Problems Plague Pay to Play

$3,000 gymnastics price tag decreases participation

By Gillian McMahon

Pay to play is an option that resurfaces in schools looking to cut costs each time budgets are cut. Recently, some Connecticut public high schools have implemented a system of “pay to play” where athletes pay to participate in sports. At East Lyme High School, the cost of participating in competitive gymnastics is about $3,000 per student-athlete, which has resulted in many team members deciding not to return for another season.
There has always been a fee required to participate in gymnastics but the hefty price tag covers the costs of leotards, warm ups, grips, competitions, and practice time.
However this season, sophomore Ella Page is the only member of the team and competes as an individual. In recent years there have been about five participants from East Lyme who have participated in a co-op team with Waterford and Montville.

“It’s something that I’ve done for a long time,” said Page in explanation of her choice to continue on with the sport despite the cost of participation. Since being out with an ankle injury since last February, continuing has been her chance of return.

On the other hand, sophomore Lena Osso opted not to participate this season in favor of pole vaulting and doing the high jump with the indoor track team. Osso, who had competed in gymnastics since she could walk, misses the sport but her gymnastics experience has been coming in handy for  track.

“Gymnastics has literally been my whole life,” said Osso. As a child, she was solely dedicated to the sport which has been hard to let go.

With gymnastics being a tough sport to keep up with, Osso does not think she will return in her final two years of high school even if the price was lowered.

At ELHS, transitioning to pay to play for all sports is not in the near future, but it certainly has affected sports like gymnastics and ice hockey which always had tremendous costs that the school can not entirely cover thus resulting in sports that are not sponsored by the school and have expensive fees.

Gymnastics and ice hockey are pay to participate sports because of low interest and expensive operating costs.

From a monetary perspective, the school will not be transitioning to pay to play for all sports because “the amount of money that we can make [from pay to play] is trivial,” said Athletic Director Steve Hargis. Interest specific sports like ice hockey and gymnastics are likely to remain pay to play because of the costs they entail for a low number of  participants.

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