For parents, the costs of youth sports can add up. There are fees for leagues and competitions, plus expenses for equipment, training and uniforms. How can you keep the spending under control? Mark Hyman, the author of “The Most Expensive Game in Town,” has some advice:
• Start an equipment exchange. Hyman has used this himself in youth leagues. “Families bring us their used, outgrown, no-longer-needed baseball pants, lacrosse sticks, soccer shoes, etcetera,” he explained. “We then make them available to others at no charge.”
• “Don’t throw away money on sports stuff for kids under the age of 3,” Hyman said. “There is a startling array of DVDs, leagues and gym training targeting the youngest kids, babies and toddlers.” Experts have found that none of these items gives children an edge in sports down the road, Hyman said.
• More isn’t necessarily better. Long seasons can result in kids getting burned out and suffering overuse injuries. Hyman recalled meeting a softball team from Louisiana, made up of 7- and 8-year-old girls, that during one summer made 11 overnight road trips and played 70 games. “The parents were spending upwards of $10,000 per child for the experience,” he said.
• Think twice about buying equipment that kids will soon outgrow. “A 12-year-old will get one, possibly two, years’ use from a baseball bat,” he said. “The same is true of other expensive gear, skates, helmets and sticks. Before spending $280 on a baseball bat, keep in mind that your child will be using a different one next season. Then shop for a cheaper model.”
• Avoid spending money on sports drinks and energy drinks. Citing research by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Hyman noted that water is almost always the best drink for young athletes. Energy drinks can be loaded with caffeine, and sports drinks come with unneeded extra calories, he said.