LIKE MOST PARENTS, Steve and Siobhan Jones of Folsom, Calif. But the Joneses are the parents how Much Money I Spent On League four talented, soccer-crazed boys, which means that life can get a little bonkers. Take a four-day weekend this summer. Friday when Steve, a 47-year-old senior network engineer at Intel, and his 14-year-old son, Rhys, set out in their rental car on a 10-hour drive to San Diego for the latest big tournament. Before Rhys hits the field, Siobhan, 43, a part-time elementary school teacher, has piled her three younger boys—Kye, 13, Taine, 11, and Bryn, 9—into her 2009 Honda Pilot for their own tournament three hours away in Santa Cruz.
On Saturday and Sunday, Siobhan scurries among the eight games played by Taine’s and Bryn’s individual teams. Kye’s team, mercifully, has the weekend off. Meanwhile, Steve watches Rhys play three games, then drives the eight hours from San Diego to Santa Cruz, where all six jam into the Airstream’s four sleeping berths. Unlike playing on the local parks and rec team, the Jones boys compete in the elite world of American soccer clubs. For kids at this level, soccer isn’t just a game. Top young athletes play year-round and practice as often as a dozen times a week. 126,000 Intel salary—the family barely makes ends meet. The Joneses’ situation may sound extreme, but the challenge of balancing the cost of athletics and academics is far from unusual.
Some 21 million kids play under-17 competitive sports in the U. 7 billion on related travel, says a National Association of Sports Commissions study. Soccer in particular has boomed in popularity. Clearly, Steve and Siobhan wouldn’t have invested the considerable money and time if their boys didn’t reap so much from their sport. Besides, their kids are talented and well-coached. Yet this is where soccer plays a tricky role in the Joneses’ lives. They sacrifice because their boys love it, but in the back of their minds they hope their investment will pay real dividends—in the form of college scholarships.
Rhys’s coaches think he might well have the right stuff. With so much at stake, the Joneses know they have to get their house in order. Jeff Maas, a planner with Retirement Security Centers of Sacramento. THE JONES FAMILY’S devotion to sports started with Steve, who was born in Wales but grew up playing soccer and rugby in England. He met Siobhan at a pub in Bath in 1998, when she was an elementary school teacher, and they were married on a beach in Sri Lanka two years later. In 2008 he was working in IT at Intel’s Swindon office when he learned that a downsizing could cost him his job unless he took a similar position in California. When Rhys was 9, a coach asked him to try out for the local El Dorado United Soccer Academy. He must take after his mother. Steve was thrilled that his son made the team, with its professional coaches and extended playing season.
But how does a parent say no when his kids are clearly thriving? In their spacious backyard that’s home to two soccer nets, the Jones boys spend their rare free time drilling shots at one another, their booming kicks slicing through the air like drones on a mission. Most of the balls find the net, but a few bounce off the windows that, miraculously, have never been shattered. The day after their four-day weekend, they’re still reliving their soccer marathon. 0 victory on Sunday morning with a freakishly good move. Of the four, little Bryn is actually the biggest talker. He likes to be in charge.
Taine has a wicked sense of humor and is popular enough to have been named team captain. Kye is easygoing, able to shop with Mom for hours without complaint. Rhys believes he can do anything he puts his mind to. If Steve ignited the boys’ love for sports, Siobhan is the keeper of the flame.
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She picks up her kids at three different schools and shuttles them to practices, plus volunteers 10 hours per week as manager of their soccer club, scheduling their games, among other things. She spent her 43rd birthday watching Taine and Bryn play those four games at the Santa Cruz tournament. Jones family in Folsom, California, on August 21, 2015. STEVE AND SIOBHAN knew soccer was expensive, but they had never actually added up the numbers.
At MONEY’s request, they dug out their receipts and made some sobering discoveries. 2,400 for restaurants and the rest for hotels, car rentals, and gas. It’s the smaller stuff that goes out in dribs and drabs that really adds up. No wonder there has been so little left over for an emergency fund.