Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- It's a trying issue. How much is too much? Youth sports are becoming increasingly more expensive, both in dollars and cents for the parents and time for the student-athletes.
Proctor peewee hockey coach Bruce Ciskie says most youth organizations recognize the problem, but it only gets worse as the kids get older.
"The older you get, the more expensive it is to sign up," he said, "and the more expensive all the tournaments become."
And the costs don't stop there. For out-of-town tournaments, you're talking gas, food, and hotel --- all of that added to a family's initial expense.
It's so much that the National Association of Sports Commissions now estimates the youth sports travel industry is worth more than $7 billion a year.
With that in mind, Ciskie took a more economical approach this year in crafting his team's schedule.
"We only traveled to two tournaments this year," Ciskie said. "That's light. We usually go to three or four. So we kind of got off easy in that it ended up not being that expensive for us."
But what about those sports that don't have many nearby competitions -- figure skating, for example. The solution there is choosing practice over competition.
"We don't compete a lot. We practice far more than we compete," Duluth figure skating coach Ted Engelking said. "We compete, at tops, maybe six times a year. Once every two months is really all we're doing, so most of the time we spend practicing."
Practicing in town, as you may have guessed, is far less expensive than leaving town to compete. But, it does still come with a different sort of price tag -- that's the time of the student-athletes.
"I skate six days a week, and I skate either for an hour or an hour and forty-five minutes," 10-year-old Jessica Martinelli said. "You just need to find time on that one free day to get all your homework done."
Martinelli trains with Engelking and the Duluth Figure Skating Club, and that's the training program she's chosen, but every skater can adopt a regimen best suited to their time and financial budgets.
"Skaters can do whatever they want," Engelking said. "If they want to shoot for the Olympics, they can shoot for the Olympics. If they want to just do the U.S. Figure Skating testing program, they can do that too. The sport offers a lot to a lot of kids."
That offering is a bit different for figure skaters than other athletes.
The sport isn't current sanctioned by the Minnesota State High School League, but its athletes continue to train and compete nearly year round.
"Skaters are skating about 50 weeks out of the year, six days a week, and a couple hours a day," Engelking said."
That formula, though, is countered by some, like Ciskie, who say embracing an offseason is important both for the kids and the parents' pocketbook.
"You've got to let kids be kids," he said. "I don't care if it's hockey, basketball, football, lacrosse, whatever it is, they can't do it 52 weeks a year. There's got to be something else there."