High school sports: What it really costs to play high school football

Published: Monday, Sept. 2 2013 3:35 p.m. MDT

Optional fees, however, are not so cut and dry. They can vary greatly from school to school and are determined by the coaches.

These optional fees range from zero to $830, but it’s difficult comparing these numbers due to the disparity of what is offered from school to school. It may also be misleading because students who participate at some of the schools who list no additional fees are expected to participate in fundraisers to pay for extra expenses, such as summer camps and spirit packs.

For example, Alta High reported the highest optional costs at $830. Head coach Bob Stephens offers a summer camp at Snow College for $290, weekly team meals for $90, summer weight training for $80, a fitness class for $35, a highlight video and pictures for $55, miscellaneous activities for $60, and a $220 spirit pack that includes a hooded sweatshirt, duffel bag, team-logoed T-shirt and shorts, compression shirt, core shorts, game socks, a practice girdle and a mouthpiece.

Contrast that with region rival and defending 5A state champion Jordan High. The Beetdiggers list only one optional fee — a $100 summer camp. The team, however, secures sponsorships from local businesses that donate team meals and help pay for other benefits.

Second-ranked 4A powerhouse East offers a summer camp, but head coach Brandon Matich said it’s a waivable fee for students who qualify. Matich said he relies on community support more than some because many of his student-athletes are unable to pay for proper equipment.

“If I charged as much as some programs, I’d have 10 kids playing,” Matich said.

Every school community is unique

Perennial powerhouse Bingham has the second-highest optional costs, but head coach Dave Peck believes he runs a very fiscally responsible program.

“I’m trying to build something special,” said Peck, whose optional costs total $700. “We want to be nationally respected.”

Both Stephens and Peck said they’re simply giving their communities what they want.

“I feel good about the program we run,” Peck said. “I’m doing everything I can to make a difference in these kids’ lives. Everything we’ve done at Bingham football, it’s under a microscope. Everything we do is transparent.”

All of the football forms, scheduled fundraisers and rules are on the team’s website, binghamfootball.org.

Stephens echoed Peck's sentiments, adding that he has had very few parents complaining about any costs and said parents often pitch in to help students who are struggling.

“If I told my kids they weren’t going to Snow (for the summer camp), they’d be devastated,” said Stephens. “We encourage them to go, but it’s absolutely optional.”

Both Stephens and Peck said they ask parents if they’d rather not travel or participate in out-of-town camps, but the parents' response is that they want what the coaches are offering.

Stephens and Peck also said they work hard to help those student-athletes who are struggling with financial requirements. “I’ve never turned a kid away,” said Peck.

Peck also admits he’s one of the lucky coaches. Bingham is in South Jordan, an affluent area, and not only are most parents able to pay whatever is necessary, local businesses are often eager to support the school’s activities and athletic programs monetarily.

“I tell them exactly how they can fundraise 100 percent if they would like,” he said. “If I was at Cyprus or Hunter, I would never be going to Price for $250 weeklong camps. I happen to be in an area where we’re able.”

But parents, some in these same affluent areas, said they pay because they feel there is no other choice. Their children have invested years in a sport, and so when coaches ask for money, they write checks.