The Least and Most Expensive Sports for Kids

Youth sports childrens football team wearing black and red jerseys

Each year, American families spend billions of dollars supporting their children’s athletics. Not only do they want their children to be healthy and active; they use sports help their children make friends and build confidence. However, the rising costs of youth sports are leaving some unable to partake in the fun, and other families overstretched financially.

Not all sports are expensive! Those sports that require little equipment, and are not played at the competitive level, can be affordable ranging from $150 -$500 annually with all expenses (registration fees and equipment costs) included. Naturally, the ‘cheaper’ sports are those that involve low start-up costs for required uniforms and gear. These sports include:

  • Track and Field
  • Swimming
  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Gymnastics

The most expensive sports will have you forking out a few hundred, or even thousands of dollars in registration fees and equipment before your child even gets to play. These more expensive sports include:

  • Hockey
  • Football
  • Baseball
  • Skiing/Snowboarding
  • Horseback Riding

Why are youth sports so expensive?

Several factors play into the rising costs of sports:

Level of Play
At the competitive level, all sports become costly. Often the coaches are paid more, the uniforms become fancier, and the registration fees increase along with the commitment level. All those reasons and more can turn a few hundred dollars a year into a few thousand.

As your child gets older it is impossible to forgo the rising cost of equipment. And while you can buy used gear in some cases, some organizations will require participants to buy specific brands or equipment branded to the organization (e.g. a baseball glove monogrammed with a team logo).

Competition & Tournament Fees
All teams must pay to compete for medals and trophies. In sports like hockey, arena rentals cost the tournament organizers, which in turn cost the players (or more likely their parents!). In gymnastics, meets often require new leotards and warm-ups prior to a competition.

If your child will be competing at the travel level, you will also need to account for the fact that travel costs may or may not be included in the registration fees. If you plan to drive to watch your child compete, the cost of gasoline, eating out at team dinners, and overnight accommodations will likely come out of your pocket.

Sports at the highest-level can turn from one weekly practice into 5-days-a-week training regiments. Investment in private coaching or personal trainers to improve your child’s game can range from $75-$150 an hour.

Where to look for affordable options:

Playing at the community-level rather than with private organizations will help reduce the cost of sports.

Making the school team is ideal, as there are usually no registration fees besides the cost of a uniform if they aren’t already paid for. Travel – during school hours – is usually covered as well, or are cheaper as the cost of a school bus rental is split between the school and the team.

Community Center
The local city center or community center like the YMCA are options available at a reduced cost if your child would like to play a sport like basketball, volleyball, or swimming on a drop-in basis. While they may not have a professional trainer available, it’s a great way to keep them active and their skills sharp when they want extra practice.

You can also check your local library for additional information related to youth sports.

There is no doubt that sports lead to a healthier lifestyle, but before making a serious investment in an expensive sport, it’s best to evaluate your options. Compare the cost of the sport with other items in your household budget before signing up. Could the money potentially be better spent on a college fund? Are there alternative, less expensive activities that your child might enjoy more? Take some time and research to find a sport best suited for your child and budget before you get engulfed in the expensive world of youth sports.

Additional Resources:

What to Do When You Can’t Afford Your Kid’s Sport:

How to Deal with the High Cost of Children’s Sports:

The Most Economical Sports For Kids:

How To Afford Youth Sports On A Budget:

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