School sports: Money keeping some kids sidelined

School sports are an important part of every school year. With the new school year well underway, many children and teens are enjoying competing in fall sports like football, soccer, and volleyball. But other kids may be left on the sidelines – not because they don’t want to play, but because they can’t afford to play.

School sports participation fees (also known as pay-to-play fees) have become more and more common as schools deal with budget constraints. While pay-to-play fees can keep school athletics going even in the midst of funding cuts, they may lead to some lower-income kids being left off the field.

In a 2012 National Poll on Children’s Health, we asked parents of children age 12-17 about their children’s participation in school sports and how much it costs to have their children in sports each year. In this poll, parents with higher household incomes reported higher rates of participation in school sports than parents with lower household incomes. Additionally, 12% of parents said that the cost of school sports was the reason their children were no longer participating. Read the full report: Pay-to-play sports keeping lower-income kids out of the game.

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

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Since school sports are a great way for kids to develop social and leadership skills and to get physical activity, it’s important to all children and teens have access to participation. Some schools offer waivers for low income families who can’t afford pay-to-play fees. But in this NPCH Report only 6% of parents of school athletes said they had received a waiver.

To learn more about how the cost of school sports impacts participation, watch this video with NPCH Associate Director Sarah Clark:

What are your experiences with school sports fees? Does your child’s school system offer financial support for families who struggle with pay-to-play fees? Do you have a topic suggestion for our back-to-school blog series? Leave us a comment or tweet your suggestions with #NPCHback2school!