Higher costs in after-school sports and activities may sideline some

. January 4, 2017.

Fresh off of the holiday break you may be wondering what after-school programs could keep your kids active during the cold, dark winter months.

New Year’s resolutions for your child’s development

If you’re like many parents, you take on the New Year resolving to be your best– and that includes supporting your child’s academic and recreational enrichment. Because you know that they excel as a result of broadened interests, talent development, and engagement with their school community, you may look to after-school programs for your children’s involvement in sports or other activities.

But the associated price tags: participation fees, equipment fees, rental fees, transportation fees– all add up to a larger cost than you anticipated– could make you wonder how to make it all work out best for your financial bottom line and your child’s future. If you’ve looked at some of the prices of after-school programs lately, and have felt shut out as a result of higher “pay-to-play” associated costs, you are not alone.

According to the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, one in four students from lower-income families did not participate in a single sport, club or art program last school year. One of the main reasons behind the decline in participation is the increasing cost.
“School activities allow students to broaden their interests, develop teamwork and leadership skills, and strengthen their connections with peers and their school community. Participation in school activities has been linked to better grades and lower dropout rates,” says Sarah Clark, M.P.H., co-director of the poll. “However, we found that a substantial portion of students, particularly those in lower-income groups, are not fully engaged in a well-rounded school experience that includes activities– and too often, it’s because of cost.”

Higher costs prevent children from being able to play

According to the poll, among parents from households earning less than $60,000 a year, 27 percent say their child was less involved with school activities because of cost. But financial challenges were not limited to lower-income families: 12 percent of parents making more than $60,000– about 1 in 10– also cite price as the reason for their child’s decline in activities.

Ann Arbor Public Schools provides financial assistance for sports and educational activities

The poll’s final report recommends that “school officials consider the equity of participation costs across different types of activities, and ensure that students interested in sports have equal access to participation as do students interested in music, theater, clubs, and other activities.”

Money for students with economic need

The good news is that in the Ann Arbor School District, money is there for students who have an economic need to get the financial assistance necessary for recreational and educational participation.

“First and foremost,” says Andrew Cluley, Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Spokesperson, “AAPS students who want to participate in athletics at both the middle school and high school level can. We have programs to assist families with need, if applicable. Fees can be waived or reduced based on family income– and if parents don’t meet those criteria, scholarships are available both from the Ann Arbor Public Schools’ Recreation and Education Department, as well as different scholarships, such as the Donald Simon Jr.’s Memorial Scholarship at Huron High School. So, the bottom line is that we help facilitate all those that request assistance.”

All you need to do is ask!

Ultimately, it is up to the child’s parents or guardians to step up to the proverbial plate when it comes to receiving the assistance needed to afford after-school program activities. The child’s parent or guardian needs to ask. And therein lies the rub, according to Cluley, because, as he says, “the major problem that AAPS and schools everywhere struggle with are those students that don’t ask for assistance. It’s always a challenge to know how many students fall into this category.” Still, he offers, “we encourage families to reach out to their school if they have concerns about being able to participate in athletics and other after-school activities.”

Huron High School Athletic Director and Assistant Principal Dottie Davis is in charge of physical education, health, music and art programs, which under her leadership, have produced countless district, regional, and state championship teams. She echoes AAPS Spokesperson Cluley’s sentiments: “Our motto is this: every kid will always be afforded the opportunity to play and money will never be an issue. Any kid who comes to us and says, ‘Hey, I have a need,’ we will help out. All they need to do is ask.”