NOTE: At least in this post, I am not trying to address whether the amount paid for premiere-level youth sports is worth it. The pay-to-play debate is best saved for another post – something a bit more finely crafted than this one. I will, however, suggest reading this New York Times piece on scholarships and, as always, recommend frequent trips to the US Youth Soccer site.
Several parents recently commented about the team’s fees. Oddly, the comments came at the fees from opposite directions. Several parents believe we aren’t spending enough. A few felt we are outrageously overpriced. As a team manager, how do you even know how to react? I’ve seen the budget and felt it couldn’t be too out of whack. What do other teams do?
Unfortunately, there is very little information floating around about the specific costs of premiere level sports in this area. The fees paid by parents for MSC, Damascus, Bethesda, CASA, Potomac, and other clubs are the stuff of rumors and legends. This shouldn’t be the case! I mean, if a parent calls me because their daughter is interested, one of the first things I bring up are the fees (and the time commitment). I imagine other team managers do the same.
So, in an effort to be able to respond to the parents based on more than just my gut feeling, I started asking around. I was pleasantly surprised by the responses from other managers – it turns out they have the same issues! I got responses from six area clubs and a couple additional odds and ends from other friends:
Annual per player fees for U13 girls playing in the same division in WAGS ranged from $1,600 to $2,400. Actual breakdowns vary but those usually include all club/league fees, coaches fees and between 4-6 tournaments per year. For comparison, I spoke to one former manager of a U12 Boys NSCL team who said fees were in the same range at $2,000 per player per year on average.
Uniform costs are usually separate. Uniforms seem generally expected to last for two years (four seasons). Two complete kits will run about $150 plus a bag at $50. At least one club requires warm-ups, practice jerseys, and a team bag, pushing costs up to $325 per player. Different clubs have different requirements. Hint: soccer bags and warm-ups make excellent birthday and holiday gifts!
Individual Equipment is likewise not included but, just for reference, let’s say that the basics are a ball, at least one pair of cleats, one pair of indoor shoes, shin guards, various odds and ends. This is probably $100-150, give or take. (If your child is a goalkeeper, figure a new pair of $50 gloves each season and anti-anxiety meds for the parents.)
The annual fee also does not normally include summer camps or clinics or any additional training, which can be an add between $300 and $600 to the total. For example, a 4 night/5 day residential camp can run between $450 and $600, depending on discounts and timing.
The main budget items that drive fees seem to be a) coaches fees, b) practice fields (and number of times of practice per week), and c) the number of tournaments. Roster size certainly impacts per player fees but hopefully coaches fees are adjusted accordingly for smaller rosters. Costs jump between the U12 (8v8) and U13 (11v11) years but this often absorbed by the larger roster size (14 max vs 18 max).
- Coaches fees are still a mystery. $250 per player per season for a head coach is a good starting point. Then adjust for pedigree. Some teams seem to have been able to put in place written contracts while others simply rely on handshakes. Handshakes seem more common. This also depends on whether the team or the Club hires and pays the coach(es).
- Tournament fees for U12 and younger teams can average round $600. For U13+ ages (11 v 11 on larger fields), these are closer to $800-$850. Fees will not take into account travel expenses. It is customary for teams to budget and pay for the coaches’ travel fees. Hence, the more you travel for tournaments, the more fees can jump.
- Practice facilities can drive costs. Teams that pay to practice on turf fields at the Soccerplex or other area turf fields are going to have higher field costs than those who rely on local parks. On the flip side, that extra cost ensures that you rarely have to worry about losing practice time to weather. Indoor facilities are at a premium so multiple practices per week over the winter can get expensive. This is a cost-benefit analysis that will likely drive debate among the parents.
For each of these, it is safe to assume that fees increase as a team moves up to higher divisions. A Division 1 team will likely be practicing more, on better fields and with additional trainers and coaches. They’ll also be traveling to more out of state tournaments. Ka-ching, ka-ching, and ka-ching.
So, assuming we’re comparing U13 Girls teams in a mid-level division, 4-6 tournaments per year, and average practice expenses but not trying to guess at travel fees, we get:
- Fees: $1,600 - $2,400
- Camps: $300 - $600
- Uniforms: $100 - $325*
- Equipment: $100 - $150
*expected to last two years but kids can change teams each year
Thus, $2,100 and $3,500 per year.
For comparison, a friend’s sons play travel hockey. For each of them, fees are around $2,900 for their Sept - March season. Uniform and equipment costs can go up to $1,500, although some equipment can last more than one season. In addition, they are constantly flying(!) to tournaments in the Northeast.
Individual sports seem to be even higher. Another friend's daughter is an elite level swimmer. Costs for her are around $4,000 per year but he says that fees at even more "elite" swim clubs can be closer to $8,000-10,000 per year!
If I am way off, please feel free to share in the comments! I’d love to know more about how the fees vary across teams, ages and sports.
And, I promise, someday I will address pay to play!
Good luck with the season. I hope the kids are having fun!