My son has been involved in youth sports since he was three. We have run the gamut; gymnastics, karate, soccer, wrestling, lacrosse, and football. My initial goal in exposing him to youth sports was to have him expend some of his little boy energy in a way that was safe and fun for him.
Little did I know the love for competition would blossom at such a young age; he is addicted… to thrill of practice, games, and being a winner.
For those of you that don’t know me, I am a divorced single mom and my son is a Type 1 Diabetic. Over the past year I have added some pretty hefty medical expenses to the laundry list of bills that I pay each month. The added medical expenses have squeezed my already tight budget and my sons activities are becoming increasingly more difficult to keep up with financially.
What are your Reasons?
I feel these activities are important for him and will continue to make sacrifices where I can to ensure he can play. My reasons for involving my son in youth sports are slightly different than many of the other parents cheering along beside me at Saturday morning games.
I want my son to get plenty of exercise. As a diabetic it is important for him to get plenty of exercise to help keep his blood sugar regulated and his body fit.
I want him to learn the meaning of “team”. Teamwork is a fundamental life skill that I feel is best learned early. Being part of a team teaches lessons you can’t learn from a book; sharing, leadership, and working with others to accomplish a goal.
I want him to have fun! My fondest memories from childhood were being part of youth sports teams. Being with kids your own age all trying to achieve a goal together, and building special friendships with people that are just like you.
Sometimes I wonder about the other parents… I think they think little Johnny is a superstar and destined to go pro; earning scholarships, sponsorships, and one day making millions so he can pay them back for the thousands of dollars his training cost over the course of his youth career.
Or, they see potential in little Johnny that they never had; otherwise know as “living vicariously through your kid”.
Let’s face the facts
The chances of going “pro” are about as good as hitting the lottery.
Little Johnny may be so burnt out from playing ball since he was three that at 18 he decides to quit.
One sunny Saturday afternoon little Johnny takes a “hit” and breaks his leg. The doctor says he will never be able to play like he used to.
So as you walk up to the registration table or into the sporting goods store ask yourself if you are there for the right reasons.
Can I afford this?
I have seen parents rack up serious credit card debt just so their kid can play and “look good” on the field. If the expense of youth sports does not fit in your budget you are going to need to make some adjustments or just say no.
Perhaps you can forgo other discretionary expenses to afford the sport or look into scholarship programs for families that can’t afford the cost. Our youth football program has these scholarships available I know they have helped many families who could otherwise not afford for their child to play.
Does my child really want to do this?
Every time my son comes home from school with a colorful flyer boasting the next season’s sport, I sigh and ask do you really want to do this?
When the response is yes, I make sure he understands that this is a commitment for both of us; me financially and him physically. I do not allow him to skip practice or miss games.
Commitment is another life lesson learned on the field, and believe me I take full advantage of all the life lessons I can get out of these expensive sports activities.
Are you trying to keep up with the Jones’s?
Yes, this even happens in youth sports. The goal of youth sports is for the kids to learn something new, have fun, and get exercise, not to see who has the tricked out lacrosse stick, or head to toe designer outfit.
As parents we want our kids to fit in, but the kids will do that on their own by being “themselves”. They don’t need all the stuff sporting good marketers try to sell them; $150 sneakers, super absorbent socks at $15 a pair, or high priced sports drinks. They will do just fine with used equipment, regular socks and good old fashioned water.
Equipment and practice attire can get out of control… if you let it. Ask yourself if new equipment is worth double the cost. My son wears hand-me-down cleats from his cousin (we are lucky the sizes are right in line for this) for both football and lacrosse and we purchased his lacrosse gear at Play it again Sports, a store that buys and sells used equipment.
The point I am trying to make is that youth sports are a great way to teach your kids valuable lessons: how to set goals, hard work, teamwork, dealing with pressure—all lessons that will serve them well in life. We all want that for our kids, but like anything else you have to weigh the benefits and the expense. Youth sports are expensive, this is not likely to change and once your kids are hooked, well it gets harder to say no.
There are ways you can make it more affordable, revamp your budget, and sacrifice in other areas. Just make sure you are shelling out your hard earned dollars for the right reasons.
See the little boy in the picture above, he is smiling through his mouth guard, for me that smile is priceless!!
Have you gone into debt over youth sports for your kids?