The cost of traveling basketball in Hudson, WI starting in 4th grade is $495. This fee includes a basketball, uniform, practice times, and 7 youth tournaments. The head coach is a volunteer parent.
If your kid goes to Hopkins, MN the cost is $450, Arrowhead, WI $525, and Duluth East, MN between $350-500.
Soccer and hockey parents are sadly rolling their eyes at these low fees. The cost to play youth sports has increased dramatically.
Yes, most programs offer scholarship applications for waiving the fee, but these have a low utilization rate. If a parent has a son or daughter on the fence to play, or for whom basketball is their second or third favorite sport at the time, many are deciding to not play. Lower income families are being excluded entirely.
What are the two main costs for a youth program that is run and coached by volunteers? Tournament fees and for some unlucky youth programs, gym fees for practice time.
In the Twin Cities metro area the average tournament fee is between $350 to $450. Many tournaments have waived gate fees following COVID and transferred this cost to a higher entry fee. Those running or managing these tournaments are typically doing quite well financially, commonly making over $20,000 on a weekend.
The second main fee for youth programs is gym fees. For a large school district with 20 plus youth traveling teams between the girls and boys programs the gym fees for a calendar year can easily be around $20,000. There are many school districts who do not "double tax" their residents with gym fees and the youth program fee is significantly lower in these areas as a result.
What can be done? To reduce tournament fees youth programs can take out the middle man and form agreements with similar sized or competitive programs to have their own free jamborees.
Each team plays two games, per USA Youth Basketball Guidelines, and referee and gym fees are covered by gate fees. Get 8 to 12 area youth programs on board and you easily have 3-4 free tournaments for each grade level. However, your youth team might not be ranked or qualify for a youth state tournament if you do this (sarcasm).
If your school district does charge to use the gym for practice do an audit of area programs or the schools in your conference to see if it is a fair rate. Many school districts do not charge their residents to use their school facilities for practices. Present your information to the appropriate stakeholders involved if there are significant concerns or discrepancies.
Lower costs lead to greater participation. We strongly encourage head varsity coaches or youth program directors to reach out to other like minded coaches and help form a youth coalition for free tournaments. Reciprocity for youth basketball organizations is win-win for families involved and the community as a whole.