North Texas Daily

Youth club sports reward status over skill

Youth club sports reward status over skill

Youth club sports reward status over skill
April 29
12:00 2022

If you grew up playing sports, the existence of clubs and select teams are more than likely very familiar to you. Maybe you played them. Perhaps you wanted to, but your parents couldn’t afford to put together the $100 to $500 a month that it costs to play at the more competitive club level.

The high cost of playing club sports means that only kids with guardians that choose to fork over the cash get to compete at the highest level of sport. Those who have parents that refuse to pay the excessive amount or simply can’t, have to settle for being unable to play at the elite level of their respective sport. 

Advantages given to those who pay a hefty amount are unfair to young athletes and promote a system that rewards payment rather than skill or merit to determine which athletes get to play at the most competitive level. This means only seven percent of children that play sports in the United States get to compete in club sports.

The development of a young athlete can be curtailed due to the availability of elite sports. While alternatives like playing in high school and recreational sports exist, club sports give a young athlete the highest chance to develop due to the resources available. Joining a recreational team means it’s possible to be coached by a teammate’s mom or dad rather than an experienced coach. 

One of the more popular youth sports in the U.S., soccer costs an average of $2,739 to play at the club level, according to a report from TIME Magazine. As the world’s most popular sport, soccer should be widely available for kids who see a future on the field. In other countries across Europe, the youth soccer system is entirely based on the talent of the player rather than how much their parents want to pay. 

European soccer offers a fair trial for young athletes, giving them the tools for success. If a player does not have adequate talent, they are released. The system puts the development of children in sports in the child’s hands instead of the wealthiest parents. 

When Swedish international superstar Zlatan Ibrahimović experienced the American soccer system during his time with the MLS’ LA Galaxy, he berated the system that has plagued soccer in the country. While Ibrahimović had more than enough money to pay the fee for his two sons to play soccer in the country, he argued that the sport “should be something for everyone,” in an interview with GQ Italy. 

Ibrahimović’s statement highlights the importance of lowering the cost of elite sporting in the country. Money should not be the difference in a child getting the best opportunity to play the sport. 

Consider if Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo had been born in the U.S. rather than Portugal. Growing up impoverished, Ronaldo’s parents would not have had enough money to pay for the superstar to play elite soccer, resulting in Ronaldo either playing in lower leagues or not playing at all. A generational talent, he may not have been able to develop into the man we know as one of the greatest athletes of all time.

It is impossible to quantify how many young athletes have been affected by the high-cost club sports. However, it is possible to point out that the cost has been a major factor in the growing issue of pay-to-play sports.  

In an ever-inflating economy, sports should be available for every child who wishes to partake in them. Until the ludicrous price to play youth sports at an elite level goes down, the mighty dollar will be favored over prowess.

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas 

About Author

Reed Smith

Reed Smith

Senior Sports Writer.

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