Since the late 80s, Nike has engrained in our psyches that when it comes to obtaining peak athletic performance "it's gotta be the shoes". Using the cache of Michael Jordan (and, of course, Spike Lee as the infamous Mars Blackman), we were hypnotically tranced to believe that optimal performance can be derived from a sneaker.

These days, investing in a pair can cost you on average, two hundred dollars. While rationally, parents may gasp at the price tag; but buried in their subconscious, emotive triggers remain: if I want my child to be like Mike, think like Mike, and ultimately, perform like Mike -- presumably, my child must literally and figuratively walk in his shoes. But when it comes to investing in sport, where does it end?

A recent poll, commissioned by TD Ameritrade, focused on approximately 1,001 parents of elite athletes. Most parents whose children are involved in such elite endeavors, pay between $100 and $499 a month. For one in five, it's more than $1,000.

While families typically shell out up to $500 a month on each child's athletics, 33% of the parents polled said they do not regularly set aside money for their retirement. And 57% said they have no long-term financial plan.

Among those polled, 67 percent hoped their child would secure an athletic scholarship -- but only 24 percent actually earned one. Meanwhile, 34 percent believed their child would make it to the Olympics or go pro, when in reality, only 2 percent did.

Some parents can absorb the cost, but others are working second jobs, draining their savings or otherwise compromising their own financial well-being to fund the activities. The poll also reports that 60 percent say the expense has them concerned about their ability to save for the future.

Similar to what social scientists suggest in our brain response to advertising, emotive investing poses corrosive financial threats to families. According to Investopedia, "emotional contagion", as the term suggests, implies that people can infect each other behaviorally. Inevitably, it entails the suppression of conventional rationality and caution. So in the context of investing your financial dollars, people conform to emotional pressures and forge ahead suppressing any warnings.

Further exacerbating the misalignment of parental expectations found within these data, other sources of predictive modeling suggest that your odds of winning the lottery are greater than your child snagging a Division I scholarship.

Now, am I advocating you invest in a lottery ticket over your child's sport? Not quite.

As a purveyor of sport for social and cultural change, you won't find a greater champion of the indelible marks on the human race that only sport can create. But if you are in a position where investing in sport forces a sacrifice to your family's financial future, a balance must be struck -- as well as a reality check .

As an Advisory Board Member for a summer basketball league in NYC, I personally witness the massive hoops' talent this island produces -- arguably, the best in the world. While I stand every year among scouts from the likes of Kentucky, Duke and St. John's University -- I can assure you, I have yet to hear one voice utter, "it's gotta be the shoes".

Published on: Sep 2, 2016
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