Registering your kids for organized sports is a fun way to keep them busy and active. It’s a great way to encourage teamwork, sportsmanship, communication and self-confidence. Not to mention, team sports give a focus on physical fitness – an important way to combat today’s technology-driven, sedentary lifestyle.
If you’re thinking about enrolling your kids in sports, one of the biggest challenges is the cost. Participating in organized sports usually comes with a fee and you may also need to pay for equipment, uniforms, travel costs (to play against other teams), and other materials. In fact, a survey of parents conducted by TeamSnap found that respondents paid between $3,000 to $5,000 per youth sports each year.
If you’re on a budget but don’t want your kids to miss out on all the fun, here are some practical and creative ways to help you save money on sports throughout the school year.
Take Advantage of Early Bird Discounts
The biggest cost of team sports participation is the registration fee. But, some sports allow you to get a discount if you register early. For example, AYSO offers early registration discounts for soccer. Plan out which sport your child would like to play and start budgeting for it in advance.
Register early so you can get the discounted rate and if you’re enrolling other kids, see if they’ll offer a sibling/family discount.
Look Into YMCA and Park District Programs
Joining a private Little League team may cost more than the fees associated with joining a team through your YMCA or park district. Community centers already offer residents a discount in terms of fees. For example, most YMCAs have gymnastic teams. It’s a great place to learn the basics before you commit to more expensive training options.
You can likely register your child to participate in a sports team for a few weeks for anywhere from $50 to $100. This includes practices. A few weeks is plenty of time for kids to learn a new sport or get a chance to develop more skills. The biggest bonus is that a few weeks is a short commitment, and you may find your child would prefer a different sport.
See What Programs the School Offers
Some schools allow kids to participate in organized sports teams for cheap or even free. Most High Schools and Middle Schools offer team sports, and usually there is no cost. If there are free after school sports programs, it won’t hurt to try them so your kids can test out different things.
If the school has its own teams, your child may prefer playing alongside their friends so long as the price is right.
Practice During the School Year, Play During the Summer
This is a unique strategy that can actually save you quite a bit of money. It’s easier to find free organized sports teams to join during the summer, so you can use the school year to help your kids practice and develop their skills.
You may even want to see if your local park district offers a skills program for a few weeks. This can help your child learn basic fundamentals to play basketball, baseball, football, soccer and so on.
Then in the summer, seek out free sports team opportunities through local churches, organizations, and other groups. Visit your library or community’s website to narrow down these free opportunities and resources so you can take advantage of them when the time is right.
Volunteer to Coach or Help
Another way to save money on kids sports teams is to volunteer if they need a coach or helper for the team. By volunteering to help, see if you can get your child free or reduced registration in exchange for your time.
This can also be a great opportunity to bond with your child and even score some exercise for yourself.
Borrow or Buy Used Gear
When it comes to sourcing gear, realize that you don’t have to buy everything brand new from the store. Ask around to see if friends or family have items you can use like basketballs, baseball bats, soccer cleats, tennis rackets, and so on. You can always buy new and upgraded equipment as time goes on and your budget allows.
Check into “Gear Swaps”, a growing option where sports gear can be sold or traded. If you not sure that your child will be interested in a sport long-term, this is a great option. Check your City’s website or the sport’s website to see if they will be hosting a Gear Swap. If not, you could always start one once your child registers for a team.
If you have multiple children, buy gender neutral equipment. You can “hand me down” one child’s equipment to the next child. But, don’t expect your son to use your daughter’s pink shin guards!
Stop by your local thrift stores to see if you can find sporting goods and apparel that would be good for practices. If you have to buy a uniform or jersey, ask if the team has any extra from the previous season that you can buy at a discount.
Experience the Thrill of Organized Sports While Sticking to the Budget
If you really want your kids to experience playing sports, don’t let your budget hold you back. There are plenty of ways to avoid paying several hundred dollars for the experience.
Narrow down which sport they want to play, then shop around and see what the best registration fees are in the area. Be open to trying out free opportunities as well.
At the end of the day, kids will care most about getting to play on a team, learning all the fundamentals, and simply having fun.
How do you save on your kids’ sports? Leave us a comment below and let others know your great savings strategies.