Kristen Karlin admitted she had no idea how much money was required to be a high school volleyball player.
"I should probably thank my parents," Karlin said, laughing.
The Free State High senior might be right. Between equipment, attire, the Topeka Juniors club team, camps and the registration fee, the Karlin family is looking at about $4,600 per year for Kristen to play volleyball.
Karlin, a right-side hitter/offsetter, said club volleyball, which started last December and continued into July, ran up the majority of the bill. The club team being nationally ranked didn't make anything cheap, either. The Topeka Juniors traveled to Atlanta for nationals earlier in the year and finished No. 28 in the country. Before that, the team qualified for nationals in Denver, Baltimore and Omaha, Neb.
Plane tickets and hotel reservations cost upwards of $3,000 altogether, Karlin said. Aside from that, it cost $700 to be on the Topeka Juniors. There's also the $300 for spandex, warmup shirts, uniforms and pads.
These expenses only cover the club team, which participates in the offseason.
Add in the $50 registration fee to play a sport at FSHS, team shoes, ankle braces and offseason camps, and you're looking at a decently sized bill for a competitive volleyball player.
Now that we're a little more aware of the steep cost of volleyball, let's examine arguably the most prominent fall sport: football.
Playing football didn't cost nearly as much as playing volleyball. Being a high school football player cost an estimated $500 for the year.
Lawrence High safety/tight end Devon Griffin said an $80 pair of Adidas cleats lasted him for the season. Coach Dirk Wedd made guidelines for football cleats very clear at LHS.
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"The cleats have to be black," Griffin said. "If they're white, coach Wedd makes you black it out with a sharpie."
The cost of playing football, for Griffin, is larger than the $200 that a new Lawrence school district brochure estimated.
The higher cost stems, in part, from many LHS players wearing Under Armour beneath their jerseys to keep cool. The popular combination of a short-sleeve shirt, long-sleeve shirt, tank top and shorts cost more than $200, Griffin said.
Then, there's the $50 participation fee, $50 for summer weights (an LHS conditioning and weight-lifting program), $25 for a week-long camp before school starts, and $60 for - a mouthpiece?
That's right. Griffin does not have your typical $2 mouthpiece. Make no mistake, though - he is not wearing the more expensive mouthpiece to be flashy.
"I broke a couple of teeth during wrestling season," Griffin said. "I was at practice last year, and a buddy of mine in the same weight class went in for a shot. I sprawled down and it broke three teeth."
Griffin said this mouthpiece fit his mouth better than a normal one. The plastic is denser and more difficult to bite through and tear.
For other high school sports, out of pocket expenses, or additional expenses for playing high school sports, aren't as clear-cut.
Sonya Johnson, president of the Lawrence chapter of the NAACP, said it was unclear where these expenses go after they are paid to the school.
"The whole story is these kids are not only assessed the $50 activity fee - that is the fee that they are being assessed districtwide - but each school assesses their additional fees per sport, and there is absolutely no control over what is being charged," Johnson said.
For example, for high school golf, a student-athlete will have to pay anywhere from $1,220 to $1,530 for out of pocket expenses, according to the school district brochure. For high school basketball, the payments are from $300 to $500; high school cheerleading, $890 to $950, and baseball, $550 to $650.
The USD 497 Equity Council, along with the Lawrence NAACP, is working with the Lawrence school district to advocate equal opportunity for students in all sports. Even though the equity council does not financially help students play sports, chairperson Craig Butler explores avenues - mostly through discussions with school athletic directors and coaches - to ensure equal participation.
"We don't want children being excluded from participation because their parents don't have the means," Butler said. "We try to be there to answer these concerns and put them out in the open."
Price of Participation
The following is a list of participation costs - including fixed expenses and approximate out-of-pocket expenses - for playing high school sports in Lawrence.
Fixed expenses Pay to play: $50 Cost of physical: $25 Activity ticket: $25 Total: $100
Out-of-pocket expenses (likely to include expenses for practice gear and equipment above what the district provides each participant) Boys Baseball: $550-$650 Basketball jr. high: $150-$180 Basketball sr. high: $300-$350 Bowling: $250-$280 Cross Country sr. high: $200-$225 Football jr. high: $125-$150 Football sr. high: $200-$210 Golf sr. high: $1,220-$1,530 Soccer sr. high: $265-$275 Swimming/diving sr. high: $225-$300 Tennis jr. high: $150-$200 Tennis sr. high: $400-$425 Track/field jr. high: $125-$175 Track/field sr. high: $175-$200 Wrestling jr. high: $125-$150 Wrestling sr. high: $250-$300 Girls Basketball jr. high: $150-$180 Basketball sr. high: $300-$350 Bowling: $250-$280 Cheerleading jr. high: $150-$200 Cheerleading sr. high: $890-$950 Football jr. high: $125-$150 Football sr. high: $200-$210 Golf sr. high: $1,220-$1,530 Soccer sr. high: $265-$275 Softball sr. high: $400-$500 Swimming/diving sr. high: $225-$300 Tennis jr. high: $150-$200 Tennis sr. high: $400-$425 Track/field jr. high: $125-$175 Track/field sr. high: $175-$200 Wrestling jr. high: $125-$150 Wrestling sr. high: $250-$300
Source: Lawrence Public School District brochure