Do you sometimes feel like you’re going broke with the cost of youth sports? It’s not unusual these days for parents to pay over $1000 for their child to play on a travel team. The pay-to-play culture has exploded and the statistics are rather stunning.
A report in USA Today says:
A majority of the sports offered for the youngest athletes are very affordable. When the scoreboard is flipped on, everything changes. Kids fall in love with the newest equipment and colorful uniforms. Getting into a more competitive environment requires a club team commitment. The fees go up when coaches get paid. Family vacations are spent at tournaments in places like Myrtle Beach, Orlando, Atlanta, Boston. Even a weekend event three hours away can run $500 for travel and food.
It all adds up very quickly!
As the USA report continues to explain, many sports are relatively inexpensive in the beginning, but the longer your child plays and the more competitive he becomes, the thinner the wallet gets.
But you don’t have to go broke for your child to play, and even progress, in youth sports. Stop falling for the myth that companies and organizations who profit from your child playing want you to believe.
Here’s some ways to cut costs while still helping your child get the practice and training he or she needs.
Begin with the Basics
When your child is still not sure which sport he likes best, don’t go out and buy expensive equipment. Get the absolute bare necessities until she figures out what she loves to play.
Don’t get sucked into the select league quicksand if your child is still experimenting and trying different sports. The money and time commitment might end up being a huge waste of time. Start your child in recreational leagues, which are much cheaper and more convenient.
Organize a Gear Swap
At the beginning of each season, have a day when families bring in old gear that doesn’t fit anymore. Be sure to bring clean, still usable equipment. New isn’t necessary when it will be dirty and look used after the first practice.
If your community doesn’t have a gear swap, check consignment shops, yard sales or used sporting goods stores like Play It Again Sports for deals on gently used apparel and equipment.
Get the Kids to Help
If I had it to do over, I’d ask my kids to contribute more to the costs. Even if it was just for the uniforms or the entry fee for tournaments and meets. Let your child be invested in the cause.
I’ve seen over the years that when kids have to sacrifice some of their own money towards something, they are much more emotionally invested in it.
Another option is to let your kids pay by doing something that you would have to pay someone to do, like mow the yard or wash the car.
Be Choosy about Where You Spend
It’s very easy for parents to go along with what everyone else is doing so that their kids can excel in sports. But I’d like to introduce you to a great alternative–and still see your child improve in skills and experience. My friend Craig Haworth at Winningyouthcoaching.com offers a free 23-minute video on: Travel Sports Alternatives & How to Dominate Your Middle School Tryout.
It is well worth your time. It opened my eyes to a very affordable alternative that allows your child to actually do better than if he or she played on a “select” team.
Know When to Say NO
This is perhaps the most obvious–and at the same time, the hardest–way to keep from going broke if your child plays sports. If youth sports is going to require taking out a second mortgage or sacrificing things that your family really needs, then it’s time to use the word NO.
No to year-round travel teams.
No to playing more than one sport at a time.
No to the expensive training.
No to the most expensive equipment.
If your child is truly talented, he or she can excel. I’ve read story after story of college and professional athletes who came from humble beginnings and who couldn’t afford all the youth sports frills, yet still managed to get a scholarship. Being in a small town didn’t stop them. Lack of finances didn’t stop them.
All the money in the world isn’t going to make your child a better athlete. Only he or she can do that.
Click here to read about some others ways to save money in youth sports.
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