In many parts of the country, rec leagues are dying out as girls get older in age – and more and more travel or tournament leagues are born. For so many families, travel and tournament ball is a daunting endeavor simply because the reality is it costs a lot of money.
Not only do you have team expenses, but you have actual travel expenses, may need to take time off work, will have to pay for lessons so your daughter can keep up with her peers competitively and stay in the game – and a host of other expenses outside of just providing the equipment she needs.
Sadly, many youth sports have become a privilege in today’s world and there are a lot of kids not playing sports they love because to be frank, families cannot afford it. So today, we share some tips from the trenches about keeping costs low and saving money.
- Pay as you Go Teams! While we agree that families should foot some sort of fee to join a team, we disagree that the fees today are as much as they are. Yes, we know that tournaments are expensive. We know that uniforms are expensive. But many of the ‘fees’ that teams are charging today are just absolutely ridiculous. If you coach or a manage a team, we suggest taking a JOIN fee of $50-$75 that will pay for the team insurance, the game balls needed, scorebooks and line up cards etc. And after that, we suggest charging parents per tournament. Essentially dividing the amount of tournament (and sanction fee) by the amount of players who will be playing and collecting the practice before the tournament or the morning of. It’s much easier to come up with $25-$50 a weekend than it is to come up with thousands of dollars for tournaments in advance. (SIDE NOTE) We recently paid $592 for a team ‘uniform package’ that would have cost us $260.00 had we purchased the items ourselves. So, Where is that extra money going???
- Pack Coolers and Snacks. Organize team lunches where your team grills out and everyone brings items to share. Not only does this save a ton of money and running around town for snacks or visiting the concession stand, it is great for team bonding. If you are at a park that only allows Team Coolers – then set up your buffet in the parking lot. Eating out adds up, especially if you are a family that has younger children who tag along. May we also mention that the crappy foods they serve at concession stands and fast food are not doing much for your athletes health or performance.
- Field rentals can be expensive. Teach your girls responsibility AND lower costs by asking if the field you are using will allow you to do some maintenance in return for rental services. We recently did this with a church field, and it worked out great AND showed the girls just how much work goes into keeping the fields they play on (and take for granted) in good shape. You’d be surprised how many buckets of rocks can be picked up and how much trash is left behind.Another idea is to share a field with a team in your area of the same age.
- Savings Catcher App. If you can get all the families on your team to donate their Walmart receipts for the savings catchers app – the dollars add up quick and can go to providing the team with waters, gatorades, fruit and snacks for tournaments. Just open one account for the team and start collecting receipts. (There are restrictions of how many receipts you can scan per day etc. but this can work out well.)You can also ask local businesses to donate waters or snacks to your team and you might be surprised how many are willing to do so.
- SCRIMMAGE! SCRIMMAGE! SCRIMMAGE! Yes, its fun to play tournaments and the atmosphere cannot be beat. But a lot of the time you are traveling only to play teams that you played the weekend before, or teams that are in your hometown. Save some money, improve your team and set up some scrimmages WITH UMPIRES, and the only fees will be the umpire fees. All it takes is 3 teams to make up a small round robin event and the cost would be minimal compared to attending a 1-2 day tournament. (**SIDE NOTE.. approach umpires at tournaments and get their cellphone number as many of them love to work small (and shorter) tournament or scrimmage games.
- Opt out of the stay to play. Most organizations do have an opt out fee, and typically the fee is much less divided among families than the cost of lodging you would find on your own would be. We are not big fans of stay to play events, however we do understand their objective – but today we are discussing saving money.
- New bats are great and they make a statement. But there are deals out there by the truckloads for gently used equipment including bats, cleats, gloves, catchers gear etc. Your daughter will grow quickly and quickly grow OUT of their items, and there is no shame in purchasing ‘new to you’ equipment. AND….if you are purchasing an item for the entire team, always call a company ahead and ask for a TEAM DISCOUNT! This is a great way to save on packages of items.
- Flashy uniforms and matching bat bags are nice! Girls like to look good. The truth is that they don’t make you play any better, and most of that stuff is unnecessary. Instead of starting out that way – make those upgrades an incentive for your team to do well and continue to improve. Plus, with the amount of team jumping that goes on from season to season, you will end up with a lot of items that will just sit in your garage when its all said and done. Uniforms do NOT have to be expensive! If your team HAS the money from fundraisers then GO FOR IT, but if you are going to be asking parents to fork over big bucks for uniforms then you might want to reconsider.
- Budget! Teach your girls that you spend a lot of money (and time) on softball and that they need to be a proactive part of saving and budgeting money so they can have the opportunity to play. After all, this is an EXTRA expense and far too many of the kids take it for granted. If they want to purchase shirts at events, make them use their allowance. In other words, make them accountable to – it is important that they know you sacrifice for them to be able to play.
Got some more tips? We would love to hear what other tips you have for saving money and making youth sports affordable!
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