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Child athletes face burnout, pressure due to high cost of sports activities

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DENVER -- One of the biggest parenting challenges is walking the line between encouraging kids and pressuring them. It's especially true when it comes to children and their sports activities.

Good Day Colorado anchor Brooke Wagner looked into a link between spending on sports and burnout... and how to find the right balance for your family and your money.

Nikita Karamian of Erie is 15 years old. She has been training in the art of tae kwon do since she was four and she has a wall full of medals. She has nine state championships and a rainbow of belts -- the latest, a triple black belt.

Her goal is to make the 2020 Olympic team.

"There was never a time when I wanted to quit the sport."

But if that changes, her mom supports her. "If she stops right now, she can open up her own studio - she already has her first career.  It`s not a waste of money.  It`s a complete investment in her."

Kerry Karamian estimates the family has spent at least $30,000 on Nikita's entry fees, lessons and gear. "There`s a little bit of pressure, but it also makes me feel grateful -- I get that in my head that they love me so much, so I do it," Kerry says.

The Karamians agree that Nikita's happiness is the ultimate prize.

Growing disconnect for some families

New research shows big money can transform into big pressure for child athletes. It reveals that as spending rises, a child's enjoyment and motivation falls. An expert in Colorado says it's because kids need a sense of ownership.

"I think for sure children get something out of it although the more money the parent spends the more pressure kids feel and they probably get less out of it," says University of Colorado Sociology Professor Emeritus Jay Coakley. He specializes in sports sociology.

Coakley says while kids used to play through parks and rec or their school. But now, parents have to pay for expensive, sometimes highly competitive sports programs that start at even earlier ages than in the past.

"I think parents are in a real bind, they want their kids to be real active to have experience in sports but they`re going to have to pay for it now."

He says most parents are trying to do right by their kids, but there's a fine line between support and pressure.

"I try my best and do my best," Nikita says.

One of the best pieces of advice for all parents facing these challenges might be to help kids seek improvement, not trophies.