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Should High School Athletes Pay to Play?

money on the table for high school athletes pay to play

(Flickr – Dustin Moore)

As we recently discussed, the biggest stress most high school student-athletes have is about paying for college.

But something else you and your families are probably already feeling the heat from recently made a headline in Chicago. How much – and to whom – should high school athletes pay to play their sport?

A recent investigation by CBS into a Chicago Public Schools volleyball team revealed that a starting senior was cut from the team because she quit playing for a private volleyball team coached by the same individual.

According to the parents CBS interviewed, dues for the team alone cost around $1,300 or $1,400.

But this isn’t just about one bad pay to play situation.

Travel and club teams can get a bad rap for the amount of dues and fees associated with them. But as high schools face budget cuts and athletic departments need to make ends meet, student-athletes and their family all over the country are facing steeper participation fees.

For example, in Ohio, in Ohio, lawmakers are looking at capping the participation fees to join a co-curricular activity. This, after 46 percent of high schools who responded to a survey for the Ohio High School Athletic Association had some type of pay-to-play fee, which ranged from $66 to $153, according to High School Sports Cleveland.

Or, at one Massachusetts school, participation fees rose to $495 per athlete (or $1,980 cap per family) before booster clubs stepped in and, along with private donations, reduced the fee.

How pay to play might impact your chances of playing in college

Obviously, every investment is something a family needs to take a look at for themselves. But nationally, the impact of fees is hurting youth sports participation — if a family’s income is less than $60,000, potential student athletes are four times more likely to stop playing because of fees.

But if you’re looking to move beyond high school in sports like volleyball, club teams often trump high school volleyball — even though there are the fees attached. Kelly Stuntz, head recruiting coach at NCSA Athletic Recruiting, says that college coaches don’t focus much on high school volleyball. “Unfortunately, I think repercussions for not playing for the local o rhigh school team for club can and does happen a lot,” she says.

“The students in Chicago playing club volleyball at $1,200 to $1,400 in dues is a steal,” Paige Paulson, head recruiting coach at NCSA Athletic Recruiting, says. “Some club teams cost $3,000 to $5,000 a year and sometimes more.”

From a coach’s perspective, Kelly says, it might not be about the money. “Some coaches want to keep their team together year-round so they are competitive in the next season.”

Whether the investment in a travel team is worthwhile to you comes down to your personal situation and commitment to your sport; since college coaches will be looking at your performance and club teams traditionally outperform high school teams, that investment might aid you in your search for the right school.

But there’s a reason the prohibitive costs of youth sports are often in the news. One small way we try to help is by offering grants to deserving families (through the help of the NFL Players Association) to help student-athletes use NCSA Athletic Recruiting and get to college.

What are your thoughts? Should high school athletes pay to play their sport? How much is too much? Let us know on Twitter @ncsa and on Facebook @NCSAsports.


We are here to help make the college search process easier so you can find a school where you can play your sport — and find some scholarship and aid to do so. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.

About the author
Andy McKernan

Andy McKernan is the content strategist at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. A content marketer with a background in creative writing, Andy brings several years of experience to NCSA.