The cost of youth sports continues to increase with the goals parents are setting for their young athletes and as competition gets more heated.
Loftier goals + stiffer competition=more money spent.
The question you as a sports parent must ask yourself is this: how much is too much?
I’ve read stories of parents who won’t go over $1,000 per child per year and parents who end up paying thousands of dollars per year for one child to specialize in a sport.
I’m not going to tell you how much you should spend on your child to play sports just like I wouldn’t presume to suggest how much you should spend on family vacation or on decorating your house. However, I am going to ask you some hard questions that will guide your thinking as you make decisions about how much your family should spend on youth sports.
Does your child really have the drive or passion?
It takes a lot of determination and hard work to make it to the college level in a sport, on any level, not just D-1, even to make the high school team.
My oldest daughter grew up playing softball and always said she wanted to play in college, so when she was a freshman in high school, we sat down with her and asked her one simple question: did she really want to play in college? And was she willing to work hard to make that happen? If we saw that she was doing her part to work hard, we would do all we could afford to help her achieve success.
I am happy to report that she played four years of D-3 college softball, and had a wonderful college experience.
But it was not because we forced her; it was she who put in the hours of catching and hitting practice to make it to the college level. It was her dream, and her passion helped it become reality.
Does your child have the skill?
Here’s where many parents need a severe reality check. We all see our kids as great players–and sometimes we are seeing what we want to see, not what is real. This is when we need other eyes to help us see what is real and what is not.
If you are the only one seeing your child’s amazing abilities, then it’s time for a reality check. His skills may not be so amazing after all. And if that’s the case, if no one sees the potential, or the skill in your child’s ability, I mean NO ONE, then you might want to reconsider spending a lot of time and money on his dreams, because if the athletic ability is simply not there, then it’s just a fantasy.
Is the cost of youth sports going to hurt your family?
Take an honest look at your budget and determine if you can afford the high costs you are considering without hurting your family. Saying yes to one thing usually means saying no to another. Can you say no to that other thing without hurting your family?
Perhaps it means saying no to a family vacation that you’ve always taken together or to private school for your kids. Is spending a lot of money on youth sports really worth giving those things up?
If finances are not an issue because you make plenty of money, perhaps the question should be: even though I can spend this money on my kids’ sports, is it really the wise thing to do? Just because you can do something, doesn’t meant you should. Be wise with your spending (here’s a post on how to save money at Target). It will not only save you money, it will teach your kids good stewardship.
What is your willingness to spend big on youth sports communicate to your child?
Unless you sit down and talk to your child about why you’re choosing to spend this money on them–i.e. you want him to have a good time, improve his skills, and be challenged–your generosity may be perceived in other ways:
Mom and Dad are pushing their dreams on me.
Mom and Dad expect a lot out of me; I better perform!
Mom and Dad want me to get a college scholarship; I hope I don’t disappoint them.
Whenever our kids wanted to play on a travel team or go to a sports camp or get special training, we’d have a conversation that went something like this:
If this is something you really want to do to improve your skills and have fun, then we will pay for it. If it will help get you closer to your goal of playing in college, then let’s do it. Don’t do it to please us or to keep up with the other kids who play, do it because it is truly something you want to do and are willing to commit to it.
Is this something my child can help pay for?
Our kids were never really in a position to help pay for their sports activities because they were too busy playing sports to have jobs, but I’ve known many families who required their kids to help with the costs. If your child has a way to earn money, it’s not a bad idea to have them help pay. They usually appreciate it more when they’ve invested.
Here’s the bottom line with it comes to spending money on youth sports
Whatever you do, don’t spend money on youth sports because you feel you have to, because you feel your child expects you to, because you are hoping beyond hope that your child will get a full-ride scholarship, or because you are trying to prove something to your child’s coach or to your own peer group.
Only spend your money on things for your child that will help him become the kind of adult you want him to become.
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