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Beyond the Score: De Pere family values youth sports amid rising pressure, costs

Parents of three sons, Tiffany and Matt Weckwerth say they have been to nearly 1,700 sporting events over the past decade and a half.
Posted at 6:58 PM, Apr 29, 2024

DE PERE, Wis. (NBC 26) — For the Weckwerth family, sports are life.

“They’ve been playing sports basically since they could walk,” Tiffany Weckwerth, a mother of three boys, said.

“We started playing baseball at the age of four and hockey very soon after that," Brett Weckwerth, a junior at De Pere High School, added. "We haven’t stopped playing since."

The De Pere family has three boys: Jake, a high school senior; Brett, a high school junior; and Luke, a fifth grader.
All three grew up playing three sports, which means a big commitment for Tiffany and Matt: their mom and dad.

“During the hockey season, I always tell people we won’t see you between October and March," Tiffany laughed. "To ballpark it, I think we have three weeks off (all year).”

The parents estimate they've been to nearly 1,700 games over the past decade.

That's a lot of time. And also, a lot of money.

“Fees for hockey run around a thousand dollars per player," Tiffany said. "So that’s something we budget for. I've really, really learned how to budget.”

“The nights in the hotel rooms and the meals and things like that, and gas to get there definitely adds up,” Matt, the family's father, added.

Youth sports have become a big business. A 2022 study from The Aspen Institute estimates that American families collectively spend between $30-40 billion on youth sports each year, with the average family paying nearly $900 for one child's primary sport.

The Weckwerths say, compared to some families they know, they are on the lesser end of the scale.

“It’s the tournament teams that - you know we do a little bit of traveling - but we never go out of state," Tiffany said. "We do that by design. We don’t join the leagues that go far. We wanted to keep our stuff local just because we are so busy."

The family says, for several reasons, they've opted against some of the more competitive, big-money club teams.

“We’ve chosen carefully what clubs that we wanted to have our children be a part of," Tiffany said. "A lot of the times I see parents that are kind of living vicariously through their children.

"I don’t even want to ride home with that kid that night after that game because the dad’s been yelling in the stands the entire time,” she added.

“You want it to be fun," Matt said. "There’s an expense of course to doing all those things and a time commitment.

"Family is number one for us," the father added. "Not saying it’s bad to do those things by any means, it just didn’t fit our lifestyle.”

Instead, they say they focus on the overall experience and the lessons that can be learned from youth sports.

“I think the end goal was just to raise really good humans," Tiffany said. "And I think we’ve done an okay job at that."

“I’m a realist," Matt said. "What are the chances of a kid getting a college scholarship to play sports, let alone go pro? The chances are extremely small. It should be more about them learning life lessons, enjoying what they do and becoming better people.”

That message has resonated with their sons.

“I’m not going to go play professional sports anywhere," Jake Weckwerth, a senior at De Pere High School, said. "The whole reason you play is to have fun and without the team chemistry and the bonds you make with your teammates."

"Without the fun you have from the successes you have in the sport, it wouldn’t be worth playing," he added.

For mom and dad, that's time and money well spent.

“Just a great experience for me," Matt said. "And I’m just super proud of my boys. I think they’re great young men and I'm just looking forward to seeing what they’ll do in the future.”

After graduation, Jake plans to attend UW-Madison to study mechanical engineering.

A 2014 study from the NCAA estimates that of more than seven million high school athletes, just 6% go on to play an NCAA sport - with only 2% earning a scholarship.

According to the study, only 2% of those that play an NCAA sport then go on to play professionally.