Despite benefits of sports participation, many teens can't afford pay-to-play

School sports offer children an opportunity to improve their physical fitness, develop teamwork and problem-solving skills, enhance their self-confidence, and establish a meaningful connection with their school. In addition to these benefits, a recent study from the University of Michigan found that teens who participate in athletics are less likely than their non-athletic peers to abuse prescription opioids and heroin. For many, however, the high cost of school sports is limiting children’s opportunities to reap these benefits.

In a 2015 NPCH Report, we asked parents of kids age 12-17 years about participation fees for school sports. 1 in 7 parents whose children did not play middle or high school sports in 2013-2014 cited cost as the reason for not participating. Only 30% of lower-income parents report their child participates in middle or high school sports, compared to 51% of higher-income parents. Over 60% of children who play school sports had an athletic pay-to-play fee—18% paid more than $200.

Figure 1. School Sports Participation Fees for Kids 12-17 Years, by Household Income

View full size image | View more children's health infographics

What do you think?
Does your child's school require a participation fee for athletics? Do you know of kids who can't play due to cost? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @csmottpoll.