Ability to pay > natural ability: athlete’s access to camps can limit achievements

Linnea Mayo, Staff Writer

High school sports. A prime interest for several ETHS students. From volleyball to soccer to swimming to badminton, ETHS has a wide variety of sports to offer. However, the ability to play one of these sports is not just based off skills; for some athletes, their financial backgrounds affect their access and potential future in sports.  

Many of the sports offered at ETHS have summer sports camps for their athletes where they can better their skills before tryouts in the fall, winter or spring. These camps offer them hours of training and workouts, getting them ready for their tryouts. According to the ETHS website, ETHS Summer Camps are designed to provide student athletes in our community with “a foundation of fundamental skills, knowledge, character, and leadership.” 

Sophomore Sophie Vanderwarker talks about her experience at the girls badminton summer camp, “Doing badminton camp definitely helped me get ready for the season. At the time, I don’t really know how to play, and doing the camp helped me get the exposure of what badminton was like, and the people there definitely helped me improve!” 

These camps are directed by the head coaches in that sport, unless otherwise stated, along with assistant coaches and past players. They can be provided for elementary through high school students. However, these camps tend to be expensive and overpriced. 

According to the online registration for ETHS sports camps, Jr. high/ high school weekend summer tennis camp costs $70 for two days. The girls badminton camp costs $125 for four days, and the same for the boys basketball camp. The boys cross country camp costs $150 for 11 days. 

 Also, the freshman football camp costs $225 for 4 weeks, the price increasing to $250 for the sophomore/ varsity football camps. For the majority of these sports, there are camps that last upwards of three weeks. These longer camps range around $250 to $275, such as the girls soccer camps which costs $275 for 4 weeks. 

Clearly, ETHS prides itself in offering these opportunities for all athletes; yet, many times these camps aren’t actually possible for athletes. These prices are often so high that many can’t afford to pay. So, what does that mean for them? Well, in certain cases, without this extra help and training, many don’t have a chance of even making the team, depicting how one’s financial means can play a long way in sports. These financial realities shouldn’t be determining a child’s chances of being put on a team; their skills should. 

ETHS sophomore Alisa Bytyqi talks about her experience this summer without the opportunity of the tennis sports camps. She explains how she believes that didn’t make the team she wanted due to this.

 “I feel like I didn’t get enough practice and I became really sloppy before the season, not being able to work with a coach, “ Bytyqi said.”I practiced but it was harder without a coach being able to guide me and tell me what I need to do correctly and what to fix.” 

Not only this, these camps allow a chance for athletes to meet their coaches and other athletes before the season. This allows them to build a community within the large community of the sport. This opportunity is what builds a gap among our athletes, the privilege of meeting and getting to know others within the sport, causing those who can’t experience this opportunity to feel excluded. 

When returning to the season, Bytyqi says, “I definitely think we haven’t reached that level where we all see eye to eye with each other.” 

 So, these camps allow some athletes to have more numerous social experiences with teammates and coaches. Beyond the greater team camaraderie, the camps equip students with opportunities to practice skills that are likely to benefit them during tryouts.

“I think the people who don’t have access are at a slight disadvantage, because they don’t have as much practice time and exposure to the sports as others who have taken the camp would have,” says Vanderwarker.

This summer, I was unfortunately not able to attend a tennis sports summer camp that I wanted either. I remember talking to my mom and going over my different options of camps. Turned out there weren’t many options. When we looked over the prices, we realized it would likely be too much for our family. With my brother playing summer league baseball, and me attending summer school for half the summer, we ended up not being able to sign me up for any of the camps. Towards the end of the summer, when my schedule opened up a bit, I began practicing with my dad everyday. I got a chance to rally the ball a couple times, but I wasn’t exactly at the place I wanted to be by the time tennis tryouts rolled around. I remember hearing others talk about their camp experiences and how much better they had gotten, and while I felt my skills were fairly strong, in the back of my mind, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make it all the way to where I wanted. 

So, what exactly should be done about this widespread issue? Well, the financial support provided here at ETHS must be communicated and spread to these athletes. According to the online registration for ETHS sports camps, ETHS provides financial assistance, based on need, to campers living in School District 202, the deadline being in May.

According to the registration page, “A $20 deposit is required once your application for financial aid is approved, and the athlete child will not be considered ‘registered’ until a deposit and remaining balance is received. Any of the additional payment plans for remaining balances must be approved by the respective coach.” 

However, the financial support we have here at ETHS hasn’t been communicated well, myself and others being unaware of this opportunity to begin with. 

“I wasn’t aware that there was financial aid for sports camps, but I think that’s really cool!” says Vanderwarker

If we were to make it clear that these athletes still have a chance to participate in their favorite sports, it would surely have a tremendous impact. This can be done through announcements, the school website, emails, and the newspaper. The key to change is getting the message across, which is why the information about financial support for camps must be conveyed more openly to our athletes, allowing them to not only attend the camps, but have a chance of making their desired team. It’s time we recognize these peers and help them have a chance to fulfill and succeed at their athletic goals.