The benefits of participating in youth sports are undeniable. They teach kids about the value of teamwork, commitment, and dedication. They help kids develop confidence and build character. And they promote active, healthy lifestyles.
Sports have played an important role in the lives of almost 75% of our population. But this rite of passage has become less of a right, and more of a privilege. As the culture of sports in our society continue to shift, the barriers to participation will continue to grow.
Never mind the commitment of time and energy that youth sports require. Before they can even load up the minivan, parents are basically asked to hand over their checkbooks.
Equipment often needs to be purchased every year as kids either outgrow or wear out existing gear. For example, a full set of equipment for ice hockey can cost upwards of $2,000 per player.
Then there’s the cost of transportation and travel. Parents and coaches shuttle kids to and from practice. They battle rush hour to make it to the game on time. And they sacrifice weekends for tournaments and team outings.
As the costs add up, kids from lower-income families are shut out from the chance to play the sports that they love. Youth participation levels in sports like football, baseball, and basketball have trended downward in the past decade. In that same time period, however, lacrosse has been one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S, with annual increases in participation that range from 3-12%.
Much like ice hockey, lacrosse remains one of the most expensive sports to play, an issue to which the lacrosse community is fully aware and making attempts to curb. Recently, US Lacrosse announced a new partnership with the Sankofa Lacrosse Foundation to offer free youth clinics for those from underrepresented lacrosse communities. Under the partnership, US Lacrosse will work with local organizations to plan and implement the clinics, while Sankofa affiliated players will provide hands-on instruction.
If we want to bring the focus of youth sports back to teaching life lessons, providing a welcome environment for every kid, and allowing them to develop, then it’s time to start breaking down the barriers, not creating them.