The more I work with my jump rope team the more I realize that jump-rope is really designed to be a middle-class sport.
Jump-rope itself is a fairly low cost/low committment activity. 10 minutes of jump roping is equal to 30 minutes of running. It costs almost nothing to buy a rope, which is all you really need, along with a small place to jump. Sidewalks outside apartment buildings are great for this.
Competitive jump rope though is a whole other ballgame. Aside from the fact that my kids all had to fill out forms for Jump-Rope-for-Heart that required a primary care physician (so many don't have any health insurance so this question was really a joke), most competitive jumpers go to gyms where they pay big $$$ for every lesson they take. Our kids don't of course, but regardless the money adds up. A fancy rope is $12, the uniform is $5 (nothing, I know), and our newest expense is our March clinic for $50.
More than the actual cost though is the middle-class expectation that your children are the most important beings in your life and you will drop everything to give them everything they want and need. Growing up, $50 might have hurt my family's monthly budget, but they would pay it without question, without making me beg, or without being yelled at by a coach. Most of our parents see jump roping as a nice activity for their kids to be in, but in no way a priority like getting food on the table, keeping their jobs, keeping their house, and getting to church (in that order). They haven't budgeted for a $50 dollar trip for their 3rd grader, nor have they planned to alter their work schedule so they can pick their child up when the bus arrives back at school. To them they are protecting their child... they are saving money and guaranteeing they keep their job. Disapointing their child for one day is sad, but it keeps them fed. We of course, see them as disorganized parents who expect us to parent their children because they don't have time to do it themselves.
And from our side it is a catch-22. Do we punish the kid and say they are off the team because their parent refused to pay the $50? Do we pay the $50 for the children who can't afford it? If we do that are we creating a culture where the parents expect us to pay for their children every time? Is this a learning opportunity for the parents or the kids?
And what about the families where "it's always something"? If they aren't homeless (again) someone is in the hospital, or on a job interview, or needs a babysitter and they need their child to translate for them. I tend to be more leinent toward these children, although I realize that creates a child who feels drama is a way to go through life without responsibilities. But where do you draw the line? When do you punish the child for their life situation? Or should I look at it as teaching responsibility instead of seeing my actions as punishment?