Why are rec sports leagues so expensive? Newsflash: they aren’t.

In my almost 20 years at the Sport and Social Club, this is a question I hear asked a lot. I get it; when you’re shelling out your hard-earned cash for rec sports, you want to know you’re getting the bang you deserve for your buck.  But I think a closer look at where your money goes at the TSSC and how the costs of a rec sports league compare to other extracurricular activities shows that our leagues offer really great value. In fact it might even make you question what you are paying elsewhere.

In order to assess just how valuable sports leagues are, let’s go back in time to when we first started playing sports. Set the flux capacitor in the DeLorean to your childhood.

WHy are you wearing that outfit, coach?
Why are you wearing that outfit, coach?

Remember house league soccer sign-up night? I remember showing up with a $15 cheque and getting my vastly oversized “Ed’s Towing” jersey.  The jersey also came with volunteer coaches, volunteer refs,  free fields, and a lot of new friends and fun. I think it’s fair to say that many of us who grew up playing sports were insulated from the cost of sport, but coming from a low income family it’s impressive to think my mom always made sure the money for rugby, soccer, or track was there.  Making youth sports financially accessible is a cause I think we can all get behind.

After those glory days, then came college or university for many of us.  And, once again: more low cost/no cost sports. Intra-murals were provided as part of my tuition and all I had to do was show up and play.  This was a great thing, as a lot of my minimal disposable cash was in heavy demand at the campus pub.

Oil thigh!
Oil thigh!

But then, the fantasy of cheap sports stopped.  I got into competitive cycling, and –gasp—I finally had to pay for my hobby at market rates, and still make my rent and car payments.  In the land of $3000 bikes, $60 race entry fees, hotels, gas and food, things got expensive fast. I started to miss the good people at “Ed’s Towing.”  But at least I knew better than to tackle Ironman. You know that Ironman Triathlon in Muskoka?  $285 for a day of exercising in a Speedo and some free bananas.

"Breaking Away," not "Breaking Bad."
“Breaking Away,” not “Breaking Bad.”

This brings me to where I am today. My experience with the Sport and Social Club has taught me all about the true costs of running adult rec leagues in a sustainable manner.

  • Staffing: You want someone to answer your phone calls, emails, texts and social media posts, right?. On average, our Toronto leagues receive over 6000 emails per month.  That takes people.  Good people.  And good people deserve to be paid.  You can play with that pick-up group and have a ton of fun, but you won’t likely get the same customer service experience.
  • Facilities/Office Space: Toronto facilities are arguably the most expensive in Canada, driven by high demand and high real estate prices.
  • League infrastructure: Whether you are a corner coffee shop or a Fortune 500 business, young clients want the best in terms of technology to deal with a business. Custom software, server hosting, tech redundancies and more many aspects add to the cost of the service.  But at least we don’t charge you for carry on luggage.
  • Prizing: You win your league, we want to recognize you as the champs that you are. And while many people like to complain with the “I only get a t-shirt” line, people love the shirts, and are sad when we run out of them!  Remember, it’s not just the 15 people on your softball team: there are the other 905 divisions that need those shirts too…
I am sorry the sun is in your eyes at your game location.
I am sorry the sun is in your eyes at your game location.

Moral of the story is there’s a lot of stuff we feel you should be provided with when playing in our sports leagues.

Okay, so you’ve seen what you’re getting for your money over at the Sport and Social Club. But let’s talk comparative value to find out where you could be spending your money.

Here’s some other ways to spend your money in the city:

  • Average night at a bar with food and drinks = $60+
  • Benefit: potential romantic scenario
  • Downside: hangover
  • Average night at a movie with snacks = $25
  • Benefit: Seeing some serious action (action dependant on your favourite movie genre)
  • Downside: liquorice breath, crap Hollywood plots, bone-heads that forget to turn off their phones
  • Price for Pay per View for Pacquiao vs Mayweather Boxing Match: $100 plus snacks and drinks for your “friends”
  • Benefits: Hype, low action boxing, trash talk at world class levels
  • Downside: over 2 hours of…well, not much…and a very messy house.
  • Average price for a health club membership = $100 per month
  • Benefits: free towels, public showers, ripped abs (maybe)
  • Downside: $15 smoothies post workout, extra fees for hot yoga cause they have to turn up the heat, annual contracts that require a team of lawyers to decode
  • Cost of Toronto Marathon: up to $110
  • Benefits: get to re-enact Chariots of Fire for 5 hours, get
    trim, feel great.
  • Downside: big wait times for very used port-o-johns, random snot being shot at you by other runners, not being able to walk properly for a week

See where I am going with this? Sport and Social Club must be starting to sound like a bargain at $10 a night for a great combination of fun, exercise, socializing, and general merriment.

That being said, “value” is always in the eye of the purchaser.  Interestingly enough, in past member surveys, we’ve heard people earning more than $150,000 a year say the worst thing about our leagues is this price, while others who earn less than $30,000 a year say the best thing about our leagues is the price.  The dichotomy we see of people’s perception of value is really interesting.  Perhaps we can finish with a great quote from Thomas Paine:

“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”

And if that is to esoteric for you…

Come on down to Sport + Social Club for all the fun that's worth paying for!
Come on down to Sport + Social Club for all the fun that’s worth paying for!

~Written by Rolston Miller

Want to get out and active? Sport & Social Club provides sports and programs for adults in the GTA. Check out www.torontossc.com for more info!