Go Fund Them

With students going back to school this month (if they haven’t already), families are facing a familiar task: Getting kids into sports and finding the money to pay for the activities.

With schools pinched for resources and parents nickled-and-dimed with school fees this time of year, some teams and/or individual families are now looking at the crowdfunding route to pay for their kids’ recreational fees.Youth gymnastics.jpg

This example comes from KATU in Portland, Oregon, where the coach of a cheerleading squad, Oregon Dream Teams in Beaverton, was looking to pay for a trip to the cheerleading World Championships in Orlando. The cost was $1,200 per cheerleader—and that’s on top of the minimum $4,000 the athlete pays for practices and regular competition.

Cher Fuller, the head coach, started a GoFundMe.com on line account for the squad, and asked people to make donations. Her goal was a thousand dollars, and raised a little more than that.

She’s not alone. Also in the Portland area, Karen Emmett, one of the crowdfunding parents quoted in the KATU story, set up a crowdfunding site for her daughter’s soccer expenses. In explaining why she did so, Emmett posted on the station’s Facebook page: “What isn’t mentioned in the video is not only am I a single mom, I’m working two jobs to pay our bills … and my daughter and her soccer team have been doing other fundraising (rummage sales, bake sales, can drives, yard work for neighbors, etc).

“I only opened an account because I was pushed by a lot of family and friends to do so. I was told to swallow my pride and admit that I need help paying for this.”

This isn’t unusual. Go to the gofundme.com website and on the left side you’ll see a menu of causes to which you can donate. Click on the ‘sports’ tab and you’ll see requests from teams (especially Little League teams in World Series playoffs) and individual athletes, all asking strangers to help pay for their expenses to play a sport, travel to playoffs, whatever.

Crowdfunding is a relatively new phenomenon, but now that it is pervasive in youth sports, perhaps it’s time to look at the cost of youth sports altogether. For those who wonder why those kids aren’t washing cars and doing other fundraisers to pay for their sports, see the quote from Karen Emmett, who says the team had been fundraising in more traditional methods to get enough money.

Are youth sports, especially traveling team costs, too expensive now? Are parents less willing to chip in or are financially unable to pay for their children to play? As sports professionals it’s up to us to make sure EVERY child who wants to play sports can, regardless of financial status or ability to pay. If you haven’t done so, perhaps its time to look into charitable funds connected to what we do, to make sure kids can still play sports.

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