Bill would give parents ability to use tax credits to reduce costs of youth sports

Gottheimer, looking to get more kids on field, proposes PLAY Act, which would allow adults to use Child and Dependent Tax Credit on registration, equipment

Are youth sports becoming too expensive to play? U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer thinks so — and he has introduced ways parents can use tax credits to help lower the cost of youth recreational sports and equipment.

The bipartisan PLAY Act (which stands for Promoting Lifelong Activity for Youth), introduced Wednesday, aims to do two key things:

  • Allows families to use the Child and Dependent Tax Credit for expenses related to youth sports and other physical activities — and boost the maximum contribution of these dollars per household;
  • Creates a federal grant program to invest in recreational youth sports programs and organizations aimed at expanding opportunities for kids to get involved.

The extent of the potential impact is unclear — but it’s clear that assistance is needed.

Studies show the average family pays $833 annually for one child’s primary sport. Of course, anyone with a child playing on an elite-level travel team knows they will see costs at 10 times that number, if not more.

Studies also show that children from lower-income families are half as likely to play sports as children from homes with higher incomes.

That’s why Gottheimer (D-5th Dist.) and U.S. Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) stood with local Little League athletes, parents and coaches at Fort Lee’s American Baseball Field to announce the new bipartisan federal legislation that will provide tax credits for families to lower the cost of youth recreational sports and equipment.

The two cited studies that have directly linked participation in youth team sports with fewer mental health difficulties. And being on a team improves self-esteem and confidence. In addition, adolescents who play sports are eight times more likely to be physically active at age 24 than those who do not play.

Sports boost cardiovascular health, burn calories, raise metabolism and improve strength and mobility. Physically active young people also tend to have more quality sleep.

“Through rec sports, my daughter and son have learned so much, had so much fun and made friendships that will last a lifetime,” Gottheimer said. “But, if you look at the numbers, rec participation is down sharply since the pandemic. The number of kids playing team sports today is nowhere near where it should be, and I’m afraid this trend will continue.

“Part of the dropoff is the battle with screen time, but another driver of these numbers for many families is simply the cost of participating in rec sports — and the cost has gone up. We need to make sure every kid in Jersey who wants to, has the opportunity to play and take part in recreational, or rec, sports leagues. I never want a kid sitting on the sideline because he or she can’t afford to get out and play and stay healthy and active, regardless of the sport.”

Gottheimer was joined at the announcement by state Sen. Gordon Johnson (D-Englewood), Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, Fort Lee Councilmen Bryan Drumgoole and Harvey Sohmer, Fort Lee Little League President Tom Porto and New Jersey District 6 Little League Administrator Jeff Ware.