By NAT HAWK
When I was eight, my main life goal was to be a tap dancer. I desperately wanted to take up tap-dancing, and I had great faith in my own ability to take it beyond my childhood and into a career.
There was only one problem – we couldn’t afford the lessons.
I begged, I pleaded, I offered to swap out my pocket money for tap shoes. But we didn’t have the spare cash to give to another term’s worth of dancing lessons, and I had to give up on the tap-dancing dream.
The good part of this story was that I really wasn’t missing out. I already did ballet, jazz and musical theatre lessons, as well as weekly swimming lessons and the odd tennis school holiday camp.
But I was a lucky kid. A kid whose parents could afford to say yes to some things, and no to other things.
There are a lot of kids out there whose parents have to say no to everything. They’re not playing footy, or cricket, or soccer, or doing karate or dancing lessons. They’re not playing any sport – just because so much of it has become so prohibitively expensive.
A few weeks ago, a recent poll in Canada made news when it found that a third of Canadian kids, aged between three and 17, don’t participate in organised sport because of the equipment and registration fees involved – 61% of parents said that enrolment fees were the main issue, and 52% said equipment costs were holding them back.
The parents who could afford organised sport reported that they were spending about $1000 per child, per year – mostly on soccer, swimming and basketball.
It’s a similar story here in Australia. In 2011, a South Australian study by academic Carol Maher found that children from low-income families are far less likely to play sport outside of school – per day, children from low-income families were getting 25 less minutes of physical activity than children from families with more money.
I had a chat to four different parents, each from different socio-economic backgrounds, to find out just how much they’re spending on sport per child – and whether or not they find the cost to be prohibitive. Each parent told a very different story, but each agreed on two things: