Are You Prepared For the Costs of Youth Sports?

Have you ever witnessed the trickle-down effect in your family?

You know it goes something like this:

Dad has a stressful day at work because his boss is mad → He comes home and is grumpy with Mom → She loses her patience with her oldest son → He then takes it out on his younger brother → Who then promptly kicks the dog.

It might be a bit of an exaggeration, but you have probably seen a similar chain of events in your own family.

Another, less obvious—but unfortunate—domino effect that can take place is when you enter into a season of sports UNPREPARED for the financial impact.

Here is what that sequence might look like:

Your child picks a sport → You sign them up → Gear costs MORE than you expected → Travel to games, and dinners on the road, adds up → You get frustrated and begin to transfer some guilt onto your child → You EXPECT nothing-short-of-stellar-performances. 

It’s an all too common occurrence nowadays but doesn’t have to be your family’s story.

Here are 4 things to keep in mind to set your family up for success.
1) Research Beforehand

 Sports are NOT created equal—at least not in a financial sense.

There is a broad spectrum from the least to most expensive, and it’s not always obvious how much money will be needed to get your child through 1 season.

Do your research BEFORE signing up. Talk to other parents that have experienced a season or 2 in the sport you are interested in. 

Start-up costs that are required for uniforms, equipment, and registration fees will vary GREATLY—from around a hundred dollars to even thousands.

Some of the more expensive sports—right from the start—are:

  • Ice Hockey
  • Horseback Riding
  • Gymnastics
  • Figure Skating
  • Any time you join a travel team the cost will go up

Most parents recognize that the benefits outweigh much of the costs of sports participation. However, if you want to limit the unexpected expenses—do your due diligence.

2) Communicate the Costs With the Whole Family

Your wallet is not the only resource impacted by sports.

Obviously, your TIME will be affected by the back and forth to practices, the travel to games and competitions, and the actual time of cheering your athlete on.

Once again, this will vary significantly from sport to sport. For example, a swim meet can take place over 2 days, with many hours of waiting for your athlete’s events.

On the other hand, watching a soccer game might only take 40 minutes to a little over an hour—depending on the age.

Hopefully, after researching you have a clear picture of what the day-to-day will look like.

It’s important at the start of a season to communicate with your family what other areas will be impacted. Make a clear plan for how schoolwork and household chores will continue to get done.

3) Be Honest About Your Finances

“Keeping up with the Joneses,” takes on a new twist when parents get into the world of competitive youth sports.

According to a 2017 cover article on Time magazine, the youth sports industry has nearly doubled in the last 10 years, bringing it to a shocking $15.3 billion annual dollars spent.

Even the most budget-conscious families can quickly get sucked into a spending vortex when it comes to their kids. It’s hard to stick to a financial plan when:

  • Friends are buying the newest and best gear
  • Teammates are paying for extra coaching
  • Opponents are hiring personal trainers
  • Other families are staying in ritzy hotels for “away” games

But YOU have to be true to your financial situation. Plan ahead how much money will be allotted for each child’s extracurricular activities.

And then stick to it.

Try these tips:

  • Buy second-hand equipment from places like Play It Again Sports
  • Borrow gear from older athletes
  • Google is your friend—always look online for coupons or discounts at hotels, restaurants, and apparel stores
4) Keep the Right Mindset

It’s essential to remember WHY you allow your child to participate in sports. And you could list off a bunch of motivators for pursuing a sport. For example:

  • You played the same sport and had a good experience
  • Your child needs to use up energy
  • To teach him to work for something
  • She needs a social outlet
  • To see growth in an area
  • It’s just fun
  • Being physically fit
  • Scholarship dollars

But at the end of the day, it’s really a GIFT we have the privilege of giving to our kids.

With all the running around we have to do, and all the costs we have to cover when our kids play a sport, it’s easy to slip into a mindset that looks at it as an investment.

Unfortunately, it’s that exact mindset that can escalate into a stress-induced and expectations-driven sports experience.

Allow your child to enjoy sports as a simple gift—with no strings attached.

Summing It Up 

The costs of sports participation are significant. Approach each new season keeping these things in mind:

  • Research different sports before you commit to a team so that you limit the unexpected expenses.
  • Count the other resources that will be used—such as time—and communicate with the entire family what daily life will look like.
  • Be honest about your family’s finances and resist the temptation to “keep up” with other families.
  • Remember to keep the right mindset toward sports participation. View it as a gift and not an investment. Your child’s competitiveness should be based on his appetite.
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Sport Family Coach at

Founder of Growing Champions for Life, David helps sports parents and coaches incorporate positivity and persistence into their communication with the young athletes who count on their encouragement and guidance. An eight-time national water skiing champion, five-time national record holder in water ski jumping, former World Championship U.S. Water Ski Team coach, and proud professional sports parent, he understands first-hand the challenges and rewards of competition. His extensive experience as a corporate leadership coach for Nextel, Sprint, Allstate, Balfour Beatty, The Villages and other companies provides David with unique insight into the skills needed to excel in sports, business and life. He brings an athlete's discipline, a coach's inspiration, and a parent's practical experience to his mission to grow not just champion young athletes, but holistically well-rounded individuals equipped for lifelong excellence.

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