Rachel and Michael ice dancing career at high family expenses
For most families, raising an Olympic athlete is a big investment with no guarantee of a monetary return. The financial strain of all those years of training can hit hard, and for the vast majority of athletes, the reward for competing in the Olympics is largely symbolic, since they are not winning medals and signing lucrative sponsorship deals consequently.
“It’s a daunting challenge,” said Richard Parsons, a dad of two U.S. and world junior ice dance champions, Rachel and Michael Parson. “We’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices. We’re just a middle-class family and we’ve had to be very creative, especially with two.” The family doesn’t take vacations, he and his wife drive older-model, well-worn cars and they don’t shop for new clothes.
Michael Parsons, now 23, began skating at age 7, and sister Rachel Parsons, 20, at age 6. Their parents credit the Wheaton Ice Skating Academy for making the training affordable in the early years by offering classes in group sessions, which are less expensive than private lessons. But as their kids began moving up the ranks, the expenses have escalated.
The cost of the Parsons’ 13-year journey on helping Rachel and Michael compete at the elite level internationally, has been well over $500,000, to cover the ice time, dance classes, coaching, choreography, registration fees, costumes, ice skates, and travel expenses.
“When they were starting out, it was just a thousand or two a year early on. Then it started ramping up steadily as they started competing nationally and then internationally,” Richard said, noting the annual expenses increased from an average of $40,000 a year to $75,000.
Rachel and Michael Parsons’ victory at the 2017 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Taiwan marked a milestone in their quest to compete at the 2022 Olympics. Once athletes qualify for the Olympics, their flights, accommodations, food and training are paid for by the United States Olympic Committee. But getting to that point is a completely different story.
Many Olympic athletes are young, so a lot of their expenses are covered by their parents. They will hopefully train for a decade or more, devoting more than six hours a day and six days a week to their sport, so there is not much room for a part-time job, let alone a career.
Once Peterson’s kids made it to the junior level in ice dancing they began receiving support from the U.S. Figure Skating Association, which helped offset some of their costs. And like many athletes vying for the Olympics, they have also turned to crowdfunding, which sometimes can be the best and only solution.
Petersons’ story is more common that one would think, and we at SportyCo are especially aware of that. Our platform can save many athletes’ careers and relieve this huge burden their families carry.