Tuesday, July 15, 2008

GAS PRICES.....gasp!

Yea, I know….you are sick of reading blogs entries and news items about high gas prices. Me too, so I’ll make it short. However, high gas prices have the potential to SUCK the life out of a small sub-section of youth sports. That subset of sports is the competitive, travel teams. Emphasis on the TRAVEL part. Generally, you have to travel at least an hour or two, each way, every weekend for the games or competitions; big tournaments can be states away, and once or twice a year, the kids may even need to fly. I know I’ve flown 4 times with one of my kids (2 different sports) and she’s only 12 now.

Additionally, if your athlete is on a really top team, chances are that team is not located in your neighborhood, so you even have to TRAVEL 3 or 4 times per week just for PRACTICE. In the club that my youngest plays soccer, there are countless kids who drive (actually they are driven) 2 to 3 hours each way, for practice (how the parents got that dedicated and can afford that much time in a car is stuff for another post). Even competitive cheerleading is that competitive; the gym I work out in has a competitive cheerleading program and there are some kids that live 2-3 hours from the gym and practice 4X/week here (I really must get a thesaurus….feel free to replace some of my competitives with: elite, high level, serious, top level, premier, travel, crème de la crème, whatever your local dialect calls for).

Don’t forget the other people (coaches, trainers, referees, etc) who have to drive or fly these distances to the games and tournaments and their gas bill is ultimately paid for by the parents with team fees.

In my neck of the woods here are some of the solutions we’ve been discussing and started to put into use:

1. Carpooling—already universally used for practices, many families have begun carpooling to games and tournaments. Sometimes this means that there’s no room for Dad (or Mom), but I haven’t heard any complaining. As the kids get past about 13 or so, they’d prefer both Mom and Dad stay home; so you could end up a designated parent in an SUV with about 4 or 5 players. If you are lucky they each come with a 20 dollar bill from their parents for gas money.

2. Check out the parking lot at the games…..not so many SUVs and minivans this year, huh? Not a single Hummer in sight at practice tonight. I’ve traded my SUV for a hybrid car…lucky we just happened to have one in driveway. Oh wait….that was a dream, dang. Well, I’m hoping to soon (right after winning the lottery next week).

3. I’ve heard it suggested, but yet to see it come to fruition, that some leagues may go back to scheduling 2 games in one day (for soccer and baseball anyway) so we (parents, coaches and officials) only have to drive to the field once per weekend.

4. Some families have decided to move their kids to a league closer to home even if the level of competition and coaching is not quite as high as they would like.

5. Clubs and teams have been making decisions to forgo certain tournaments and competitions, focusing on either on those closest to home or the most important. I personally am thrilled with this one, I’ve saved a good bit of $$ on hotels also, this summer.

6. A few parents are choosing to forgo certain competitions or games. Not so popular with the other parents and coach, though. Last minute replacements, smaller bench, and position switching is stressful on the whole team. But….ya gotta do what ya gotta do sometimes, right? If it comes to that though, I recommend seeing #1 above and sending your kid (and some cash) with another family so you don’t break his heart and make yourself the parent that becomes the focus of the weekends sideline gossip.

GOOD LUCK to all and may all your hybrid car dreams come true (Toyota Prius if we need to get specific).


Crabby McSlacker said...

Wow, I never thought about how much that would impact kids team sports.

Great tips!

every gym's nightmare said...

when i was little i did competitive gymnastics: 2 practices a day, and the gym was almost an hour away. yeah- thats about 4 hours of driving a day. plus meets. training was so expensive, i cant imagine what the burden would have been if prices were like how they are today


baseballmom said...

Oh, my gosh...I was just thinking about this over the weekend at our tournament that was an hour and a half away. Some families chose to spend the night, and we would have also if T was playing on Sunday, but we had camping plans so he played Sat. only. There is NO WAY that I would have made that drive again the second day, like some families did. I think the drive would have been more expensive than the hotel in my big gas hog Tahoe...but I love it, sadly, and can't give it up.

Mark Salinas said...

I get 8 MPG on the highway with mine!
Not fun! Time for a new vehicle!

Heidi said...

Yep, it's starting to affect people here too, although the SUVs, Hummers, minivans are still crowding up the parking lots. :) My husband is coaching again this summer and I'm SO glad it's almost over- he coaches about 25 minutes from here and all the games are that far as well- that's minimum 3 trips per week all the way there, and the league fees are NOT covering that as he took the position unpaid this time. :(