Story by Nick Kelly.
COLUMBIA — Michelle Friedrich-Kaiser doesn’t see her marital status as an excuse when it comes to paying for her four kids’ athletics.
As a single mom with children who play a combined nine sports, Friedrich-Kaiser wants to support her family’s interests as long as she can.
“They’re going to go without in college and they’re going to go without as an adult, so I don’t want to punish them that way,” she said. “It’s not their fault that I only have one job and they only have one parent who pays for stuff.”
Friedrich-Kaiser does everything she can to earn extra money so her children, Dylan 17, Gabe,15, Tucker,12, and Kaleigh,10, can do what they love.
“You do everything for your kids because you want them happy,” she said. “That means you go get another job or you sell something or do whatever you can to spoil your children.”
Sacrifice and extreme budgeting is a common theme among parents with multiple children in multiple activities. The annual cost to participate can strain families’ bank accounts, ultimately affecting how they live.
The Schulte family of Columbia has three daughters, Gillian, 16, Cassidy,12, and Addison,10, who play soccer. Because they travel to three to four tournaments each year for each girl, the Schultes can’t take family vacations as much as they would like.
They’re glad to make that sacrifice.
“In our family, it’s more important than a second vacation in the summer,” said Richard Schulte, the girls’ father.
Gas isn’t as much of an issue for the Schultes because Heather has a company car since she works as an insurance adjuster for Nationwide Insurance. With the coverage the car provides, Heather Schulte doesn’t pay attention to the price of gas.
For Friedrich-Kaiser, her travel to events and tournaments adds up to about $300 to $400 for gas each year. Although gas can be expensive, the unexpected fees she gets hit with can do as much damage, if not more.
“You think it’s going to cost $55 for my daughter to do cheerleading,” Friedrich-Kaiser said. “Then you show up for the first practice and they give you a list that says she needs shoes, she needs cheer Spanx, she needs a bow and she needs $15 for snacks.”
These frequent small fees can become overwhelming for the Boonville family.
“Every time they need $5 here or $4 there, that adds up,” Friedrich-Kaiser said.
To prepare for those extra costs, she keeps an envelope to put money in whenever she has an extra $5. Her envelope can’t cover everything, and the Boonville School District doesn’t provide much assistance.
“A multi-child discount saving $5 doesn’t do me a darn bit of good,” she said.
From food and traveling costs to equipment and registration fees, Friedrich-Kaiser pays about $1,000 per year on her children’s activities.
The Schultes have one fewer child, and their children play five fewer sports combined. Their annual sports fee is $3,000.
Gillian, Cassidy and Addison Schulte play club soccer for the Tamashi Futbol Club in Columbia. Gillian also plays tennis for Battle High School.
“It’s a little hard on our wallet,” Richard Schulte said. “It is a strain, but we make it work.”
Gillian’s activities command the most money. With her involvement in high school soccer, club soccer and high school tennis, Gillian Schulte’s parents asked her to decide which sport she wanted to pursue the most.
She chose soccer.
“We want to give her enough money to keep her going in tennis, but we made her choose one primary,” Richard Schulte said.
Gillian continues to play tennis, but to save money, the family decided to decrease the number of private lessons because of the cost: $60 per week for two hours. Even with the private lessons at Wilson’s Racquet Club, tennis was less expensive than soccer.
Although the cost of registration and equipment plays a large role in the $3,000 per year expense, traveling adds to the total. The family travels to as many as 12 tournaments each year to places like Kansas City and St. Louis, which cost about $2,000 total.
The soccer tournaments have replaced family vacations, which the Schultes prefer. The family isn’t afraid to make sacrifices for sports because it sees benefit in participation.
“It’s important in the socialization and the commitment of following through,” Heather Schulte said. “They like it, so we support it.”
Friedrich-Kaiser also does whatever she can to support her children even with the overtime she works and the fundraising she does because of the special moments she witnesses every practice or game.
“Every time I look at my kids and they come off that field and they’re happy because they won or they caught a pass or they got the cheer right, then it’s worth it,” she said. “When their eyes light up and they’re extremely excited and proud of themselves, absolutely. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”