How do pay-to-play sports programs impact participation in school sports?

Another school year is starting, which means the start of athletic seasons for many kids and parents. But some children may not be participating in school sports this year due to the increased cost of athletic participation.

Read our latest report about this issue: Pay-to-play sports keeping lower-income kids out of the game.

Budget challenges and tough economic times have led schools across the country to search for alternate sources of funding for extra-curricular activities. In addition to the standard costs of equipment and transportation, many middle and high schools now charge fees to kids who participate in school sports. These “pay-to-pay” fees are sometimes charged per school year or sometimes charged for each sport a student plays.

We asked parents of 12-17-year-olds across the country about their child’s sports participation and about how much it cost for them to play sports during the school year.

Participation in School Sports for Kids 12-17 Years, by Household Income

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Kids in lower-income families played sports much less than kids in higher-income families and nearly 1 in 5 parents in lower-income households said that the cost of school sports caused a decrease in their child’s participation.

School sports offer many benefits for kids, so pay-to-play programs should be implemented carefully to make sure that all teens have an equal chance of participating. In this short video, NPCH Associate Director Sarah Clark talks about the costs of playing school sports and the impact on participation.