The majority of American children grow up playing sports, either outside of school, as part of a school team, or even in a gym class. Many students play multiple sports, and parents play a big part in encouraging their kids to excel at sports. Many parents want their kids to be athletes, or at least they want their kids to try different sports. A truly talented athlete can get a scholarship to college, or even play professionally.
Of course, most parents understand that their kids’ talent won’t get them quite that far, but sports have many other positive outcomes as well. Sports improve physical health, but can also improve academic achievement and self-esteem. Unfortunately, sports can get expensive. Sports require equipment, transportation to and from games, and hefty fees. Thankfully, there are ways to cut the costs of kids’ sports.
1. Start early
It probably sounds counterintuitive, but starting your kids on sports early can actually save you money. When kids are young, the fees for sports are usually much cheaper. T-ball, Pee Wee soccer, and other sports that are designed for very young kids are usually relatively affordable. Many cities and towns also offer summer programs for preschool-aged children that are very cheap. Many of these programs don’t require any equipment at all; usually the coach or program provides the soccer balls, t-ball, gloves, and so on. Encouraging your kids to try sports before they enter elementary school will give them a chance to see which sports they really enjoy, which will save you money because you won’t have to pay as many fees or pay for equipment for multiple sports later. As kids get older, the fees for organized sports usually increase, as do the equipment costs. Even if you don’t sign your kid up for a sport early, you can still note their preferences by playing sports with them in your backyard.
2. Be selective
Getting your kids interested in sports early can also help you to determine which sports they are good at, and more importantly, which ones they enjoy. That way you won’t waste money when they get older by paying the fees and purchasing equipment for a sport that they quickly lose interest in. Of course, tastes can change, and your child may like soccer when he or she is young, but decide they don’t like it a few years later. This is where being selective comes in.
Although it’s tempting to sign your kids up for every sport and activity, it’s better to encourage your child to find one or two sports that they really enjoy. That way you can invest your time (and theirs) helping them improve, and also have money for the various fees that come with playing sports. Taking on many different sports can get expensive.
3. Buy used
Especially when your kids are in the trial stage and are still trying to figure out if they like a sport, it’s best to purchase used equipment when possible. If you spend a lot of money on shoes, cleats, uniforms, or any other equipment, and then your child decides that the particular sport isn’t fun anymore, you will lose money. Even as your kids get more invested in sports, not everything needs to be new. Especially if you are purchasing bats, soccer balls, or even goals just to practice at home, you should try purchasing used items. Some sports are particularly expensive, including ice hockey, horseback riding, and football. Much of the necessary equipment for these sports can be purchased used.
4. Save on trips
Some teams will have a bus that brings them to and from games, but occasionally you will probably have to drive your child. Depending on the program you enroll your kids in, you might have to provide the majority of the transportation. One easy way to save on car rides is to carpool with another parent or family; you can offer to drive to one game, and then they can drive to the next. When you attend a tournament, try to stay in a hotel that is close to the tournament location so that you can save money on gas. You will also save money by packing as much food as possible yourself, rather than eating out. You can encourage your child to save money sometimes on bus trips as well by sending dinner instead of giving them money for fast-food. However, you also need to take into account the fact that most of the other players will be eating out, which might make your child feel awkward or left out.
5. Decide if the fees are really worth it
Many organized school sports come with fees, but usually these fees are reasonable (often they are under $100 dollars, and sometimes waivers are available). According to a 2012 poll by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, over sixty percent of children had to pay a pay-to-pay fee for school sports. Although the fees are often not very expensive, they do prevent some kids from playing, and can be particularly daunting if your kids play multiple sports. Other organizations charge fees as well, and some traveling sports leagues can be particularly expensive. You have to decide which fees are worth it. By choosing sports that have no fee, or lower participation fees (and by sticking mainly to one sport), you will cut costs.
There are other ways you can cut costs as well. If possible, sell old equipment to pay for the new equipment you have to buy (particularly if you have an older child who played a different sport and no longer needs the supplies). Avoid private lessons or coaching, because that can get very expensive. Lastly, consider organizing games that are just for fun so that your kids can participate in multiple sports, but avoid paying for all of them.