Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas’ gold medal is reportedly worth millions in endorsement deals. That’ll go a long way toward paying off her mother’s debts, reportedly about $80,000. Earlier this year, Gabby’s mom filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Gabby’s mom, who has three other children, took a risk that paid off. But should our Olympians’ parents have to go broke to get their kids to the podium?
The alternative, of course, is the Chinese way, where they pluck young athletes from their homes and raise them in state-run traning centers, with the weight of the country’s expectations on their shoulders. It’s estimated that the two-year training costs for China’s gold medal-winning swimmer, Sun Yang, was more than $1.5 million. How many parents could afford that — especially in China?
But for every Sun Yang and Gabby Douglas, there are thousands of other kids who don’t make it that far. Do bronze medalists get endorsement deals? What about the kids who make it as far as the Olympic trials and then stay home? Or the ones who get injured along the way?
If you have the cash and the dream of Olympic gold for your kids, good for you. But if you don’t, do the math. For instance, in New Jersey, where I live, the average soccer academy charges between $1,500 and $3,000 per kid per year. For hockey, I’ve heard upwards of $5,000, and that’s not including the equipment or your hotel rooms at the Econolodge in East Kabumble, Canada for weekend tournaments. And that’s just for the average travel player.
Forbes estimates it costs on average $15,000 a year to raise an Olympian in gymnastics. Archery costs more than $25,000. Quick! Name a famous American Olympic archer.
I thought so.
Then there’s the time associated with chauffeuring kids to and from training 300 days a year. How are you going to keep up with your kid’s Olympic training schedule while you’re working? Answer: You’re either wealthy enough to hire a driver or you’re quitting your job.
Then there’s the emotional toll on your athlete, your other kids and on you. (Plus explaining to your in-laws why you’re spending Thanksgiving at a tournament 600 miles away again this year.)
It costs. Should you pay it? It would be un-American to say no, especially since my voice is still cracking from cheering on the US Women’s Soccer team yesterday in the gold medal match. Not to mention, well, I am a travel soccer coach. But I will say maybe not.
What would you say?