Pay to Play - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, Florida-

Pay to Play

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(WFLX) - If you have kids, you don't need us to tell you they're expensive, and we're just talking about the extracurricular stuff.

Parents are paying more than ever for their kids to be "part of the club" so to speak.

For example, a spot in the high school marching band: $1,000 a year; specialized clinics to earn a pitching title: $90 a class. For a chance to land a spot on dancing with the stars: $94 just for the costume worn once.

While the memories may be priceless, the amount you pay to play isn't. Just ask Karen LaFlamme. "For Chantal's swimming, it cost approximately $4,000 a year."

For her son, Andre, $3,700 to hit the baseball diamond using a new $300 bat. That also includes traveling expenses, gate fees and hotel bills.

Experts say some parents are now shelling out up to a $1,000 a month, and that's just for one child and one sport.

Why such a high price to play? "There is constantly more demand than facilities available. Therefore, drives the price of facility use up and secondarily insurance provided by the youth sports program," said Jon Butler, executive director Pop Warner Little Scholars Inc.

He says 40 percent of families participating in extracurricular activities don't have medical insurance forcing the organizations to provide coverage.

Another factor driving up costs: the elite level of coaching and play demanded by parents who are more competitive than ever. "I think there is a whole societal issue now of parents who have grown up and are successful and want nothing but the best for their child," said Butler.

"I know kids and have friends that have kids who travel all over the U.S. to play," said Jim Caruso of Future Soccer Stars Academy.

It's no longer just volunteers doing the coaching either. Highly paid assistants are brought in to help out. "There's an increased professionalism," said Caruso.

There's also an increase in pricey high tech gear. Trainers prefer $30 bats to the $20 models, and coaches say $40 swimsuits don't compare to the $250 version.

But, experts say, don't invest until you know your child hits that elite level and loves the sport.

Until then, buy used equipment at thrift stores and franchise outlets, ask about scholarships, and try community-based programs for new sports for your child.

Karen's kids love their sport. Although, she doesn't like the hit her bank account is taking, she sees the benefits of her kids participating. "I want both my kids to be well-rounded, and, you know, I think sports play an important part of that."

Here's another saving tip, ask about sibling discounts. Most programs offer them, and if your child is involved in a community based program, the uniform is more than likely included in the registration cost. Parents usually have to pay extra for a pair of athletic shoes.

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