If you’re a parent, chances are good that you spend most weekends prowling the sidelines of a soccer field or chilling on the bleachers in an ice hockey arena. That’s because according to the State of Play report from the Aspen Institute, more than half of children played a team sport at least one time during 2017.
But there’s often a cost that goes far beyond the registration fees (and your once relaxing Saturday mornings), as many teams require players to supply their own gear. If you’ve ever geared up a young player, you likely have already realized it can be costly, ranging from shorts and shin guards for soccer players (at the low end) to a $2,500 outlay for a baseball catcher on a traveling team (at the sky-high level).
The issue is compounded by the fact that kids tend to get bigger every single season and they often change their minds about what sports they want to play, prompting parents to shell out cash for gear multiple times and at multiple ages.
But there’s no reason to forgo the benefits that team sports offer or the opportunity for kids to try different things as their tastes change. Here are six ways you can score top-quality equipment for less.
Youth sports equipment is a great thing to buy used, especially for specialty items that aren’t worn out, like hockey skates, lacrosse sticks and football pads. Other types of gear, like cleats, might have less wear than you would expect because most parents are in the same boat as you. They’re trying to save money and make a little cash off a kid who decided T-ball wasn’t right for them after all.
Check local sites like Craigslist, Nextdoor and your community Facebook page to find gear from kids across town or look at specialty sites like SidelineSwap.com or PlayItAgainSports.com, which also might have a local retail outlet.
Before you buy anything, check with your league to make sure it meets requirements. Baseball bats, for example, come in a wide variety of styles, and Little League instituted a new policy in 2018 with specific guidelines that a bat must conform to, meaning an older bat might be obsolete.
And, of course, take this chance to list and sell your own gently used equipment as well.
Hold a League or Neighborhood Swap
Another option is to organize an equipment swap where parents can bring their size small lacrosse gloves and hope to find the size medium they need this year. Publicize the event during registration and hold it well before the start of the season so everyone can be properly attired by the time the first practice rolls around. You can even incorporate it as part of a fundraiser with a raffle and other activities.
Consider “Cost Per Wear” When Purchasing New
You know how it’s easy to justify the cost of posh black pants because you know they’ll be a go-to wardrobe staple? That same theory can be applied to sports gear that might cost more at first, but is designed to last a long time. Consider baseball mitts, for example. Your child is unlikely to outgrow their mitt each season, plus mitts actually get broken in and better with age. Other examples include skis and lacrosse sticks, which can be used for more than one season, essentially spreading out the purchase price.
Make Your Purchases Work for You
If you’re planning to purchase new, try to find a retailer with a loyalty program. For example, the ScoreCard Rewards program at Dick’s Sporting Goods is unusually generous, with points that accumulate quickly and a policy that often lets you use multiple coupons at once. Members receive coupons, are notified of sales and get a rebate check once they’ve spent a certain amount. Another option is to do your online shopping through a site like Swagbucks.com, where you’ll earn points you can redeem for sporting goods through the rewards store.
Ask Your League What Benefits It Offers
Many youth leagues coordinate special discount days with local retailers where you’ll receive extra savings by shopping during a specific weekend, and coaches might also have coupons sent by sporting goods suppliers. Also, check the website of the athletic association affiliated with your child’s sport, if there is one, as there could be additional coupons or discounts for national retailers that are exclusive to members of the association.
Borrow What You Can
Finally, ask around and see if your child can borrow gear, especially as a first-timer who isn’t sure if they’re going to love the sport. There could be a parent who is saving gear for a future goalie who would be willing to let your son or daughter wear it for a few games to make sure they are all in before you make a big financial expense.
With a little ingenuity and effort it’s possible to score major league savings on top-quality equipment, which will have you cheering, “Two, four, six, eight! What do we appreciate? Great ways to gear up for less!”
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