4 ways to help your child compete in sports without going broke

By Janis Meredith | Posted 3/19/2018

Do you sometimes feel like you’re going broke with the cost of youth sports? 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 that happens three hours away can run $500 for travel and food.

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It all adds up very quickly!

As the USA Today report continues to explain, many sports are relatively inexpensive in the beginning, but the longer children play and the more competitive they become, the thinner the wallet gets.

But you don’t have to go broke for your child to play, and even progress, in youth sports.

Here are some ways to cut costs while still helping your children get the practice and training they need.

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1. Begin with the basics

When your children are still unsure which sport they like best, don’t buy expensive equipment. Get the absolute bare necessities until they figure out what they love 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.

2. 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.

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3. 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.

When kids have to sacrifice some of their own money toward something, they are much more emotionally invested in it.

Another option is to let your kids pay by doing something you would have to pay someone to do, like mow the yard or wash the car.

4. 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 participating in 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 children are truly talented, they 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 children better athletes. Only they can do that.

Janis B. Meredith is a life coach for sports parents. She provides resources to help parents give their children a positive and growing youth sports experience. Learn more about how she can help parents have Less Stress and More Fun in Youth Sports.