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Why some children lack access to sport

Copyrights: Photo by Lance Cpl. Alissa Schuning

Why some children lack access to sport

Inequalities in the US school system mean that children from lower-income backgrounds often have fewer opportunities to participate in sport.

According to the United Nations , “Sport has proven to be a cost-effective and flexible tool in promoting peace and development objectives.” This is especially true when it comes to youth and their involvement in sport activities, from the obvious health benefits to the soft skills that can be gained from being a part of a team. Yet, some children lack access to physical activity programmes, especially being part of a sport team.

Children from low-income families consistently face hurdles which prevent them from participating in sport activities, even in their school teams. According to the Backpack Index (which looks at the yearly cost of attending public schools in the USA), the overall cost of sending a child to public school is on the rise in the USA. In fact, fees for joining school sport teams or similar activities are estimated at around $1,000 per child for each academic year, on top of the costs for basic needs such as equipment which can be up to $1,400.

This is a huge burden on low-income families, who represent a major percentage of U.S. public school attendees. This can be problematic and exclude certain children from joining any school activity which requires additional fees. The problematic access to school sport teams also translates to other missed opportunities for certain kids. Possibilities such as entering pro sports or receiving athletics-based scholarships are missed.

This has also become an issue of neighbourhoods and communities as a whole. It is well-known that public schools in the USA are not funded equally. Certain schools are allocated less funding – sometimes even less than half the funding as schools in other states  – and that usually leads to cuts in physical activity programmes as well as art and music programmes.

Those living in low income neighbourhoods might not even have the chance to enrol their kids in a sports team since some schools don’t have the resources to cover the costs of coaches or a practice location. This systematic inequity, which creates a vicious cycle that hinders the long-term development of communities while those in higher-income neighburhoods enjoy the benefits.  

This dilemma does not only effect school-age children, but also youth outside of schools.  Those who have left school are at a much higher risk of having a completely sedentary lifestyle. The lack of low-cost community based programmes also means there is very little access for those who no longer attend school.

Thankfully, many organisations are pushing to advocate for sport as a means to social development for kids in low-income areas. In fact, with the idea that sport is an important aspect of development, communities can create solutions to such issues themselves, for example by creating community-based teams where costs are shared. This will not only lower the burden on individual families, but also provide greater opportunity to communities.


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Tuesday, October 10, 2017 - 12:32