Youth athletics offer so many benefits for kids. There’s the obvious ones, like physical exercise and learning to be a team player and a good sportsman, but there’s plenty of other advantages, too.
As opposed to playing sports on the playground, organized sports offer many social benefits. Having dedicated coaches and professional mentors can help kids develop confidence, determination and consistency they’ll be able to apply to other important areas of their lives.
There can be one major drawback to youth sports, though: the financial cost for parents.
Most leagues and programs have an enrollment fee, but the financial commitment usually doesn’t stop there. Once you calculate equipment costs, uniform rentals, transportation and other incidentals, (don’t forget the fun stuff — concession stand treats and apparel to support the team!) youth sports can really take a toll on your wallet.
Don’t let financial strain keep your kiddo on the sidelines. These thrifty tips can help you score big savings. Game on!
Do your research
Consider your budget before you begin the registration process. Not all sports (and equipment costs and fees) are created equal. Most contact sports require heavy-duty protection gear, and some football, lacrosse and hockey clubs can even require players to purchase insurance. Talking to coaches and other parents in the league before the season starts can be helpful for getting a full picture of the financial commitment.
Buy used equipment
Whether it’s shoulder pads and helmets, dance shoes or tennis rackets, most sporting gear can be bought second-hand, and the savings can really add up. Ask your child’s coach if they have any recommendations on where to get the specific gear your child needs. They may point you to a used sporting goods store, or be able to connect you to other players willing to part with their used gear for cheap.
Pass down equipment
What’s better than a 2-for-1 deal? If you have multiple athletic kids, wait to see if your little ones will grow into their older siblings’ gear before getting rid of it. This includes any athletic shoes and workout apparel that is still in good shape. If you’re searching for hand-me-downs, use community or league Facebook groups to ask if any older players are looking to get rid of used equipment.
Sell your old equipment
If you can’t find any use for old gear, sell it to a new player or a second-hand sporting goods store like Play It Again Sports. Many of these stores have a higher trade-in value than cash offer, meaning you can get even more bang for your buck by trading in gear your kid has outgrown for the next size up, or even use your trade-in credit to gear up for a new sport.
Volunteer your time
You don’t have to be a superstar to volunteer your time. Many organizations offer discounts or other perks for parents who volunteer to coach, provide game day snacks or organize other league events. Ask your child’s coach about any volunteer positions they might be looking to fill.
Carpool to the big game
Split the gas money (and time commitment!) by carpooling with another player or coach who lives nearby. Creating a schedule with other parents in the league ahead of time can reduce the amount of back-and-forth trips you take to practice and game day each week.
Stay and play local
Sure, there are benefits to playing in a travel league, but cost is not one of them. If you’re looking to play on a budget, avoid leagues that require kids to travel far distances or go out of town for weekend tournaments; the cost of gas and a weekend hotel can quickly burn through your budget.
Congrats! You made it through the regular season while sticking to your budget, but if your child’s team qualifies for a big play-off game or championship tournament, that can require entrance fees, extra gas money, hotels and other unexpected costs. Talk to coaches and parents in the league about organizing a fundraiser to reduce costs for the entire team.
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