When my son arrived at the age he could play baseball, this was an incredible day for me. As a lover of baseball, I had waited for this event for years. I showed up to try-outs with about 42 times the amount of enthusiasm he had for the game. Still, I sat and watched as him and the other boys went through drills and played catch.
As I sat there watching, I overheard a conversation play out on the bleachers behind me. It was two parents comparing notes on equipment they had purchased for their sons. It went quickly from a friendly comparison to a game of “who spent more” on accessories. I had no idea that little league required specially formulated oil for the child’s baseball glove. As it turns out, It isn’t required. Very little is required.
It can be easy to get swept up in the excitement of our kids’ sporting pursuits and break the bank. After all, it’s for the children isn’t it? The marketing messages want you to believe that, but their enjoyment is not defined by how much you spend on shoes. Here’s some easy ways to save without sacrificing on your young athlete’s experience.
“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.” Vince Lombardi
Equipment is the easiest place to break the bank. The push to tell you what you “need” for your child’s sport of choice has incredible pressure behind it. First, draw a clear distinction on what is needed for the sport. If you’re unsure, talk to the coach or league. Some leagues will even have this prepared as part of a list when you register. It’s important to think first about what is needed vs. what is nice to have. Shin guards for soccer are probably required, but the shin guards that come with special impact absorbing gel are probably not. Draw this distinction and take stock of what is needed before moving on to what is a snazzy accessory.
Craigslist, eBay, and other online markets can help you find gently used items at a deep discount. For every tennis phenom, there’s 20 kids who used their tennis racket sparingly. Don’t forget to use this same tactic in reverse when your athlete outgrows their equipment at some point.
Sharing is caring
Do you have hand me down clothes in your family? How about had me down basketball shoes? Sharing among siblings, cousins, or other family members is an easy way to save. If you have friends with kids in the same sports, look for ways to share with them as well. Buying one baseball bat for two brothers is a completely different proposition than a baseball bat for one brother and a lacrosse stick for another.
Sports tend to conform to certain seasons during the year. Swim team supplies just don’t fly off the shelf in December the way they do in July. Retailers wants to clear their inventory of certain items for the “in-season” stock they find easier to sell. Take advantage of this to plan ahead and realize some savings.
Borrow or Rent
Some equipment can be rented. This is great if your kid is trying a sport you’re unsure they will continue. Renting golf clubs will feel much better if your son or daughter decides after one trip to the course that golf is not for them. Borrowing from friends or family is an even easier way to try out a sport without buying upfront.
Most of us assume that there’s nothing to be done about “league fees” or “registration fees”. Ask about discounts for registering early. Also, some leagues will offer a discount if you register multiple children. This can add up if you have a multi-child household and pursue a common sport. Lastly, some leagues will offer a break if a parent volunteers in some capacity like coaching. Coach has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
Camps, Lessons, and Clinics
The amount of money that can be spent on “extra” instruction for your young athlete might as well be unlimited. The available options in this space have exploded in recent years. Look for local camps put on by organizations like the YMCA. This can be a way to help your child learn new skills without breaking the bank.
Some sports and teams require travel. The most straightforward way to save is by choosing teams without this requirement. If you do go down this path, think about carpooling with teammates and packing food as opposed to going out on when you’re on the road. For day to day, don’t underestimate the benefits of carpooling to practice and local events. This adds up like any other miles on the road.
Level of Play
Depending on where you live, your athlete may have options for what team will benefit from their athletic skills. The different options likely carry a different price tag too. A “club” team vs. a school team are different experiences and different costs. Your family may decide one option is ultimately better, but keep in mind this is an opportunity to save some money.
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it." 1 Corinthians 9:24 ESV
As you continue on your family's sports journey, remember that performance on the field or court is not determined by what you spend. Remember to plan ahead for the costs. The experience for your son or daughter can be safe, rewarding, and not break the bank.
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