Sports on a Budget

July 17th, 2013 | By Lindsey Ebert No Comments


“Hey mom and dad, I want to sign up for cheerleading (or tennis or football or dance or some other sport) this fall!”

If this declaration is met with a sense of dread because of the costs involved, it may be time to find creative ways to pay for your child’s sport(s). After all, none of us like to tell our kids they can’t do something that is fun and healthy for them. But the reality is … sports can be expensive.

Let’s look at the average* cost of playing football at the middle school level:
Participation fee: $50
Sports physical: $35
Practice uniform: $20
Game equipment: $250
(cleats, pads, socks, mouth guard, helmet)
Transportation: $500
(to/from practices and games)
Team snacks: $50


*Not all schools require families to pay for all of these items; check with your child’s school to see what your financial responsibilities will be.

So, what can you do to make youth sports affordable for your family? The answer to that question varies, depending on what sports your child is interested in. But here’s a list we put together after asking parents how they have tackled this issue:

Talk with your family. Ask grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles if they are interested in helping financially, especially if their children are grown up. They know the value of sports and might be thrilled to have an opportunity to help other children in their family have the same wonderful experience.

Brainstorm with other families. You are not the only family that may be concerned about how to pay for youth sports. Some of those most affected by the budget dilemma are those with more than one child, so don’t hesitate to ask. Many parents have already addressed this in their own families and will be willing to share their ideas.

Meet with the sponsoring organization. Universities, schools, YMCAs and other organizations often have ‘endowed’ scholarships. This means that benefactors have set up funds specifically to provide financial assistance to deserving youth. Criteria can range from financial need to demonstrated skill in one or more sports.

Check with community foundations. Many communities or regions have funds earmarked for youth-related activities such as sports and recreation. Your city administrator can tell you how to reach your local community foundation executive director.

Consult with faith-based organizations. Many faith traditions have ‘youth ministry’ funds that can be tapped for financial assistance supporting their members (especially children) in healthy, wholesome activities. Check with the local leadership of your denomination to see how you might apply for scholarships.

Call the coach. Coaches can sometimes be the best source of information. They will know how other children and families have paid for sports participation, and they are always willing to share information that can help others take part.

Check with human services organizations. If your child has an intellectual, physical, neurological, psychological or other challenge, check with your service provider. If you do not currently work with an agency, contact your county department of human services.

Consider a new (and less costly) sport. You may want to steer your children to a new or different sport that is not as expensive as the one they first suggest. If $900 (or more) is unrealistic, look for a new outlet for their athletic energy and interests that is less expensive. Weigh the costs of each sport and you will still have options for your kids. There are so many to choose from, and they may just find something new to try and enjoy!

If your family is already on some type of government assistance, you can often have sports fees covered as well.  Check with your local school to ask them about opportunities. In addition, families with more than one child participating or with a child involved in multiple sports may be eligible for a discount.  In fact, some schools even have a maximum amount that families have to pay, regardless of how many sports their children play.  Most of the time, there will be caps that keep families from paying too much throughout the season.

More questions to ask …
Does your school have a booster club?
Are there fundraisers available to help kids earn money?
Are their families with older children who have used equipment/uniforms they might sell at a discount or even give to younger kids going into the same sports?
Can you set up a carpool with other parents to lower transportation costs to/from games and practices?

Are there community-based stores that might donate (or provide ‘at cost’) snacks for game day?

Another great money saver might come from used sporting equipment. Remember to be very careful with used safety equipment, like helmets and pads. It’s critical that they are not cracked or damaged in a way that might diminish their effectiveness. However, clothing, shoes, playing equipment and even safety articles in good condition can be found at very affordable prices.

Check the classified ads in local and regional newspapers as well as online. In fact, one online community, Swap Me Sports, allows people to buy, sell, donate and find sports equipment without any fees. You can start looking right now at
We all want our kids to participate in activities that are healthy and that help them develop a good work ethic as well as promote positive relationships with themselves and with others. Playing sports can certainly do all those things and more for our children. But sports participation can sometimes wreak havoc on the family’s budget.
When you find yourself wondering how to manage the cost of youth sports participation, remember to follow the steps, ask the questions, and research the options we’ve provided in this article. Then go enjoy watching your kids at play!

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