When I was a kid, my baseball uniforms looked, well, childish. But I felt like a major leaguer even though I only played in the less competitive house leagues.
Last weekend my girlfriend took her car to a fundraising car wash for my nephew's baseball team. Five dollars for strangers, $20 for family was the market price. It was easy to see why they needed to jack up the price for family: Some of the kids of the parents helping out were decked out in the team uniform, which looked like it came off the back of a Toronto Blue Jay. They were gorgeous – and needlessly expensive.
We've all heard of Registered Education Savings Plans for post-secondary education costs, but how about a Registered Physical Activity Savings Plan for when your child decides they want to play ball?
The cost of having your child enrolled in organized sport can creep into the thousands. Parents of competitive hockey-players know this all too well – with pricey equipment, registration fees, gas for travel, and accommodations you can end up shelling out as much as $5,000 a year. Add in training schools and tournament costs, and all of a sudden that RPASP doesn't sound so crazy, does it?
Hockey is a common example but many other popular sports can send costs into the thousands as well. Registration alone for my nephew's AA baseball league was about $1,000. Paul Varian, chief administrative officer of the Oakville Soccer Club, notes that the cost for a 12-year-old to play a season of house league runs about $350 (which includes registration, uniforms, soccer boots and travel.) The time commitment is much higher for the competitive league, and costs can come in at around $1,000. Even less traditional sports, like a season of go-karting, can quickly escalate into the tens of thousands of dollars depending on your level of commitment.
Parents, who of course want the best for their kids, often get caught up in the competitive spirit, and don't know when to stop. The result is a class divide in children's sports.
It would be nice if the opportunity to compete against the best was based solely on skill, but there are many families who simply cannot justify the costs. Statistics Canada reported that the participation rate for children in the highest income homes was 68 per cent in 2005, compared to only 44 per cent in both the lowest and second lowest income tiers. That same study showed that soccer had blown past hockey in terms of participation. Not having to outfit your kids as gladiators is a big reason for that.
The federal government introduced a children's fitness tax credit in 2007 of $500 per child to help lessen the burden on parents. But a $500 tax credit translates to only $75 in savings.
If things keep going at this rate, we're going to start seeing tickets being sold to watch our children play sports. $5 for strangers, and $20 for family.