Sports fees add up for Auburn families

Need-based scholarships seeing more applicants through recreation district
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Jim Gray estimates he used to spend about $700 a year on youth sports fees and gear per child. Now, that total would be closer to $1,000 for his three-sport athletes. While most local youth sports leagues have tried to keep fees from rising, Kahl Muscott, Auburn Parks and Recreation District administrator, said need-based scholarships for youth sports fees were up by over 35 percent last year compared to the district?s seven-year average. With three kids, all of whom played multiple sports, Gray said the costs were high, but worth the enjoyment they got of out it. Gray, who coached for the Placer Junior Hillmen for over 10 years and is an assistant coach for the Placer High School varsity football team, said the Auburn community has always stepped in to meet the needs of other families. Auburn Recreation and Parks district officials say sports through the district are fairly affordable, but more competitive youth leagues that require travel can get costly. Other parents say their children happen to participate in slightly less expensive sports, which helps keep their expenditures on youth sports down. All say they believe the return on investment in youth sports is high, though. Gray said to play for the Placer Junior Hillmen it costs $225 per child, plus a refundable $50 equipment fee. The program is running a registration special of $100, plus the $50 equipment deposit, for Mighty Mites (ages 7 and 8). He said participation fees for cheerleaders are actually less than football players, but their uniforms cost more. Talking to other coaches and parents, from Auburn and beyond, Gray said he has noticed that numbers are down for all user-groups, but the community has always worked hard at stepping up to make sure every child can participate. ?Everybody wants their kids to stay involved and participate in sports. Nobody wants to say, ?You can?t participate because I just don?t have the money? and the Auburn community doesn?t like to see that either,? Gray said. For the Junior Hillmen, Gray said some parents volunteer in the snack bar to offset registration costs, while some Auburn Little League parents go early on game days to help set the field up. Local businesspeople have also shown tremendous support for fundraising, he added. Gray said he believes finances may be one reason that athletes don?t participate in as wide of a variety of sports as they did in the past. ?Now you see a lot of kids do one sport, take a break,? Gray said. ?It used to be if they had the athletic ability, they would have done sports year round, but they probably have talks at home saying ?we can?t afford that.?? Muscott said he agrees that families are having to make tough choices about how many sports they can afford. To qualify for scholarships children must have documented financial need from the Department of Education, but Muscott said even families that make too much to qualify for the scholarships are being impacted. ?I have talked to several parents that have told us they have said to their kids ?you do two or three sports and?you know what, we can only afford one this year.? So they have had to cut back,? Muscott said. The recreation district also keeps in mind that many other youth leagues use their fields when it considers raising prices on field rentals. Muscott said the district has made a conscious decision to keep field costs down as much as possible and still only recuperates 50 to 75 percent of the cost of maintaining the fields. The father of two said he recently paid $500 for his children to participate in youth swimming in Folsom, but tries to look at it from the big picture. ?It is, for a lot of sports, a lot of money up front, but if you break it down to a per hour basis, you get this many hours of practice, this many hours of meets, it comes out to like $2 an hour,? Muscott said. ?If you look at it that way, there are not a lot of things that cost $2 per hour and are that good for your child.? Lisa Keeley, of Auburn, is a board member for 49er United Select Soccer and has children in the league. She said it costs $190 per child and most tournaments are held locally. For families that can?t afford the fee, she said the teams fundraise. ?It?s definitely one of the cheaper sports,? Keeley said. ?We have had some players move from other sports to our sport. We don?t have near the equipment costs either.? Jerry Fisher, sports director for the recreation district, said the investment goes beyond physical benefits for children, too. ?Being able to have that regular time of exercise with them, but most importantly that they can learn to honor sportsmanship,? Fisher said. ?I see a lot of kids come and a lot of kids go. I see some of those kids still in sports and not turning their focus to the other parts of the world that are not good I would rather them be pounding (basketballs) in there (the gym), than them pounding on the street.? Reach Sara Seyydin at, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.