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Epiblogue: Army morale spending and skyrocketing youth sports costs

Submitted by on Tuesday, 1 March 2011 No Comment

Just as I was in a mood to rant about proposals to cut Army morale spending anyway, they were handing out papers at last night’s soccer game alerting parents that registration is open for tee ball, baseball and softball.

The cost: $60 per player, which is $5 more than we paid for soccer and football. That’s also $5 more than it would cost to play tee ball or coach pitch baseball in the last civilian league Big Guy was in. That’s not the whole picture, either.

Being the pack rat that I am, I just happened to have the receipt from our first sports registration here on hand. That was for indoor soccer last winter, and the cost was $35.

In other words, team sports have gone up 71 percent in a little more than a year. The indoor soccer season also is two games, or 20 percent shorter, than a year ago.

Yes, we’re still paying less than civilians in some areas, but not much, and not at all if you calculate it on a per-game basis. Big Guy’s first season of civilian soccer was $65 for 10 games. Indoor soccer is $6.88 per game for Boots this year. Big Guy’s civilian soccer registration did go up to $85 for his second season, though a board member’s subsequent conviction for embezzlement makes me wonder if sticky fingers were part of the reason.

Scholarships also were available in our civilian league – there’s nothing like that here. While indexing fees based on family income could be a partial solution to the continued escalation, that’s not fair if they index but costs continue to skyrocket at the top.

I have only anecdotal evidence about what’s happening to participation levels as a result, but last winter there were at least six teams in Boots’ soccer division. This  year there are four. That could be because Fort Irwin has seen an exodus of kids Boots’ age, but I doubt it.

We’re lucky that I’m still able to work – many spouses are not while their families are at Fort Irwin due to the isolated nature of the base – and we still can afford for the guys to play sports. If this trend of increasing registration $5 with every new season continues, though, increasingly many families will not be able to afford it.

Anecdotally, I’d guess that that’s happening already.

UPDATE: Since writing this post, I’ve discovered that sports registration is dramatically cheaper elsewhere, including Fort Bragg and Fort Hood. While there are going to be some economies of scale at larger posts that likely would account for part of the difference, it’s still hard to understand why baseball costs $30 at Bragg, $40 at Hood and $60 here.

The difference is even more ridiculous when you consider that some posts such as Bragg are close to civilian leagues where children easily could play if they wished. At Fort Irwin, the nearest civilian league is a 70-mile round trip. It is, however, $15 cheaper.

Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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