Tips on How to Afford Youth Sports
Whether it's the Olympics, March Madness, or the World Cup, big name sporting events can inspire children to reach for the stars and become more active. However, for children who want to participate in youth sports, that dream comes at a very real financial cost. Going for the gold often requires deep pockets. Here's how to keep that dream burning brightly, without torching your savings.
Volunteer Your Time
Some youth sports programs and clubs may offer a discount or reduced rate for parents who volunteer. If you follow the sport or played it yourself, you can serve as a coach or as an assistant coach. All teams need managers to set up practice times, home and away competitions, travel to out-of-state games and events, as well as the fun stuff like team dinners. You can also use your professional skills by serving on the board of directors for the sports club. If you're an accountant by day, consider serving as treasurer. If you have great communication skills, help the club maintain their website or publicity.
Apply for a Grant
KIDS in the GAME was started by a group of parents who wanted every child to have the opportunity to get out and play sports. The nonprofit's Pass Program provides individual $50 grants to school-aged kids to pay for registration for after-school sports programs. The "Go! Grant" provides $1,000 to $5,000 to K-6 public and charter schools to sustain physical activity programs.
If you serve in the National Guard or the Army Reserve, or you're an injured retired veteran, your child may qualify for a grant to participate in one of 36 youth sports through Our Military Kids. The nonprofit also provides grants for children of service members and veterans to participate in fines arts, tutoring, and other extracurricular programs.
Contact the Sport's Governing Body
Almost every sport has an official governing body such as USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming, USA Wrestling, USA Track & Field etc., which also serve as the official representatives to the United States Olympic Committee. Many governing bodies offer financial assistance to disabled and disadvantaged youth. For example, the USA Hockey Foundation provides grants to disabled and disadvantaged children through its "Hockey Is For Everyone" program.
Consider a (Comparatively) Less Expensive Sport
If your child hasn't connected with a particular sport yet, you still have time to guide them to one that's less expensive — USA Today has a handy cost-comparison. While every sport eventually requires more cash the higher up a child advances, initial costs for some sports compared to others may be lower when your child is first learning the ropes.
Purchase Used Equipment
New equipment every season can add up. Whenever you can, buy used equipment. Play It Again Sports gives you a credit if you trade in your old equipment. And don't forget to check the lost and found box at your local sports center. Before you take anything, check with the front desk first — they'll usually keep the lost items for a period of time before donating them. Explain your situation and ask if you can have that unclaimed baseball mitt.
Be careful not to let youth sports take over your financial future. Of the 1,001 families surveyed by TD Ameritrade, 20 percent reported spending $1,000 per month on elite youth sports, often foregoing or dipping into retirement savings. On average, parents said that they spend $100 to $500 per month, per child on competitive sports. If your child's sports participation requires a hefty financial commitment, talk to a financial advisor about how to best budget for sports without jeopardizing your financial security.