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Many extracurricular activities are 'pay for play,' burdening parents

PHOENIX -- High school football players celebrate when they score a last second touchdown to win the game, but long before they scored that touchdown, they may have had to pay just to get on to the team.

It's called "Pay for play," and it's nothing new.

"Pay for play has been around ever since I was playing high school sports back in 1984," said Chuck Schmidt, associate executive director of the Arizona Interscholastic Association. "It's been around awhile. I just think it's gaining more and more attention because costs continue to rise and those fees continue to rise."

How much athletes pay depends on the school. Some charge a $200 sports participation fee. Some districts, including Mesa, have decided not to charge the fees this year.

But some parents say that, with all the money they spend on their kids' sporting activities that are not associated with school, they completely expect to pay the school fees.

"The significance and development of club sports...travel teams, competitive leagues, as they're called...a lot of parents are used to paying for that," Schmidt said.

But it's not just athletes that pay to play.

"There are dues for certain clubs, like the drama club or the chorus," said shopping expert Trea Bodge. "There might be uniforms that they need to wear or maybe a costume for the school play."

And all of those costs add up.

"Parents are anticipating spending about $400 per child throughout the school year to fund any extra curricular activities that their child might be involved in," said Bodge.

And for low-income families, there may be help on the way in the form of the Arizona Interscholastic Association's Team AIA program.

"One of our goals is to create a funding source that could allow schools or districts to apply for funds for kids to participate that may not be able to afford it," Schmidt said.

Bodge said one way that families can save money is by having kids prioritize the activities they want to participate in.

"Maybe they can choose one, maybe two, activities per semester, depending on your budget, of course," she explained. "Then if there's something they're interested in that is above and beyond your budget, I'd like to recommend that the kids maybe contribute money themselves."

She said that money kids can earn by washing cars, mowing lawns or any other jobs they have could go a long way toward helping to pay for the activities they want to be involved in.

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About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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