The Widening Accessibility Gap In Youth Sports

APRIL 26 - Branko Boskovic (8) of D.C. United tangles with Stephen McCarthy (26) and Otto Loewy (4) of the Revolution during a play-in match for the 2011 US OPEN CUP at the Maryland Soccerplex, in Boyds, Maryland. Revolution won 3-2.

When Otto Loewy was 8 or 9 years old, his mom signed him up for youth baseball. He had already been playing soccer, but why not try another sport?

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That first season, Otto made the All-Star team. But that came at a cost — literally: Being an All-Star meant more travel and higher fees. So Otto’s mom gave him an ultimatum.

“She was like, ‘Listen, you’re really good at both sports, but you’ve gotta pick one,’ ” Otto recalls. ” ‘Just pick a sport. Whatever you want. We’ll make the most of it. And I think you’ll be amazing at it.’ “

The Cost Of Youth Sports

Otto chose soccer. But this issue of young athletes having to give up sports because of money? It happens all the time.

“Kids at really young ages get weeded out. And there’s sort of this haves versus have-nots, depending on how much money you have,” says Jon Solomon of the Aspen Institute, which gathers data on youth sports. “You know, we have research that shows that kids who are from lower-income households are far more likely to not be playing sports on a regular basis compared to higher-income households.”

And for Otto, even sticking with just soccer was going to be tough. As he got older, the costs rose.

This was back in the late ’90s, and Otto says he was paying around $2,000 a season as a middle schooler. When he got to high school, that number jumped closer to about $3,000.