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Are Youth Sports Straining Your Household Budget?

In his book “The Most Expensive Game in Town,” sports journalist Mark Hyman tells the story of a sports dad (the popular blogger StatsDad) who spent close to $10,000 on youth sports in 2010.

Some of the costs you’d expect to see; $120 for basketball registration, new softball cleats for $38, $150 golf team membership fee and so forth. While that may not seem so bad, when you multiple three athletic children by a new sport each season (and everything that goes with it) suddenly the real costs of youth sports skyrockets.

A baseball trip to Cooperstown cost $871, while renting a house in which to stay (presumably during an away tournament) was another $1,000. 

Throw in some more baseball trips to Indiana and Kentucky, a soccer trip to Dayton and a few private coaching sessions, and this sports dad is shelling out a few mortgage payments so his kids can play youth sports.

We love youth sports — basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, swimming — you name it, and we’ll support it. Youth sports are a great way to keep our kids active, helping fight childhood obesity, encourage them to try new things, make new friends, develop important life skills and more.

But when you see the numbers broken down the way StatsDad has done on his blog it’s a little intimidating. Many sports parents are concerned that youth sports are too expensive and that might be a breaking point for many households with tight budgets.

If it’s just too expensive many parents might not register their child this coming season.

Here are three ways you can help manage the high costs of youth sports

Buy new-to-you sports gear

Kids grow fast, and having to purchase new cleats and pads every season can get very expensive very quickly. There are plenty of used sporting good stores that sell gently used equipment, some of which might have only seen one season of play, and are practically good as new.

You could also talk to friends and neighbors and see if they have old equipment their kids have outgrown that your family can use.

Wait until the kids are a little older to join a travel team

Traveling for sports is wildly expensive, especially when your athlete is on a high-powered travel team that travels all around the country for tournaments. Joining a travel team is a big decision for your child as it means they’ll have less free time for other activities, but it’s also a big monetary investment for your household. 

Depending on how tight your budget is, it might be worth waiting an extra year or two before joining that travel team, just to make sure it’s something your child really wants to do (and so you can plan a budget).

Skip the mementos

Most sports leagues have a “picture day” for their teams. The photography company usually offers a variety of packages ranging from a few wallet-sized prints all the way to mugs and mouse pads with your child’s picture on them.

While mementos are great these packages can get very expensive very quickly. Either go with the smaller package or bring a camera to the next game and create some mementos of your own.