Inner City Kids: Shut Out of Sports Programs

Inner city kids benefit immensely from exercise. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently studied high school females in New York and found that those who run and play sports are at lower risk of fighting and being in a gang. Girls at four inner-city highschools in New York were surveyed to determine if there was an association between regular exercise and violence-related behaviors.

While the benefits of exercise for inner city youth are widely understood, schools are increasingly strapped to fund athletic programs. According to Up2Us Sports, $3.5 billion was cut from school sports budgets from 2009 to 2011, and, by 2020, an estimated 27 percent of U.S. public high schools will no longer have any sport teams or programs of any kind.

These cuts disproportionately affect kids in low-income, inner city neighborhoods because participation in sports increasingly follows a Pay-to-Play model. Nearly 1 in 5 lower-income parents report costs forced their children to cut back on sports, according to U-M’s National Poll on Children’s Health.
According to the U-M Poll, 61 percent of children playing middle or high school sports were charged a pay-to-play fee. The average fee was $93, according to the poll respondents, but 21% of children faced a pay-to-play fee of $150 or more.

However, pay-to-play fees are only one component of the school sports costs reported by parents. Including equipment, uniforms and additional team fees,, the average cost for a child’s sports participation was $381.

Researchers found that 12 percent of parents overall said that the cost of school sports caused a drop in participation for at least one of their children. However, that varied substantially based on income. Among lower-income families, those earning less than $60,000 per year, 19 percent said their children’s participation decreased because of costs. But among families earning more than $60,000 per year, only 5 percent reported costs had caused their children to participate less.

At a recent panel forum on this topic, Jets Wide Receiver, Brandon Marshall offered the following:
“It’s almost like a civil rights movement. Millions of kids are going to be stripped away of their only opportunity of having a healthy, effective life. If they don’t have sports, they don’t have a chance.”