ADVERTISEMENT

The days of furthering a kid’s athletic career by telling him to go play outside are ancient history.

Today, sports is big business, and moms and dads act accordingly. There are travel teams for their kids to play on, club memberships, clinics, individual coaching, expensive equipment.

Parents are spending thousands of dollars a year – just the travel expenses for youth sports is $7 billion a year, according to a recent report from CNBC – on kids’ sports careers. But that investment may be misguided, according to a new study from Utah State University’s Families in Sport Lab.

“The more money folks are investing, the higher pressure kids are perceiving,” said Travis Dorsch, an assistant professor in Utah State’s department of family, consumer and human development. “More pressure means less enjoyment. As kids enjoy sports less, their motivation goes down. (So) the indirect effect is, yes, spending more money and less motivation.”

Parents justify their financial outlay by saying they’re increasing the child’s chances for a college scholarship or, down the line, a lucrative professional career. But according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, only about 2 percent of high school athletes receive athletic scholarships to college. Even fewer move on to the professional ranks.

Further, the amount of scholarship money awarded is less than one might imagine. A 2008 analysis by The New York Times found the typical athletic scholarship valued at $10,409. Yes, $10,000 is something. But the College Board reports that the cost of an in-state public college education for the 2013-14 academic year averaged $22,826.