travel sports as a time sink, but rarely as a money sink. It is probably a better way of looking at it.

    The leap toward student loan debt though, feels like a big one. The money spent on travel sports is just a symptom of the larger disease that is poor long term planning. I have sat with people with resources large and small and the common theme is that they have always seen their child attending college but have not thought at all about how they’d pay for it. That is one of the factors leading to the high student debt levels we see today.

  2. Pete, I have always thought of travel sports as a time sink, but rarely as a money sink. It is probably a better way of looking at it.

    The leap toward student loan debt though, feels like a big one. The money spent on travel sports is just a symptom of the larger disease that is poor long term planning. I have sat with people with resources large and small and the common theme is that they have always seen their child attending college but have not thought at all about how they’d pay for it. That is one of the factors leading to the high student debt levels we see today.

  3. It’s sad for the reasons you mentioned. Aside from the financial aspect, here is another reason to lament the rise of travel teams. Already athletes are defecting from their high school sports teams because it interferes with their travel team. Another community bond is fraying.

  4. It’s sad for the reasons you mentioned. Aside from the financial aspect, here is another reason to lament the rise of travel teams. Already athletes are defecting from their high school sports teams because it interferes with their travel team. Another community bond is fraying.

  5. Hi Pete, I see this everyday myself, having been a coach for my son’s baseball team. We elect not to do travel, not so much from the financial impact, but the impact on our lives. There is so much more to see and do than just running from field to field, playing 2 and even sometimes 3 games in a day. Great piece on a common situation!

  6. Hi Pete, I see this everyday myself, having been a coach for my son’s baseball team. We elect not to do travel, not so much from the financial impact, but the impact on our lives. There is so much more to see and do than just running from field to field, playing 2 and even sometimes 3 games in a day. Great piece on a common situation!

  7. Love this one Pete! In fact, I just spoke on this subject yesterday only mine had a religious slant to it – didn’t even touch the financial side. I plan on posting this and seeing how people comment!

  8. Love this one Pete! In fact, I just spoke on this subject yesterday only mine had a religious slant to it – didn’t even touch the financial side. I plan on posting this and seeing how people comment!

  9. Thank you for your perspective. We are a travel hockey family and I know very well what a chunk of our budget ($$, time, energy) it occupies. I never really considered it a “hockey OR school” scenario. Your post sheds some light on that. However, we consciously choose to put our kids in travel hockey for multiple reasons- the top not being hope of a roster spot in the NHL (the numbers tell us our kids have a better chance of being neurosurgeons!). We choose travel hockey as our lifestyle. We enjoy it! We love the time spent with all the families. We love the lessons our kids learn on the road (Respect, behavior, responsibility, family, comraderie. . .). It is our very educated choice to become a travel hockey family. YES, we know there are alternate ways to teach these, but we are also teaching our kids value budgeting!YES we have a family budget! We value hockey above other things and our budget reflects that. Instead of saying that travel sports is a waste of time and resources, it would be better to say that one must be evaluate all the effects of choosing a travel sport and choose wisely. Sometimes that choice will be to pay and play and other times not.

  10. Thank you for your perspective. We are a travel hockey family and I know very well what a chunk of our budget ($$, time, energy) it occupies. I never really considered it a “hockey OR school” scenario. Your post sheds some light on that. However, we consciously choose to put our kids in travel hockey for multiple reasons- the top not being hope of a roster spot in the NHL (the numbers tell us our kids have a better chance of being neurosurgeons!). We choose travel hockey as our lifestyle. We enjoy it! We love the time spent with all the families. We love the lessons our kids learn on the road (Respect, behavior, responsibility, family, comraderie. . .). It is our very educated choice to become a travel hockey family. YES, we know there are alternate ways to teach these, but we are also teaching our kids value budgeting!YES we have a family budget! We value hockey above other things and our budget reflects that. Instead of saying that travel sports is a waste of time and resources, it would be better to say that one must be evaluate all the effects of choosing a travel sport and choose wisely. Sometimes that choice will be to pay and play and other times not.

  11. Pete, I have been funding travel baseball, softball and basketball for the last four years. Yes partially under the thought of a scholarship and to hang out with the “joneses”. I
    We look at it as family vacations but its definitely over the 5%
    Grades are most important for scholarships not being a road warrior.

  12. Pete, I have been funding travel baseball, softball and basketball for the last four years. Yes partially under the thought of a scholarship and to hang out with the “joneses”. I
    We look at it as family vacations but its definitely over the 5%
    Grades are most important for scholarships not being a road warrior.

  13. Great post Pete. Love that you pointed out the opportunity costs of travel sports vs. saving for college. If the mindset of the parent is that they “are doing this for the kid”, I’d bet that same mindset makes sure the kid’s college savings account is being funded, all while the parent is forgoing their 401k contributions to do so….which is a whole different ugly. Good topic. Hope it fuels a lot of discussion and opens some eyes to the opportunity costs.

  14. Great post Pete. Love that you pointed out the opportunity costs of travel sports vs. saving for college. If the mindset of the parent is that they “are doing this for the kid”, I’d bet that same mindset makes sure the kid’s college savings account is being funded, all while the parent is forgoing their 401k contributions to do so….which is a whole different ugly. Good topic. Hope it fuels a lot of discussion and opens some eyes to the opportunity costs.

  15. My kids are years away from this decision, but I grew up as a competitive swimmer, and pretty much any minimally competitive form of swimming takes on at least some of the costs of travel soccer. I do have friends whose parents worked an extra job to pay for swimming, and I was lucky, in that swimming helped me get into a college I may not have otherwise and helped pave the way for a generous financial aid package once I got there, even though I chose not to swim in college. For me, swimming was an exposure to new environments and an opportunity to learn and practice goal-setting and hard work: not entertainment, but another form of education, in my opinion. That said, while I would want my children to learn to work hard, meet new people and see new things, there are other ways to do so, and I’m not sure a focus on a single sport is so good for the health of growing bodies. I don’t know what we’ll do — in part, we need to see what our kids love. And if we couldn’t afford it, we couldn’t afford it. But I think considering it “entertainment” gives short shrift to why people make the investment, even if it is a short-sighted one for some families.

  16. My kids are years away from this decision, but I grew up as a competitive swimmer, and pretty much any minimally competitive form of swimming takes on at least some of the costs of travel soccer. I do have friends whose parents worked an extra job to pay for swimming, and I was lucky, in that swimming helped me get into a college I may not have otherwise and helped pave the way for a generous financial aid package once I got there, even though I chose not to swim in college. For me, swimming was an exposure to new environments and an opportunity to learn and practice goal-setting and hard work: not entertainment, but another form of education, in my opinion. That said, while I would want my children to learn to work hard, meet new people and see new things, there are other ways to do so, and I’m not sure a focus on a single sport is so good for the health of growing bodies. I don’t know what we’ll do — in part, we need to see what our kids love. And if we couldn’t afford it, we couldn’t afford it. But I think considering it “entertainment” gives short shrift to why people make the investment, even if it is a short-sighted one for some families.

  17. From the cheap seats.

    Every season there is that one parent, you know the one; the Dad that played a little bit of ball as a kid, he may have even been good enough to play in college, or the Mom that questions everything and everyone and even though this is her first year watching her kid play, she can tell you the definition of the infield fly rule, or the Nanny that brings “snacks” or “birthday cupcakes” to the pitch. Well, this blog is dedicated to them, and all the other voices we hear in the stands.

    I’m fortunate to have children that define playing time a little differently, playing to them means they get a uniform or jersey, they get to go on the bus, ride with the team, and even share in the losses and successes of the team.

    My daughter isn’t really good enough to be an impact player in anything she does and as a two sport athlete this can be very trying for her, however, she’s made every soccer team she tried out for, she was good enough to practice with the varsity team, but played very little. When she entered high school she was clear headed, she new she’d have to work very hard just to get a chance.

    She has travelled far and wide playing volleyball, playing being the key word. In her eyes she is playing, a point here, or a point there and she was happy or maybe it was a handful of minutes at the end of lopsided game, she was still happy.

    My other child plays a couple of sports too, he is a football and a baseball player. He is a marginally better athlete than my daughter, old for his age, tough as nails, he typifies the term grinder. He too has travelled to play football and baseball.

    And, well don’t we all travel today?

    This is where it all begins.

    And don’t we all……, no we all don’t! Our day has come and gone! We are parents now!

    I was at a high school baseball playoff game this past season, I sat in the bleachers with the rest of the parents, however, the difference on this day was that I didn’t have a child playing. I witnessed such horrific behavior that it pushed me into writing a series of blogs….this blog to be specific.

    As the playoff game began, there was a parent who knew the umpire, the umpire that jobbed his kid years ago in the local park league, the parent that rationalizes every pitch, every swing, every breath that the kid takes.

    By the way, this is the same parent that complains about the curriculum and grading that goes on in his son’s high school. The parent that went to an Ivy, graduated and had huge success in grad school. Now only eight years removed from sitting in a class, he is moving upward in the corporate world, a corner office at some social media corporation, maybe he’s a junior partner in a law firm, or he made his way up by gambling correctly with someone else’s money, and he’s now a financial strategist.

    The game was played fine, the umpiring was fine too. But not to the father whose son had just walked his second batter in the inning. It begins with a low murmur about him getting squeezed, then a few cackles of “are you serious”, and now comes the crescendo of “you’re horrible”. I sat there and thought does this happen at every field, every court, every arena across America? I didn’t note it at my kids games, we certainly behave better than that, right? The game ended with the better team winning, and despite the fathers behavior, his son won his first playoff game. The score was 7-4, everyone should be happy, right? Not this father. This father waited for the umpire at the centerfield gate, he waited for the umpire, yes waited for an umpire. What did he say you might be asking yourself….does it really matter? The father waited at the centerfield gate for the umpire. When did this behavior become acceptable? I didn’t hear what the father said first hand, I was parked a few cars away, I did hear things like “you should be ashamed”, “I’m going to report you”, “I’m going to get in touch with your supervisor”, his son just won his first playoff game, and that wasn’t enough.

    I played a few sport in high school, and never, not even once did I think I had the ability to play in college. But today, parents feel that their child, no matter what their ability, have the right and are entitled to continuing playing beyond high school. Here are a few facts; there are toughly 2,000,000 boy high school athletes in the United States, and by their senior year that number drops to a little over 730,000 athletes. That number drops to just 123,000 that will play in an NCAA sanctioned sport. From 2 ,000,000 to 123,000 that means 1,900,000 million high school boys stopped playing their sport by the time they enter college.

    Ask yourself, is my son or daughter really that good? Probably not. Our biggest role as parents is to support, love and be honest with them as well as ourselves.

  18. From the cheap seats.

    Every season there is that one parent, you know the one; the Dad that played a little bit of ball as a kid, he may have even been good enough to play in college, or the Mom that questions everything and everyone and even though this is her first year watching her kid play, she can tell you the definition of the infield fly rule, or the Nanny that brings “snacks” or “birthday cupcakes” to the pitch. Well, this blog is dedicated to them, and all the other voices we hear in the stands.

    I’m fortunate to have children that define playing time a little differently, playing to them means they get a uniform or jersey, they get to go on the bus, ride with the team, and even share in the losses and successes of the team.

    My daughter isn’t really good enough to be an impact player in anything she does and as a two sport athlete this can be very trying for her, however, she’s made every soccer team she tried out for, she was good enough to practice with the varsity team, but played very little. When she entered high school she was clear headed, she new she’d have to work very hard just to get a chance.

    She has travelled far and wide playing volleyball, playing being the key word. In her eyes she is playing, a point here, or a point there and she was happy or maybe it was a handful of minutes at the end of lopsided game, she was still happy.

    My other child plays a couple of sports too, he is a football and a baseball player. He is a marginally better athlete than my daughter, old for his age, tough as nails, he typifies the term grinder. He too has travelled to play football and baseball.

    And, well don’t we all travel today?

    This is where it all begins.

    And don’t we all……, no we all don’t! Our day has come and gone! We are parents now!

    I was at a high school baseball playoff game this past season, I sat in the bleachers with the rest of the parents, however, the difference on this day was that I didn’t have a child playing. I witnessed such horrific behavior that it pushed me into writing a series of blogs….this blog to be specific.

    As the playoff game began, there was a parent who knew the umpire, the umpire that jobbed his kid years ago in the local park league, the parent that rationalizes every pitch, every swing, every breath that the kid takes.

    By the way, this is the same parent that complains about the curriculum and grading that goes on in his son’s high school. The parent that went to an Ivy, graduated and had huge success in grad school. Now only eight years removed from sitting in a class, he is moving upward in the corporate world, a corner office at some social media corporation, maybe he’s a junior partner in a law firm, or he made his way up by gambling correctly with someone else’s money, and he’s now a financial strategist.

    The game was played fine, the umpiring was fine too. But not to the father whose son had just walked his second batter in the inning. It begins with a low murmur about him getting squeezed, then a few cackles of “are you serious”, and now comes the crescendo of “you’re horrible”. I sat there and thought does this happen at every field, every court, every arena across America? I didn’t note it at my kids games, we certainly behave better than that, right? The game ended with the better team winning, and despite the fathers behavior, his son won his first playoff game. The score was 7-4, everyone should be happy, right? Not this father. This father waited for the umpire at the centerfield gate, he waited for the umpire, yes waited for an umpire. What did he say you might be asking yourself….does it really matter? The father waited at the centerfield gate for the umpire. When did this behavior become acceptable? I didn’t hear what the father said first hand, I was parked a few cars away, I did hear things like “you should be ashamed”, “I’m going to report you”, “I’m going to get in touch with your supervisor”, his son just won his first playoff game, and that wasn’t enough.

    I played a few sport in high school, and never, not even once did I think I had the ability to play in college. But today, parents feel that their child, no matter what their ability, have the right and are entitled to continuing playing beyond high school. Here are a few facts; there are toughly 2,000,000 boy high school athletes in the United States, and by their senior year that number drops to a little over 730,000 athletes. That number drops to just 123,000 that will play in an NCAA sanctioned sport. From 2 ,000,000 to 123,000 that means 1,900,000 million high school boys stopped playing their sport by the time they enter college.

    Ask yourself, is my son or daughter really that good? Probably not. Our biggest role as parents is to support, love and be honest with them as well as ourselves.

  19. Life is all about choices…..how we choose to spend our time, our money, and our resources is an individual decision. My son has been playing travel baseball since he was 7 years old. He is 15 now. It is about the love of the game and playing more baseball. When you travel, there are life experiences. He sees the world, he has become a young man having to deal with many adults and children numerous ages. He has grown to be a fine young man.
    Choices…..we choose NOT to spend money on drugs, alcohol, lluxery items. Many others do. Is this a better choice? I think NOT.

  20. Life is all about choices…..how we choose to spend our time, our money, and our resources is an individual decision. My son has been playing travel baseball since he was 7 years old. He is 15 now. It is about the love of the game and playing more baseball. When you travel, there are life experiences. He sees the world, he has become a young man having to deal with many adults and children numerous ages. He has grown to be a fine young man.
    Choices…..we choose NOT to spend money on drugs, alcohol, lluxery items. Many others do. Is this a better choice? I think NOT.

  21. As long as the child WANTS to play (vs parent wanting child to play for some Unreachable outcome) generally produces a healthy understanding of time management and striving for what u want. It is not easy and I find myself violating our own “rules” of why are we really doing this). I don’t agree w sports vs loans unless a parent is in denial of why the kid plays. Our other rules are that our child MUST earn 10% of the cost of the team costs AND pay us the cash. The other is that sports stop when grades fall. School trumps sports.

  22. As long as the child WANTS to play (vs parent wanting child to play for some Unreachable outcome) generally produces a healthy understanding of time management and striving for what u want. It is not easy and I find myself violating our own “rules” of why are we really doing this). I don’t agree w sports vs loans unless a parent is in denial of why the kid plays. Our other rules are that our child MUST earn 10% of the cost of the team costs AND pay us the cash. The other is that sports stop when grades fall. School trumps sports.

  23. Amen to this. You can’t put a price on spending time with your family, supporting your child in their passion, but you sure can on liquor, vacations, fancy cars, eating out, shopping, etc. It’s all about balance and priorities.

  24. Amen to this. You can’t put a price on spending time with your family, supporting your child in their passion, but you sure can on liquor, vacations, fancy cars, eating out, shopping, etc. It’s all about balance and priorities.

  25. A little too critical from my perspective. If you really want to hammer into the present value of all these things, why don’t you also add up the cost of medical care for injuries?

    It is like you barely even tried to understand the experience. Not everything can be counted on the ledger.

    Here are several GREAT reasons to invest in your children’s future through current sports…
    Discipline. Leadership. Response to failure. Response to success. Family time while traveling. Team work. Conflict management. Time management. Distract from video games. Etc.

    I coach at a local high school, but we are a club team. We have to be cost conscious, but we also could not be competitive without traveling. Really I’m just befuddled that there was so little appreciation of the life lessons learned. But some people shouldn’t be paying for travel sports for sure.

  26. Amazingly candid….and all true! As a parent of 3 children who all play or have played travel sports, I feel a little sick thinking about what we value and what we have taught them to value. My son is now playing D1 lacrosse at a very well known university now, and even with outstanding grades and ACT scores- his athletic scholarship to date consists of having his books paid for…. As I prepare to head with my 14 year old daughter to a 4 day national volleyball tournament here in a couple weeks…. I’m going to be thinking about and planning a broader more important message we need to live into…. Appreciate any advice you may have about how to get a hold of all this.

  27. The above average soccer player gets maybe 20k in athletic scholarships over 4 years. One season of high level soccer will run a family 6-8k after fees and all expenses are paid. Parents who think their kids will get free college out of the deal are incredibly delusional and would have college mostly paid for if they saved the money from elite travel sports. I’ve coached soccer for almost 20 years, and have over 50 players who have played at high level colleges. Only 2 received full-rides, and most of them barely receive enough to cover their books.

  28. You can’t make an argument based on finances in which travel sports make sense. They are for almost no one an investment in anything that will pay off financially, either in actual money (scholarships, …) or in learned financial judgment.
    That said, as we wrap up my 11-year-old’s second season of travel soccer (expenses run about $2,000 a year so far for us, including travel, but that will go up as he gets older), this has been our payoff: My son was able to continue playing with his friends, who had for the most part moved to a travel team a year ahead of him. He has made a great set of new friends who he does quite a bit with away from soccer. His teammates are a good group of fun, focused kids who like to do well in the sports they play, in school and in other activities and are a terrific influence on my son.
    My son’s also become a pretty strong player who loves the game, considerably stronger than he likely would be if he’d only played rec soccer based on the coaching and level of competition. Whether that means he plays beyond high school, who knows (Assuming he plays in high school)? We’re definitely not banking on any scholarships.
    He’s also a pretty fit kid who takes pride in being active and doing a lot beyond playing soccer. Sadly, a lot of the kids around him who aren’t involved in travel sports instead play a lot of video games, watch a lot of TV and don’t seem to be very active. You don’t need to spend time and money on travel sports to have active, fit kids, but making the commitment sure seems to improve the odds that you will.
    And my wife and I have made a number of new friends who we socialize with quite a bit, in most cases people who we would in most cases not otherwise get to know. Our experience with the other parents has been 90 percent great, though based on the stories you hear and read our group may be an exception.
    Now, you mention 9-year-olds and, for me, that’s too young to be doing this. We started at 10 and, in hindsight, that’s at least a year earlier than I would have liked.
    When my son is 14, 15 and 16 and we’re headed out of state several weekends a year, I may feel very differently about this. To be sure, we will not take on debt to make soccer happen.
    Bottom line, I can make a great case against travel sports. But for our family, the benefits (fun included) have been tangible.

  29. I played travel volleyball in hs, which was a few thousand a year, but then I got a $200k scholarship, so financially it worked out. But I think that a lot of people forget the physical toll on kids. I have had three major spinal surgeries as a direct result of so many years of intense sports. The story is the same (different body parts) for many of my teammates. My lifelong medical costs will be so much more than that scholarship.

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