School Committee Examines The Real Costs Of Playing Sports At Wilmington High

WILMINGTON, MA — The Wilmington School Committee recently explored the costs  families with student athletes are incurring within the district.  While the Committee took no specific action, members got a better sense of what parents pay for, even in a no-fee school district like Wilmington.

Wilmington Athletic Director Tim Alberts compiled survey results after consulting with his coaches on each program’s mandatory equipment costs, mandatory training camp costs, fundraising commitments, and any user fees.

Alberts described the mandatory equipment costs as follows:

  • Baseball — Bat, Glove, Cleats ($300)
  • Basketball (Boys) — Sneakers ($75-$150)
  • Basketball (Girls) — Sneakers ($75-$150)
  • Cross Country — Sneakers & Racing Spikes ($150-$200)
  • Cheering — Uniforms ($300) & Warm Up Suits ($115)
  • Football — Cleats ($140-$150) & Girdles ($20-$100)
  • Field Hockey — Cleats, Stick, Goggles & Shin Guards ($100-$150)
  • Golf — Shoes ($50-$100) & Clubs ($300-$1,000)
  • Hockey (Boys) — Equipment ($750-$1,800)
  • Hockey (Girls) — Equipment ($750-$1,800)
  • Lacrosse (Boys) — Helmet, Stick, Cleats, Pads/Gloves ($500-$600)
  • Lacrosse (Girls) – Stick, Googles, Cleats ($250)
  • Soccer (Boys) — Shin Guards ($35-$80) & Cleats ($50-$300)
  • Soccer (Girls) — Shin Guards ($35-$80) & Cleats ($50-$300)
  • Softball — Bat, Glove, Cleats ($300)
  • Swimming (Boys & Girls) — Practice Swim Suit, Cap & Goggles ($150-$200)
  • Tennis (Boys & Girls) — Sneakers & Racket ($100-$300)
  • Volleyball — Sneakers, Shorts, Warm-Up Jersey, Pink Jersey ($135-$165)
  • Spring Track (Boys & Girls) — Sneakers ($75-$100)
  • Winter Track (Boys & Girls) — Sneakers ($75-$100)

“Coaches will find a way to get equipment if a student can’t afford it,” stressed Alberts. “Sometimes coaches will spend their own money to better their programs, which is amazing.”

“I want to assure that athletics are accessible to everybody,” said School Committee member MJ Byrnes. “My priority is that cost shouldn’t be a deterrent to participation.”

When asked why the cheerleaders need to pay for their own uniforms while no other sport does, Alberts explained that the Wilmington Sons of Italy purchases new uniforms for each program every 6-7 years. Cheerleaders, however, are scored on their uniforms and must keep up with the current styles, so are purchased more frequently.

When asked why hockey players are expected to buy so much equipment (e.g., helmets pads) while football players receive them from the school, Alberts said that’s how the sport operates from an earlier age, noting Pop Warner provides the supplies, whereas Youth Hockey generally does not.

Alberts noted that while no sport has a mandatory training camp, many sports encourage off season training to remain competitive.

  • The following sports don’t have a training camp: Boys Soccer, Girls Soccer, Field Hockey, Volleyball, Cross Country, Winter Track, Spring Track
  • The following sports have a training camp, but they’re not required: Baseball, Softball, Boys Lacrosse, Girls Lacrosse, Boys Tennis, Girls Tennis, Boys Basketball, Girls Basketball, Boys Hockey, Girls Hockey, Swimming
  • Cheering has a “recommended” camp. Football has an “encouraged” camp. Golf offers an offseason discount at Hillview Country Club.

Alberts noted that fundraising is not required by a student. Many teams do, however, have their own boosters and/or parents groups, which ask for donations and fundraising assistance.

Alberts noted the only sport with a user fee is the Co-Ed Swimming Team, which is a cooperative team with North Reading. Swimmers pay North Reading, the host school, a $400 fee to participate.

The School Committee may look to expand this conversation beyond sports and examine the costs of other extracurricular activities within the district.

Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand noted that each High School Class collects dues from its students. Several clubs — DECA, Model UN/Debate Club, Medical Careers Club, World Cultures Club, and Ski Club — have varying degrees of expenses. Many of the high school’s art classes charge a $10 supply fee.

School Committee Chair Jennifer Bryson noted that students in the Band and Strings programs must purchase their own instruments. School Committee member David Ragsdale referenced family costs associated with the district’s 1:1 Chromebook program for the Middle School and High School.

“I think this is a healthy discussion,” added MJ Byrnes. “We should talk about [these costs] at least once a year and ensure that all these [sports and clubs] are available to students who want to participate in them.”

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