Newspaper article The Canadian Press

The Cost of Raising an Olympic Athlete Can Have a Low Return-on-Investment

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

The Cost of Raising an Olympic Athlete Can Have a Low Return-on-Investment

Article excerpt

The cost of raising an Olympic athlete

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TORONTO - Cheryl Simundson can still vividly recall the time her daughter, two-time Olympic bobsled champion Kaillie Humphries, stood on a chair during a family dinner more than 20 years ago and announced her plans to win gold for Canada.

"OK," Simundson said she told the seven-year-old at the time, before telling her to sit down and finish dinner.

The Calgary mom knew she would support her kids in any endeavour they chose, and for Humphries that would now mean a long journey of emotional -- and financial -- help.

"Raising an Olympian," said Simundson, "(there) never is an end to it."

With another Olympic Games over, many young Canadians may now feel the drive to embrace a sport and work their way onto the podium.

But raising a star athlete isn't cheap and the return on investment for most families will rarely, if ever, add up to the millions of dollars someone like Michael Phelps garners from endorsement deals.

Annual costs for a high-performance athlete range from $10,000 to $30,000, said Katie Misener, an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo's recreation and leisure studies department.

"Over their career, it's easily a six-figure investment, with no guarantee of a return," she said in an email.

The majority of the financial burden often comes down to the equipment required for a child's choice of sport, said Marvin G. Ryder, an assistant professor at McMaster University's DeGroote School of Business.

"Pray to God that they ask you to be a long-distance runner," he said.

The most expensive summer sports include sailing and equestrian events, he said, where the costs of owning, moving and maintaining a boat or horse can add up to roughly $500,000 a year.

Archery and shooting also rank highly, as they require bows and guns, as well as arrows and ammunition, he added.

Winter sports can also include steep costs. Consider hockey, where the costs of skates, a helmet and pads can quickly add up.

Simundson recalls paying $100,000 for a better bobsled for Humphries. Her daughter has since paid that back.

Even sports that would require little equipment can surprise parents at more competitive levels, said Chris Chard, an associate professor at Brock University's sport management department. …

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