March 16, 2022 5 min read

Starting your little ones in spring sports keeps them active and teaches them about teamwork and facing different challenges. While it’s a great pursuit, the cost, scheduling, and unrealistic expectations of youth sports can put undue stress on parents, families, and kids. The good news is that there are practical steps you can take to avoid the usual pitfalls, so anyone involved in your kids’ sports gets the most out of it.

Cost: How to Spend Less on Kid’s Sports

cost-calculator
(Photo credit: RODNAE/Pexels)

Remember, your child doesn’t have to participate in every sport, and doing without doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. The cost of youth sports is rising, more than most parents expect. Even sports requiring minimal gear can cost more because of uniforms, entry fees, and travel costs. Aspen Project Play looked at 21 different sports and found that the average cost per sport per child was $693, with some parents spending well above that. Multiply that by the number of sports your child plays and the number of children you have, the cost skyrockets. So, what’s a parent to do? Try these tips:

  • Use quality secondhand or buy used equipment whenever possible.
  • Look for leagues that don’t travel. Traveling is the largest expense many families can eliminate by carefully selecting the leagues their kids compete.
  • Compare leagues and clubs. It’s often not just the sign-up fees. Go beyond upfront costs and see what else is required to avoid unanticipated additional spending.
  • Start slow and simple to gauge interest and talent before spending tons of money on equipment. Some leagues even provide the equipment.
  • Narrow down the number of sports your child plays. Choose one they enjoy or are most interested in vs. buying all sorts of equipment for sports they might not even like.
  • Children can learn the value of money early by contributing in some small way. By setting up a lemonade stand or doing a few paid chores, they’ll build social and entrepreneurial skills and a sense of accomplishment. Be sure to research beforehand, including if permits are required.

Expectations: Getting Grownups and Kids to Agree on Goals  

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(Photo credit: Kampus Productions)

Managing expectations between coaches, parents, and players is an ongoing challenge. Finding common ground and aligning those expectations can go a long way—especially when things don’t go as expected.

  • Speak up but be reasonable. Be upfront when defining expectations and unacceptable behavior to avoid adding stress during the season. Work with your child, the coach, and other parents to agree on what’s reasonable. Being on the same page early is essential to safeguarding each young athlete’s sense of well-being.
  • Don’t expect your kid to go pro. According to the NCAA, there’s only a 0.3-0.4% chance of a pro career among young athletes. And for most kids, it’s about being part of something they love, improving their skills, and having fun –– not starting a lifelong profession.
  • Help them identify their talents. Reinforce the benefits of playing well with others, the importance of good sportsmanship, and giving their best effort.
  • Learning to manage a loss is an important life skill for kids and adults. Losses will happen; nobody’s perfect. Some of the world’s best athletes have learned more from their losses than wins, such as: using failure as fuel; learning from mistakes; staying positive; knowing when to change direction; and most importantly, not giving up.
  • Keep communicating. Knowing how your child continues to feel about their sport –– when they’re stuck, or whether they need a boost or a nudge –– is key to helping them thrive.

Time and Scheduling: Making Youth Sports Schedules Work

Time-scheduling-dad-son-baseball
(Photo credit: Maria Lindsey)

Busy parents are stretched for time. Add a youth sports activity or two to the mix and things turn into frazzled mayhem. Here are a few fixes:

  • Try carpooling. Setting up a group that takes turns hauling kids or treating them after the game can be a blessing and builds camaraderie. It can also free up time when it’s not your turn.
  • Narrowing your kids’ activities to one sport helps. It gives them a chance to become a better player vs. being stretched thin. Resist the temptation to provide them with every experience; you may drive yourself batty, plus your kiddo may burn out.
  • Stay local and look for teams that don’t travel. Youth sports teams that play out-of-town games and travel to huge tournaments require more planning, scheduling, and accommodations. Finding a team close to home, or one that only competes against other local teams, is less time-consuming, especially on weekends, and less costly.
  • Try to balance your child’s life between school, play, sports, and meals. If it’s getting too concentrated in one area, it may be time to reassess.
  • The big calendar is a household staple for a reason. Everyone sees where and when they need to be somewhere in one spot.

Less Stress = More Fun. Getting the Most out of Kids Sports

PodRow-Less-stress-moms

The more stress everyone feels about youth sports, the less fun it becomes. Keeping commitments with minimal stress takes work, especially if you’re competitive by nature. These tips can help.

  • Preparation is everything. Planning and organization go a long way to relieve stress. Use checklists, team apps, reminders, and organizers to keep gear, supplies, and refreshments handy so you get to and from games on time.
  • Don’t let the weather mess up your plans. An Under the Weather® Pod provides shade and protects you from nasty weather and bugs. Better than umbrellas, rain jackets, or canopies, they pop up and fold down in seconds to provide hassle-free comfort and relief. One less thing to worry about, yay!
  • Focus on fun rather than perfection. Yes, we all love to win, but sports are simply a time to burn energy and have fun for many kids. Keeping things positive is just as important to performance and winning. Adding more stress during play can ruin their focus and the sport itself.
  • Engage with the other parents, lend a hand occasionally, and remember the kids are taking their cues from the adults on how to treat others and what good sportsmanship is all about. Support among the parents can also turn into lifelong friendships and keep things light.
  • Find the right level of sports for your kids so they have a chance to grow and succeed. When they’re playing at the right level, they’ll enjoy it more and reap all the rewards by learning what it means to contribute to a team, win or lose.

Closing-kids-taking-5
(Photo credit: Mary Taylor)

And finally—athletes of all ages need time to regroup and reconnect, free of schedules and the stress of competing. An all-sports-all-the-time mentality can heighten stress and limit their potential in other interests and talents. Take time to enjoy other activities as a family. Talk about something else and connect on a different level. Maintaining this balance helps keep each sports season as fun and rewarding as possible.

 

(Cover Image Credit: Kampus Productions)


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