When it comes to spending money on youth sports, Canada is number one.
Canada’s youth-sports economy, dominated by travel teams and national tournaments, expensive equipment and coaching, sports medicine and new smart-phone apps, has become a juggernaut $8.7 billion industry, according to WinterGreen Research, a Boston-area firm that tracks the industry.
WinterGreen provided the figures exclusively to CTV’s W5.
The Canadian youth-sports economy in 2018 grew from $7.2 billion in 2017 and up from $1.6 billion in 2010, WinterGreen said. The research firm expects the business to continue to grow in Canada for at least the next five years.
Susan Eustis, WinterGreen’s chief executive, said Canadians spend an average of $1,000 per child on youth sports every year, the most, per capita, in the world.
“It’s phenomenal,” Eustis said in an interview with W5. “I think in part it’s because hockey is so expensive. You have to build ice rinks and ice rinks cost money.”
Eustis said the industry has exploded as tournament organizers and private schools and property developers have all seized on the dreams of young athletes and the financial wherewithal of their parents.
“It’s expensive, you know, to build a professional athlete,” Eustis said. “It’s as expensive as building a doctor or any other profession. You have raw skill which would be like intellect. But you have to nurture that and nurturing costs money.”
Various sports federations and associations have warned that young athletes face the risk of burning out by specializing in a single sport at an early age.
While acknowledging that can be a problem, Eustis said it’s good for young athletes to learn to deal with pressure.
“I mean, children are pressured to learn all kinds of things,” she said. “They’re pressured to learn math, they’re pressured to learn everything, you know. Not to wear diapers… I mean it’s pretty fundamental the ways you pressure your children. And when you get into the workforce, I mean you have a job, there’s pressure in a job. You need to learn to manage the pressure.”
Yet for players and their families, the pressure is worth it.
For starters, some families say they spend more time together thanks to their children’s sports. And the long-term payoff for some is the prospect of a university scholarship. NCAA schools in the United States offer scholarships worth an estimated $3 billion per year.
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