By Megan Cahill
It starts early. The first day of T-ball. Soccer tryouts. Buying the first lacrosse stick. Golf lessons in the summer heat. The first slip on ice. A pink pair of ballet slippers bending with a small foot. And of course paddling across the pool for the first time, without the arm floats.
Sports are a quintessential part of childhood. The years of various practices, blisters, lessons and tryouts help kids find sports they like and can excel at.
But none of these athletic activities comes without a cost. At $200 as a preliminary fee just to play one sport season at Holliston High School, some student athletes are looking at $600 dollars a year just to be allowed to participate.
As cleats become too tight, shirts too short and sticks begin to break, the $200 to $600 base fee for student athletes is just one of the many prices they must pay for their sport.
Anyone can grab a pair of sneakers and go for a run to keep in shape. Or do pushups on the bedroom floor, even sit ups while watching TV. All of which are practically free.
So what makes sports worth the price? What makes nice equipment worth the splurge?
HHS junior Kiara Hanlon, who is a varsity soccer player and winter and spring track team member, spends an additional $150 dollars a sports season on equipment, but thinks sports are worth the hefty price. Hanlon said, “I don’t feel [nice equipment] is necessary, but if you’re playing at a competitive level it is important to be comfortable…The more you invest in sports equipment the more you get out of it.”
Sophomore AJ Schneeloch, a football and varsity lacrosse player said he spends “around $300” a sports season on expensive equipment, reasoning that it is worth the cost, “so it doesn’t break.”
Nina Sparre, a junior and member of the HHS Varsity Swim team thinks some nice equipment is worth the splurge and said, “My equipment is actually really expensive… [but] I want to have to the best stuff because I care about my sport.”
Sparre clarified that her tech suits, swim suits designed to compress a swimmer and help with speed, is what is really worth it for her. As for whether the cost of her other equipment shared the same value, Sparre said, “Not really, for other things like fins and smaller equipment. They shouldn’t make small equipment that expensive.”
Liz Slattery, parent of junior Grant Slattery and recent graduate Megan Slattery said that, “I sometimes feel like I spend a lot on their sports, but the benefits far exceed the costs.” Then added that, “the equipment and safety items, and the uniforms” are what add up the most when paying for sports.
Slattery justifies the spending and said, “I think its worth it because of what they learn while playing, they have fun, they make friends, have a sense of belonging, and it keeps them in good shape.”
But not all parents are willing to shell out the continuous stream of cash to finance their children’s equipment needs and wants. Hanlon said, “I normally split [new equipment costs] half and half with my parents.”
Schneelock shares a similar deal with his parents and said, “They pay for the helmets and some of the gear, but I usually pay for the shafts and the heads for the lacrosse sticks. They paid for the first ones, but then I paid for the extra ones because I need back ups in case they break.”
Luckily all three athletes admitted that there was no pressure from coaches or teammates to own or use expensive equipment. Schneeloch and Hanlon even admitted that they did not even feel that the expensive equipment made them perform better. Quality seemed to be the determining factor for expensive purchases.
Sparre agreed that quality is key for her sports equipment but that her expensive swimsuits also aid in her performance and said, “More expensive tech suits and newer editions of tech suits will usually make you go faster because they are made really well.”
Although these three varsity athletes all see the worth in investing in their sport, admittedly they have extreme dedication athletically that exceeds that of some of their peers. In each of their sports; soccer for Hanlon, lacrosse for Schneeloch and swimming for Sparre, every athlete also participates on a club team in addition to their high school team.
With club teams also come additional costs. Schneeloch said that his club team Boston Laxachussets, costs upwards of $1000 a year.
Sparre, who is a member of the Shamrock Swim Club, said, however, “I think playing in a club team is definitely worth the cost because you get attention from the coach, better facilities and it makes you better I think.”
Schneeloch’s opinion on the whether sports fees, at the end of the day, can truly be justified said, “I mean it depends on what you’re going for in your sports career.”
But for Shneelock, who admitted that he sees himself playing in college said, “I see it as it’s worth it.”
So for high school athletes who are content on JV, who perhaps join sports for social or physical benefits, or have no desire to play in college, spending nearly $2,000 dollars a year on sports might not make sense or be justifiable.
And for athletes or parents of athletes who are financially strapped or dread the thought of yearly equipment updates, some cheaper alternatives are to rent or purchase used equipment to save costs.
Craigslist, Ebay or even friends or friends of friends can be great sources of cheap or free equipment.
Despite its numerous costs, much can be gained from sports other than athletic ability and fitness. Hanlon said, “you can learn a lot from sports other than the fitness side of it. Sports teach leadership, dedication and time management and I think they play an important role in a child’s development.”
In addition when asked why she continues to finance her children’s sports Slattery said, “just knowing they enjoy it and sports helps them to be more well rounded individuals. One day they will have great memories, so it is worth the cost. I love to watch them play, too, and meet other parents.”
For those like Schneeloch, Hanlon and Sparre, who care about their sport and for some, plan on playing in college, the high cost is just a slight drawback to doing what they love.