There’s big money in children’s sports. My empty wallet proves it.

January 1, 2012

When you talk about entrepreneurs these days, the conversation often revolves around some tech wunderkind who just became a bazillionaire, or at least aspires to be.

But there’s perhaps another class of entrepreneur who is just as clever at separating us from our dollars, and that is the youth sports bunch.

Way back when I started playing soccer, I joined a team made up of neighborhood kids. Our uniform was a T-shirt. We had orange slices at halftime. “Travel” soccer mostly involved a trip every other week to Baltimore from my home in Columbia.

I spent much of my summers kicking a ball against a middle school wall, and I’m proud to say I eventually got good enough to earn a scholarship to American University.

Fast forward to my son’s soccer experience.

Every since he was 5, we’ve paid fees to his club, which entitled him to a full kit of shirt, shorts and socks. As he got older, and joined a travel team, the fees got larger. The team had to have a paid coach. We had to have special uniforms and sweats and backpacks. Each year, a photographer would stop by to take a picture of him in his uniform; we had to have that.

When we traveled out of state, we were required to stay at tournament-sanctioned hotels, never the cheapest option. There were supplemental fitness classes, summer camps and skill sessions.

My son was fortunate enough to make a state team, which charged its own fees for training and every other year offered trips — on our dime — to play overseas in places such as the United Kingdom and Italy. Who wouldn’t want that opportunity for their child?

As college loomed, my son started receiving e-mails from coaches asking him to attend their summer camps. Ka-ching. We had to go.

And it wasn’t just soccer. I can’t tell you how much I spent on batting and pitching lessons and fees to a certain hall of famer’s baseball complex in Aberdeen.

But I’m lucky. My son, too, is going to get to play soccer at a top college.

The problem is, I feel like I already paid for it.

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community.
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