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Big Spending on Youth Sports

CINCINNATI (Mike Berk) -- From the time a boy or girl shows an interest in sports, parents start wondering whether their child has the talent to really go somewhere with it.

Some of those parents end up spending a mall fortune trying to help them realize that dream is it worth it?

Joe Steele, the general manager of Southwestern Ohio Basketball, said, "The price of college tuition has never been higher. And the road to an athletic scholarship comes with a steep price tag as well. That's because playing a high school sport for one season may no longer be enough to gain the attention of  college recruiters. Tonight, we take a look at the benefit of playing on traveling teams. Does that benefit outweigh an investment that in some cases can be tens of thousands of dollars."

Welcome to Landmark Christian and the home of the Cincinnati Royals Basketball Academy.  But these aren't your father's, or your grandfather's, Royals.  These are the AAU Royals, girls and boys of all ages in search of better players, year round competition, and of course, the holy grail of it all.

"So if you want to go to a tournament and scout some kids, where are you gonna see a bunch of them at? AAU."

Joe Steele's job is not to get his players scholarships.  In fact, his program comes with what's some sort of disclaimer.

"If a kids really has passion and really wants to develop his skills, that's what it's really all about."

But if that's really what it's all about, and a scholarship is promised to no one, then why spend all of this money?  Between travel and fees, this isn't cheap.

Brian Ripperger has two daughters who are products of the AAU system and he has spent upwards of 10,000 dollars over the years.

He says, "Worth it?  I think so, I really think so.  The biggest thing, there's more to it that that scholarship people talk about.  You're helping your child grow in other ways."

In addition to being a top notch player, Brian's daughter is solid in the classroom.  She's now attending Centre College in Danville, Kentucky on an academic scholarship.  AAU basketball paved the way.

It worked out for Repperger, the academic money off-sets some, if not all, of the five figure AAU expenses he endured over the years.  And if you think that number is staggering, consider that basketball is easy.  You can always find a gym and some good competition relatively close by.  But in hockey, ice time and quality competition are both at a premium.  And that's reflected in the price.

If you are paying for professional coaching, travel, gear and ice time; hockey could easily run you 10- 12,000 dollars just for a year.  Practice in Evendale at "Sports Plus" is the easy part for Dan Lauderback.  His son Zach's workouts were once held in Indianapolis twice a week.  But he was willing to go along with it, as long as Zach was.

"He's got a passion for it," Dan said of his son.

Passion or not, for John Hadley, all that hockey required simply too much.  A choice had to be made with it came to his sons hockey career.

"If he had chosen hockey as his passion and what he wanted to do, one of the options would've been, and I've seen other people do it, is to ship kids off to relatives to play hockey in the twin cities or Detroit or Boston.  Because really, it's a sport where you're only going to get competition in those places."

Soccer ultimately won out, Alex didn't have to ship-off to live with a relative in "Hockey Country."  After walking on at Indiana and UC, he's now playing for Dayton on a scholarship.  His parents may actually break even on all of this.

Dan Lauderback may or may not, "We could've taken the money we've spent on hockey and put it in a college account and his college would be paid for.  So it's not about that, it's about the experiences and everything he's gaining from it."

And it's a big commitment for the kids, whether you want to call them AAU teams, select teams, or travel teams, the investment is all the same.




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