'An incredible impact': Poor kids are being priced out of youth sports. Here's one solution.


As poor children around the country get priced out of expensive youth sports leagues, a volunteer baseball coach in suburban Maryland has devised a novel solution to one of many financial barriers.

It’s a small, square checkbox.

Marc Berk, a health policy researcher, got the checkbox idea on vacation in New York. He noticed that museum-goers who couldn’t pay the requested donation fee had to explain why — a demeaning procedure. He wondered whether something similar kept lower-income families away from youth sports.

Berk persuaded officials in Gaithersburg to amend their fee-waiver process. Instead of requiring families to fill out forms proving their need, administrators added a checkbox to the sign-up form. It says, “I am a resident of the City, and I am requesting a waiver of all fees.”

Waiver requests soared by 1,200 percent. Participation jumped 31 percent; for children who attend high-poverty schools, it shot up almost 80 percent.

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