Editor's note: This is the second in a three-part series exploring the rising costs of youth sports and college sports opportunities.

Admit it. That day at the hospital when the doctor looked at you and said, "It's a girl," thoughts of makeup, hairdos, manicures, ballet recitals and cheerleading went through your head. Little did you know that with today's advances in women's athletics you would be spending nearly all of your free time at the soccer pitch, softball diamond, basketball or volleyball court.

"I love watching her play," said Gary James, whose daughter Taylor plays softball. "We gave her a choice if she wanted to go to dance or play softball, and she didn't hesitate a second before she said she wanted to play softball. I think it made her mom a little sad since she was a cheerleader in high school, but once you see her out there playing, you can't help but smile."

That smile could quickly turn upside down should Taylor make a competitive club softball team and James gets the bills for it. Soon, dad's pride could turn into dad's debt.

"I really couldn't believe it could cost that much for my little girl to play," said David Stephens of his daughter Tammie's expenses for her volleyball club. "There are fees for this and fees for that, and that is before she says, 'Dad, we are going to Las Vegas for a tournament and I need another $400. Oh, and my knee pad tore at practice so I need a new one.' I am into this volleyball thing a couple of thousand dollars over the last year and a half."

While the expenses pile up, there are those on the other side that are trying to both make a living and give the athletes the best possible experiences while playing. Utah Rush coach Jamie Schock is a full-time paid soccer coach either with the club or for Juan Diego High School.

"I am happy with what I do," Schock said. "Not that I need to justify my getting paid to coach a team, but if you look at it like any other lessons a kid can take, it is going to cost something. You pay someone to give him piano or violin lessons. A tutor for school costs money, so when we get together and train, I am giving my expertise or experience to a player, and it is the same thing."

Expenses to play with the Rush vary depending on the level and year, but for the premier team, which Schock coaches, it can cost a pretty penny. First, there is a $185 club fee each year. There is a coach's fee, which can range from $30-$65 per-month depending on the coach and the coach's level of certifications.

Schock's Under-17 squad takes at least three out-of-state trips to tournaments each year. Depending on where — the Rush have traveled from as close as Cedar City to as distant as Florida — the trips can range from as little as $250 to $1,000. Then there are uniforms, bags, ball, cleats and warm-ups, not to mention the cost of getting to and from practice and games. With today's gas prices, that in itself could match the gross national product of a small country. One year on the Rush has the potential to run into the thousands of dollars.

What do the parents, who are the ones usually taking the burden of the cost, and players get from the high cost of playing competitive club soccer? In the case of the Utah Rush, besides simply putting that smile on the parents face to watch their child play, it resulted in collegiate opportunities.

"We had 14 girls on our U-17 team last year, and every one of them went somewhere on scholarship to play soccer," Schock said.

That type of success is not the norm. Simply putting a player on a premiere-league club team will not automatically earn a scholarship, but in the case of the Rush, the results speak for themselves. Schock said that his philosophy is that you get what you pay for, and he doesn't mean only on the field.

"We stress to our girls that they have to keep their grades up as well," he said. "It is so much easier for a coach to offer somebody a scholarship if they see that the academics are not going to be a problem. Of that group of 14 last season, they had a cumulative GPA of 3.9.

"Also, we try to stress that there are always life lessons to learn from being on the team," added Schock. "They can learn social interactions as well as how hard work can pay off, and there are a million other little things they can learn from both success and failure."

With today's sports, just because the little bundle brought to you is dressed in pink doesn't mean that a tutu is in the near future. There are more teams, more sports, more athletes and more overall opportunities. But along with all of the bigger and better chances for a female athlete, there may also be a smaller and drained savings account.


E-mail: mblack@desnews.com