The Top 20 Most Expensive Sports to Play for Youth

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the most expensive sports for kids to start playing. We’ll be ranking them based on the registration and equipment costs for beginners. Although it’s important to note that as your little athletes progress and improve, the cost of more advanced equipment can increase significantly.

Youth sports are part of a children’s healthy development but can often strain household finances.

In 2022, Lending Tree conducted a survey revealing that 60% of families faced financial strain due to the cost of their children’s sports.

About 20% of parents planned to spend more than $1,000 on sports, while 11% expected to go into debt to fund their children’s athletics.

Despite the cost of sports, it’s important to remember the many benefits that come with participation. Sports provide kids with opportunities to improve physical fitness, develop important life skills such as teamwork and perseverance, make new friends, and have fun.

Short list of some of the most expensive sports in the world

With that said, not all athletics are created equal – some sports definitely pack a punch when it comes to price!

In this article…

Here are a few of the more expensive culprits: equestrian sports (hello, horses!), ice hockey (those rinks don’t come cheap), skiing and snowboarding (lift tickets, anyone?), figure skating (those fancy costumes add up), and gymnastics (I hope your budget is flexible). We’ll go into more details below.

We have taken the time to compile a list of twenty of the most expensive youth sports. We breakdown of the costs associated with each sport, from the price you can expect to pay for equipment, to the costs as your child advances. This information will help you decide whether the investment is worth it for your child’s interests and abilities. And of course, whether it’s worth the cost.

Remember, the cost of a sports program varies widely and depends on factors such as location, player age, instruction level, and program duration, unique to each family. Frequently children are invited to participate on club and travel teams which can carry a large price tag. It’s always helpful to make sure your child’s interest and ability level match both the time and financial commitment of the sport.

Here is some information to get you started:

1. Equestrian Sports

young girl jumping a horse in equestrian class

Cost Range: $2,500 to $100,000+

Equestrian sports are often associated with an affluent demographic for obvious reasons. This sport requires perhaps the most expensive item of equipment – a horse. The cost of owning or stabling a horse is just the start. Costs of other equipment, horse training, riding lessons, and competition fees, make equestrian sports the most expensive form of athletics for kids (and adults) by a long shot.

The cost of exhibiting a horse on the international circuit can exceed $200,000 a year. It’s no accident that some of the most notable names in show jumping, eventing, and dressage are Bloomberg, Springsteen and Onassis.

Beginner and Advanced Annual Costs for Equestrian Sports

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Enrollment/Membership Fees$30 – $50
Competition Fees$220
Initial Cost of a Horse$200 – $5000
Stabling or Boarding Fees$500 – $2,000 per month
Lessons  & Training$500+ per month
Horse Assessment and Vet Care$1500
Horse Insurancevaries, typically 3 percent of a horses’ value per year
Advanced ExpensesCosts
Private Lessons$40 – $80 per lesson
Summer Training Camps and Clinics$500+
Travel and Competition Costs$500 – $6,000
Exhibiting$200 – $3,500+

2. Ice Hockey

Cost Range: $2,700 to $17,000+

Get out your checkbooks parents, because hockey is gonna cost you.

No, it isn’t the broken teeth that run up this sport’s price tag.

The nature of this sport (needing an ice rink) means you’ll be paying for ice time, which is usually factored into basic costs. In between hockey sticks, bags, skates, jerseys, stick tape, and the various pads that hockey requires, and other protective equipment, you can expect to pay around $500.

Some equipment can be used year after year, but expect skates, which range from $100 – $400, to be a yearly expense. As your player becomes more advanced, travel costs are going to start to add up. Remember to budget for expenses like gas, food, and hotel stays if they are not included in your child’s tuition costs.

Beginner and Advanced Annual Costs for Ice Hockey

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Tuition/Ice time costs$1200 – $3,000
Equipment$300 – $700
Annual Advanced CostsCosts
Travel$400 – $1,000

3. Fencing

two girls ready to play a match of fencing

Cost Range: $5,000 – $45,000

En Garde! If you want your child to pick up some agility, endurance, and sportsmanship skills while looking like a cool musketeer, then fencing might be right up their alley!

If your child chooses to be a sword-wielder, be aware that the specialized equipment, lessons, facility, and competition fees, make this sport pricey.

The total cost of fencing will depend on how often your child practices. If advanced competitive fencing is in your little athlete’s future, be prepared for big-ticket tournament fees and travel expenses.  

Beginner and Advanced Annual Costs for Fencing

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Equipment$150 – $800
US Fencing Membership fees$15 – $90
Beginners Classes$125 – $259 per month
Facility Fees and Club Dues$70 – $150 per month
Registration and Tournament Fees$20 – $45 per tournament
Annual Advanced CostsCosts
Training/Coaching$280 – $600 per month
Tournament Fees$20 – $105 per tournament
Travel Expenses$1,200+

4. Skiing and Snowboarding

two young girls having fun skiing in the snow

Cost Range: $1,200 to $5,000+

Even if you do live in an area with mountains close by, snow sports for kids aren’t cheap.

Equipment alone starts at $420, plus passes, academy tuition, and insurance. And if you include travel costs, this snowy sport can really make a dent in your budget – brrrrr!

In fact, a recent survey estimates that a junior ski racing career can cost upwards of $500,000.

Costs vary widely depending on the caliber of ski school a child attends and the level of competition.

Advanced skiing for kids is a whole different game. Because ski season for most athletes is during the winter, it is not uncommon that advanced skiers to miss school for their sport.

The cost of additional lessons, clinics, and camps varies widely depending on location and the grade of the program. Expect to pay upwards of $80 an hour, with long weekend training camps starting at $300.

Beginner and Advanced Annual Costs for Skiing and Snowboarding

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Equipment$420 – $800
Ski Passes$120 – $400
Meal Plans$100
Annual Advanced Costs:Costs
Lessons/Camps$150 – $300+ per lesson
Travel Costs$400+

5. Lacrosse

Cost Range: $1,510 – $17,500

Lacrosse is a fast-paced and dynamic game that has been gaining popularity in recent years. Several factors can make this sport more expensive than others. The main culprit is the cost of gear (lacrosse is a full-contact sport!).

The cost of training and lessons, as it is a highly technical sport with fewer specialized coaches is pricier than others. Keep in mind that different positions (like that of goalie) will require more gear, and thus be more expensive.

Beginner and Advanced Annual Costs for Lacross

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Annual Fees$1,520
Equipment$330 – $500
Annual Advanced CostsCosts
Training/Coaching$80+ per season
Travel Expenses$280+

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6. Gymnastics

Cost Range: $1,200 – 8,000+

Gymnastics is an exciting and challenging sport that promotes flexibility, strength, and coordination in children. This sport can be expensive for a few reasons.

First, the equipment and gym facilities required for training can be costly. Additionally, it is less common today for high schools and colleges to fund the sport. Secondly, gymnastics coaches are highly skilled and experienced professionals who require adequate compensation for their time and expertise.  

Beginner and Advanced Annual Costs for Gymnastics

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Lessons$450 – $500
Camp$120 – $300
Annual Advanced CostsCosts
Training/Coaching$25 – $50 per hour
Travel Expenses$800+

7. Competitive Cheerleading

Cost Range: $2,000 – $10,000

Cheerleading is a unique combination of athleticism and spirit, but those pom-poms can carry a significant price tag. Traveling to competitions and events can quickly add up, as hotels, transportation, and food expenses are expensive.

While high schools do offer cheerleading programs, keep in mind that they may not be as competitive as private ones. The cost of private coaching and training can be expensive. and time consuming.

Beginner and Advanced Annual Costs for Competitive Cheerleading

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Registration$50 – $100
Program Tuition$2,000 – $3,000
Equipment$250 – $500
Annual Advanced CostsCosts
Competition Fees$850+ annually

8. Competitive Dance

Cost Range: $1,000 to $5,000+

Do you think you have what it takes to be a dance mom? Competitive dance offers children the opportunity to express themselves creatively while developing physical fitness, discipline, and teamwork. Team fundraising is a hallmark of competitive youth dance.

However, tuition fees, costumes, competition entry fees, and travel expenses make dance an expensive sport to enroll your child in.

Beginner and Advanced Annual Costs for Competitive Dance

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Registration$25 – $70
Lessons$500 – $1,000
Equipment$300 – $500
Annual Advanced CostsCosts
Classes$15 – $100 per hour
Costumes$50 – $500
Competition Fees$20 – $70 per competition
Travel Expenses$1,500 – $7,000

9. Golf

Cost Range: $800 to $6,000+

Golf, while a lifelong sport that teaches sportsmanship, coordination, and patience, isn’t cheap.

The costs associated with golf include the initial expense of purchasing equipment like clubs, balls, and proper attire. Beyond this are the ongoing expenses of course fees and training costs.

Golf course greens fees can vary depending on the location and quality of the course. Some top-tier courses charge upwards of hundreds or thousands of dollars per round. However, some clubs offer discounted junior rates and there is money to be saved by purchasing used equipment.

Beginner and Advanced Annual Costs for Golf

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Club Membership Fees$1,000+
Equipment$400 – $500
Annual Advanced CostsCosts
Travel Expenses$1,000+
Tournament Fees$200 – $500 per day

10. Figure Skating

Cost Range: $800 to $10,000+

Figure skating is a wonderful sport that combines endurance, coordination, and performance. However, learning those spins comes at a price.

Competitive figure skating often requires private lessons as a child advances. The cost of lessons can really add up, especially when combined with the cost of ice time and travel expenses.

Like several of the more expensive sports on this list, figure skating is usually not a high-school-funded sport. Meaning parents will bear the complete cost of the training and transportation for their child.

Beginner and Advanced Annual Figure Skating

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Registration$45 – $75
Group Lessons$100 – $200
Equipment$75 – $100
Facilities Fees$300 – $500
Annual Advanced CostsCosts
Private Coaching$25 – $40 per hour
Membership fees$60+
Equipment$100 – $300
Travel Expenses$10,000 – $20,000

Related article: 20 Most Inexpensive Sports for Kids

11. Tennis

Cost Range: $600 to $10,000

Love means nothing to a tennis player, but your little tennis player won’t mean anything to your budget!

Tennis requires some specialized equipment like a racquet and court shoes. Don’t forget about tennis balls which start to deteriorate after 2-3 hours of play.

Keep in mind that tennis is a very technical sports. This means your child will need more than just practice in order to really progress and play at a competitive level.

Private tennis lessons are often expensive, and while group lessons and clinics offer a more affordable option, they too can add up. Fortunately, tennis is a team sport that many high schools fund. This can reduce the cost parents will pay for training.

Beginner and Advanced Annual Tennis

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Lessons$1,400 – $4,000
Annual Advanced CostsCosts
Private Coaching$3,500+
Clinics$500 – $1,500
Equipment$300 – $600
Travel Expenses$800+

12. Tackle Football

Cost Range: $800 – $9,000

Tackle football is a physically demanding and exciting sport that can teach your child discipline, teamwork, and sportsmanship.

However, it is also one of the more expensive youth athletics. The equipment alone, including helmets, shoulder pads, and cleats, can cost hundreds of dollars. This doesn’t include additional expenses of league fees, travel, and team apparel.

Oh, and don’t forget to look out for doctor’s bills; tackle football is one of the most injury-prone sports. If your child advances in football, it can be a great opportunity for scholarships. If your child decides to pursue college athletics beware that promoting your athlete and recruiting comes with costs of its own.

Beginner and Advanced Annual Tackle Football

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Equipment$95- $120
Annual Advanced CostsCosts
Travel Expenses$90+
Recruiting Cost$235 – $500

13. Soccer

Cost Range: $600 – $5,500

Soccer is THE most popular sport in the world. Youth soccer teaches kids valuable life skills, like teamwork, communication, and how to handle disappointment when the referee makes a terrible call.

Plus, it’s great cardio exercise!

In terms of equipment, soccer is relatively affordable. However, the cost of this sport varies widely depending on the location and the level of competition, and travel expenses can really add up.

In some cities, soccer registration clocks in around $500, in others, $1,500 is the starting price tag.

Beginner and Advanced Annual Soccer

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Registration$120 -$180
Lessons$60 – $100
Equipment$50 – $150
Annual Advanced CostsCosts
Advanced Training/Coaching$1,000+
Travel Expenses$120+

14. Basketball

Cost Range: $500 – $5,000

The fast-paced and exciting game of basketball is worth trying out, even if you don’t see your child becoming the next Steph Curry anytime soon.

To play this sport your child will need basketball shoes and a uniform, at minimum. Not really very expensive unless you buy some of most expensive basketball shoes of all time.

Then there are the fees for joining a team or league, which can vary widely depending on your location and the level of competition.

Often, basketball is offered through public and private middle and high schools, which can be relatively affordable. Otherwise, club basketball can get very expensive, especially when you factor in travel costs.  

Beginner and Advanced Annual Basketball

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Lessons/Camps$70 – $100
Annual Advanced CostsCosts
Training/Coaching$200 – $600+
Travel Expenses$130+

15. Swimming

Cost Range: $800 to $1,000+

Next up, swimming! Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Swimming is a foundational life skill, and competitive swimming is a great way to build friendships and get great exercise.

Swim gear like goggles, swim caps, and swimsuits can be a little pricey if your budget is tight. However, the real culprit here is the cost associated with swimming lessons and pool memberships, which will vary widely by location.

Beginner and Advanced Annual Swimming

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Travel$200 – $400
Annual Advanced CostsCosts
Travel Expenses$400+

16. Baseball/Softball

Cost Range: $220 to $2,000

It’s Peanut and Cracker Jack time! Baseball and softball are quintessential American sports that also happen to be a lot of fun.

There are usually great community programs that offer discounts or options for purchasing used equipment or even renting gear if cost is a barrier.

When looking into this sport for your child, keep in mind the cost of equipment and travel expenses.

Beginner and Advanced Annual Baseball/Softball

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Registration$160 – $180
Equipment$180 – $400
Travel$190 -$215
Annual Advanced CostsCosts
Travel Expenses$215+

17. Martial Arts

Cost Range: $620 – $5,200

Martial arts are a unique type of sport that teach kids mental as well as physical lessons.

But before you sign your soon-to-be ninja up, be warned that the cost of equipment, classes, and even exam fees to earn belts can be a real kick to the wallet.

However, the lessons martial arts can teach your family are worth every penny. Be on the lookout for community programs, like those through the YMCA, that offer free or reduced lessons!

Beginner and Advanced Annual Martial Arts

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Registration/membership Dues$60 – $250
Lessons$75 – $200 / month
Equipment$17 – $50
Annual Advanced CostsCosts
Training/Coaching$40 -$60 /hour
Tournament Fees$20 – $200
Grading (Belt Exam) Fees$10 – $75 per exam

18. Wrestling

Cost Range: $500 – $1,000

You might think of wrestling as all arms and legs, but wrestling requires specific equipment.

Finding a well-fitted singlet, the standard uniform for wrestling can be a challenging and annual expense.

Wrestling shoes are also an essential part of the equipment as they provide support, grip and traction needed on the mat.

Headgear, while not always required, is strongly recommended to protect the wrestler’s ears and head from injury. Additionally, watch out for fees associated with joining a wrestling club and attending tournaments.

Beginner and Advanced Annual Wrestling

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Registration$60 – $120
Facilities Costs$120 – $350
Equipment$70 – $120
USA wrestling card$200
Annual Advanced CostsCosts
Competition Fees$20 – $50 per event
Travel Expenses$200- $300+

19. Cycling

Cost Range: $1,000 – $2,000

Cycling is a fun and rewarding sport for kids that promotes physical fitness, independence, and a love of the outdoors.

However, it can also be a high-priced sport, with costs associated with purchasing a bike, helmet, and other necessary gear.

The overall cost of cycling varies greatly depending on what level your child competes at. In general, cycling is a more affordable choice than many.

Beginner and Advanced Annual Cycling

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Lessons$30- $40
Equipment$300 – $700
Annual Advanced CostsCosts
Travel Expenses$250+

20. Cross-Country

Cost Range: $480 – $600

Cross-country is inexpensive, with most teams requiring only running shoes and spandex.

The expense really starts to come in when your child begins traveling to compete. Fortunately, most high schools offer this sport which reduces the cost for teens.

However, be prepared to invest in some heavy-duty laundry detergent if your child is prone to coming home sweaty and muddy!

Beginner and Advanced Annual Cross-Country

Annual Beginner-Stage ExpensesCosts
Annual Advanced CostsCosts
Camps$50 -$200+
Travel Expenses$200+

The PayOff for Expensive Childhood Sports

The payoff for expensive kids’ sports varies widely. While some sports may only provide a sense of identity and pride of accomplishment, others can lead to college scholarships. And for a fortunate few, childhood sports can open the door to a highly lucrative professional career.

Don’t let the numbers scare you off! The best investment will look different for every family and every child, and the cost is only one factor to consider.

At the end of the day, participation in youth sports is an investment in a child’s health and future. And the benefits of sports participation cannot be measured solely by the price tag.


There are many factors to consider when choosing a sport for your child to play, and cost is no doubt an important one.

When weighing the financial implications of your child’s athletic pursuits, remember that club-funded sports programs are often more expensive. Club sports can also require more parental involvement than school-funded programs.

Remember that most sports equipment can be found used at places like Play It Again Sports and other consignment stores. Also many private leagues can connect families to sell equipment that their child has outgrown.

Additionally, the potential for injury is higher in some sports, such as football and gymnastics.

Travel costs can also add up quickly for sports teams that participate in competitions or tournaments. These cost increase as kids progress to more advanced levels will be different depending on the sport.