This seems to be a huge topic at the moment in youth sports, here in the United States. But why is this a factor and how can it change?
Let’s first address the issue. We talk about the benefits of sport for kids and how participation is crucial. But then we price out families who cannot afford an extra $100+ for a soccer class. Now the first place people may lay blame is at the private companies who offer these classes throughout many of our States. However, when you factor in field rental, liability insurance, current requirements and salaries, you can understand why there prices are what they are. If they weren’t then it would not be a viable business for them to continue.
So how do other Countries have a higher participation rate compared to US Soccer?
To start with they have volunteer coaches who give their time to run weekly soccer classes. This helps reduce the cost for families but is by no means the only way. This can have problems in itself, as there can be issues of finding people who are willing to coach for free and also for somebody to be reliable. But with systems in place, such as paid coaching education from the club can be a great incentive to retain volunteers.
Second is field rental. This can be extortionate in some locations and can stop any soccer class plans instantly. Most other Countries get past this as they do not charge for public use spaces or if required they may make it available for a reduced cost. This is because local departments are focused on participation levels and community involvement over profit. Now I understand they need to generate money. However, if no one is playing and earning them zero, surely receiving some money is better than none? Now this could lead to non profits pushing out private companies as they can charge less. But private companies will always have the upper hand of better equipment, resources, coaching staff and experience, making it the suitable option for kids who want a more structured progression.
Third would be funding. Governments are the reason why this kind of program can work. With the introduction of grants to small non profit clubs, they are able to pay all relatable fees and offer a class for kids who just want to play at a substantially lower cost. Many Countries have initiatives in place that fund all kinds of projects. This happens here in the United States, but way off the scale it needs to be if they are serious about allowing everyone the opportunity for any sport.
Finally, you could consider liability insurance as an expense that increases class costs. There is no way around this part like other Countries sometimes can get away with. Disclaimers may be used to pass on any liability, but here in the US if neglect or fault is to blame, then you will 100% need your insurance.
So overall, the Pay to Play system could possibly be fixed with help from volunteers, Government grants, local departments and most importantly communities.
What are you going to do today to change it?