How To Afford Youth Sports On A Budget

If you have multiple kids playing different sports, chances are you’re pinching pennies.
02/18/2017 04:45 pm ET Updated Feb 20, 2017

It’s safe to say sports run in our family. And though I never was an athlete, we do surround ourselves with sports. We work for an NBA team and regional sports network. We go to baseball and basketball games when we’re not working as our “date nights.”  And we’ve tried to introduce our girls into a multitude of athletic activities. But there’s always been one small problem... 

Sports are expensive for everyone.

Regardless of your financial situation, if you have multiple kids playing different sports, chances are you’re pinching pennies. There’s the clothing, the special shoes, the equipment, not to mention the fees to actually take dance or play on a team. Then if the child is really talented, private coaching and travel teams can be a budget buster.

I’ve hesitated to have our girls try new sports this year, but then Jesse Palmer of ESPN, ABC, & GMA (and former NFL & Bachelor star) reminded me of this:

“There is no better way to build a solid and secure social circle as a kid than by playing sports. Youth sports are the ultimate common denominator helping kids break the ice and develop friendships with other kids. It’s not all about success on the field.  It’s about learning lessons early in life that will help you later. Teamwork, sportsmanship, goal setting, learning to deal with failure in a positive way. These are values that sports teach and all kids can benefit from. Also, the exercise is critical.  Especially in today’s age of technology, video games and social media, kids need to be active. It’s not all about winning or being the best.  Get off the couch and be active.

Pretty important message, huh?

Every professional athlete I’ve interviewed about growing up as a young sports star always talks about the positive impact sports had on their lives. But sometimes it’s hard for parents to say “YES” to sports when for most of us, there’s the money factor. That’s why Palmer has teamed up with Good Sports to try to provide ALL kids the opportunity to play.

Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Good Sports

Palmer told me, “I am aligned with the Good Sports mission of increasing opportunities for all kids, regardless of the economic circumstances, to have access to the equipment necessary to be active and be exposed to sports. Whether it is through the school or community organizations Good Sports is doing amazing work reaching kids at the grass roots level where the support is needed the most. I am proud to be part of it.”

Good Sports is a non-profit founded in 2003, whose mission is to help all kids have the opportunity to play sports. Since its inception, Good Sports has donated over $20 million in new equipment, apparel, and footwear to more than four million children in need across all 50 states. But there are still five million kids on the sidelines, and each year sports participation rates are declining.

Courtesy Good Sports

So how can parents find ways to afford youth sports without going broke?! Good Sports data shows that the average fee for a child to play a single sport for a single season is $115.  This is no small cost to many families!  Here are a few tips from Good Sports that might help families who are challenged by the rising cost of youth sports.

How To Afford Youth Sports On A Budget!

  • Start by researching low- and no-cost programs run by YMCA’s, Boys and Girls Clubs, local churches, and your local county and parks and recreations board. For non-profits, the cost of some youth sports programs are subsidized by other funding, leaving a smaller amount to be passed on to families. They sometimes have free or discounted programs based on income, and can also help you with financial aid and scholarships! 
  • If your school system happens to be one of the few remaining that haven’t implemented a pay-to-play system, this is a good option.
  • If cost is a factor, steer clear of for-profit sports leagues, where fees are high and travel can add an additional cost burden.
  • If your kids are playing in a program with limited or inadequate equipment, the program might be eligible to apply for an equipment grant of brand new equipment, apparel and footwear through Good Sports. Go to www.goodsports.org for more information.  
  • Purchasing used equipment at a store like “Play It Again Sports” can provide huge financial savings to families, especially when multiple kids and sports are in the mix. Lower cost equipment also takes the pressure off if your child doesn’t love the sport and wants to try something new. 
  • Don’t forget about consignment shops and local Goodwill Stores. Kids grow quickly and sometimes outgrow items before they are really used! I often find brand new items at Goodwill with the tags still on them.
  • Regional Facebook Groups can also be a great resource to find gently used equipment. Families are often looking to hand down equipment that is no longer needed and these groups are available in many cities nationwide. 
Courtesy Good Sports

Yes, sports can be expensive, and it does take effort to find cost-effective ways to participate in youth sports, but consider the benefits. Our kids will be building confidence and self esteem, have stronger family and peer relationships, and will have an overall increased physical fitness and emotion health. 

Sounds like a win-win to me!

And if you think your organization qualifies, don’t forget to check out Good Sports for more information!

Did you like this post? Then read the Top 5 Snacks for Kids Playing Sports! Kristen Hewitt is a two-time Emmy Award winning sports reporter and owner of misMEDIA. Please read more at mommy in SPORTS and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

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