Pay-to-play fees rise for high school sports

Posted at 7:52 AM, Aug 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-08 07:52:08-04

CLEVELAND — Between school supplies, clothing and shoes, parents are finding this is one of the most expensive times of the year, particularly if your student is playing sports.

In Mentor, high school athletes pay on a per-family basis. Students are charged $200 for the first sport and $50 for any additional sports after that.

In Wickliffe, pay-to-participate fees are $190 for the first sport with an additional $50 for any other sport.

“Footballs and other game balls and uniforms, all of those things all go up in costs,” said Mentor Athletic Director Jeff Casella. “As much as we would like to see pay to participate, these or other things like that go away.”

Pay-to-play participation fees cover anything from equipment to officials and security to game night staff. But the largest expenditure for most athletic departments comes as no surprise: transportation.

“I think the single largest constraint to an extracurricular program is transportation because we are bussing students all over northeast Ohio all the way to Columbus,” said Wickliffe City Schools Superintendent Joe Spiccia.

High school sports have seen an increase in participation recently and some districts even add teams to their athletic programs, like bowling. With an influx of students participating in sports, high schools need to provide adequate and top-of-the-line equipment.

“A lot of the equipment that we have to purchase, we have to purchase is more expensive because it's safer,” Spiccia said. “Those additions lead to increased costs. That's something our board will take on because they just believe in the programs. We believe in the programs."

But times are tight and rising costs have everyone evaluating their finances, which has many parents wondering if prices at their student’s school will be going up too. Fortunately, most school districts have built-in safety nets to help offset any budget concerns parents might have.

“We're pretty fortunate in that those families or those student-athletes who need some assistance, we were able to do that through some of our booster club organizations and some fundraising activities that we do,” Casella said.

With the cost of high school athletics subtly rising over time, school administrators News 5 spoke with say the price to play will not.

“The last thing we want to do is exclude any kid from participating because they can't afford a pay-to-participate fee or their family can't afford it,” Casella said.