We have 4 kids. Three of them are part of organized youth sports teams and 2 of them play multiple sports. Youth sports can be expensive, especially when kids move beyond local recreation programs to travel teams, AAU, and club teams. It seems like a small thing to worry about, but if you are a parent of kids who play sports, you know this isn’t the case. Some higher level teams can cost from over a hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars. How do you let kids participate in youth sports without selling your soul to pay for it?
Sounds simple, right? It’s not. Every youth sports team our kids have been involved with handles fees differently and most of the time details come at the last minute. I hate “last minute”. Sometimes the fee is needed shortly after tryouts to secure a spot on the team. Sometimes it’s not required until later. Sometimes teams set up payment options like monthly payments. No matter how teams or league handle fees, it always seems to sneak up on us parents. We spend so much time thinking about every other aspect of our kids lives like school and social life. Half the time our battle is just making sure they brushed their teeth and put on deodorant this morning. It’s easy to lose track. Plan ahead. Set aside a small portion of every paycheck to go into a separate fund for youth sports. This way you never get caught off guard by sports fees.
Don’t forget about extra costs
Fees are one thing. There are always extra costs. Your daughter outgrew her soccer cleats from the spring. The coach requires specific equipment or a specific color attire. Uniform fees. Ref fees. Extra tournaments always cost more (if not built in to the original fee) and that’s not including hotel stays, gas, and food in they are out of town tournaments. When you set money aside, make sure you factor these costs in as well.
Have kids help pay
One way to get kids to value their sports experience (or value your investment in their sports experience) is to have them help pay for part of it. Maybe they can pay the whole fee to play or have them buy their own basketball shoes if they want the newest Lebrons . Our boys have been paying for their basketball shoes for the past couple years because of this very reason. We set aside a certain amount, but if they want something that costs more, they pony up their own money, usually saved up from allowances or birthdays.
Sometimes parents have to make tough choices about kids’ sports. Do we let them sign up for everything they are interested in? Do we move up to a club team, play AAU ball or just stick with rec sports? Do we have money to afford our kids playing year round sports? If not, what takes priority. Whatever you decide, include your kids in the decision process.
I’m a die hard basketball fan so it’s easy for me to put basketball of other sports, but maybe my kids don’t share that same love. Shame on them. Ok, just kidding. Maybe they are an amazing soccer player, but are only playing because they feel forced to play. We have never let our kids quit any activity they started until their commitment is over, but it’s always good to talk with your kids and evaluate how they feel about the sports the play.
Fundraising is a huge part of youth sports. Some teams and leagues require you to participate in fundraisers to raise money for the program. Some offer fundraisers as a way of lowering the fees for your child. Some don’t offer fund raising opportunities at all.
If not, take matters into your own hands and come up with ways you and your child fund raise to pay for fees. You could even mention fund raising to their coach/team manager (warning: please know that if you do this, most likely you are going to end up being super involved and possibly in charge of any fundraising efforts).
Don’t ask for fundraising opportunities if you aren’t willing to pitch in and help. Some fund raisers are more involved than others so I would search for high dollar options that don’t require tons of labor.
As a parent and as a coach, I’ve seen how youth sports can positively and negatively affect kids and their families. Taking time to think about your child and the options available to them will ensure that you are ahead of the game when it comes to paying for youth sports.
What sports do your kids play? How do you approach paying for youth sports? Let us know in the comments below!
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Kevin Payne is the budgeting and family travel enthusiast behind FamilyMoneyAdventure.com. He’s also the host of the Family Money Adventure Show podcast, where he helps families learn to manage their money better so they can afford to do the things they love.
Kevin is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance and travel. He is a regular contributor to USA Today, Forbes Advisor, Bankrate, Fox Business, Credible, and CreditCards.com.