A generation ago, being an athlete meant playing on school teams: soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, and tennis in the spring. Today, more athletes are devoting themselves to a single sport at an early age, which worries some experts. Travel teams like Samantha’s are growing quickly, but overall, fewer kids are participating in team sports. Why?
Some experts say that too much pressure is being put on young athletes to excel in their sport. On some travel teams, 6-year-olds play for national championships. Websites rank elementary school-age athletes on their skills. And last October, a football player who was only in sixth grade was offered a scholarship to a big-time sports university. Kids who can’t keep up or who just want to play for fun get frustrated and often drop out.
But some kids never get a chance to play in the first place. Youth sports have turned into a big business, and every year, American families spend about $17 billion on their kids’ sports. Samantha’s dad says her yearly soccer costs added up to about $8,000.
Not surprisingly, many families can’t afford the costs associated with travel teams. Kids in these families often decide not to play at all.