FRIDAY, May 18, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Schools that charge kids to participate in sports may be benching some children, a new survey finds.
One in five parents with an annual household income under $60,000 said sports-related fees have forced their middle- and high school-aged children to reduce their involvement in school sports, according to the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.
Budget cuts have led school districts across the United States to scale back athletic funding and implement fees to cover the cost of school sports, according to the investigators.
The survey found that 61 percent of children playing middle or high school sports were charged a pay-to-play fee. The average cost was $93, but the fee was $150 or more for 21 percent of the children.
The poll also found that when equipment, uniforms and additional team fees were added, the average cost for a child's participation in a school sport was $381.
Twelve percent of parents said the cost of school sports led to a drop in participation by at least one of their children, but that varied substantially based on household income. About 19 percent of families earning less than $60,000 a year said costs led to a decrease in their children's participation in school sports, compared with 5 percent of parents in families earning more than $60,000 per year.
Only 6 percent of students received a waiver of pay-to-play fees, the poll found.
The findings suggest that schools should re-examine their waiver policies and consider options such as partial waivers, installment payments, or other means to provide flexibility for families, said Sarah Clark, associate director of the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan and associate director of the National Poll on Children's Health.
"We know that participating in school sports offers many benefits to children and teens: higher school achievement, lower dropout rates, improved health, reduced obesity and the development of skills like teamwork and problem-solving," Clark said in a University of Michigan Health System news release.
"There's not an athletic director, school administrator or coach out there who doesn't want every kid to have a chance to participate. But there are no easy answers, especially because budgets are expected to get tighter and tighter," she added.
The Nemours Foundation has more about children and sports.