John F. Russell: Money for sports is well-spent

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John Russell

John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by John here.

— Every fall, I see parents lining the sidelines of soccer and football games, sitting in the stands at volleyball matches, hanging out near the greens at golf tournaments or courtside at tennis tournaments.

As a parent of two, I can understand the pride of watching children play sports. I can understand the cheers of joy, the silence that comes with a loss, and I can understand why parents are there watching from a distance. I would do anything for my children, and I think most loving parents would say the same.

Eleven years ago, I stood in the hallway outside the delivery room introducing my family and friends to my first child. I'll admit it, I was worried.

How was I going to pay for college? How was I going to pay for day care? What about all those packages of Pampers?

But I never gave a second thought to sports, or how much that would cost. Looking back, I have to wonder how many parents really knew what they were getting into when they first heard the words "Hey, Dad, I want to play soccer" or "Hey, Dad, all my friends are skiing."

Sports are fun, but they are not cheap. I also have to wonder whether those parents realized that they were going to sacrifice their weekends, their weeknights and, in some cases, their spring vacations for their children's athletics.

Did they really know they were going to have to pull out the American Express to cover a $200 tennis racquet this week, or part with $289 for a ski pass, not to mention $69 to rent skis for a season? How about a weeklong soccer camp or paying for a hotel room to attend that weekend tournament? Is it too much to ask?

After years of covering sports in Steamboat, I've met hundreds of parents who are willing to go that extra mile, spend their last dollar and do anything to support their children and help them reach their goals in whatever sport they choose. My hats are off to them.

Sure, some parents go over the top. Some of them cheer too loudly, grumble about a bad call or question a coach's decision to bench their child. But I can't blame them.

After all, these parents have been footing the bill for years. They've been the team's biggest fans at home games and on the road. They have volunteered as coaches, referees and sometimes the person who provides snacks, drinks and more than a few meals.

My guess is that most parents had no idea what they were getting into when they took their son or daughter to their first team meeting or took them to the ski shop to rent skis for the first time.

My guess is that they don't care that they could have filled the bed of a pickup with all the cash that they dumped into youth sports throughout the years. No, I think most parents will tell you that watching their children play, grow and enjoy sports was money well spent.

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