Save Money on Kids’ Sports

Our son started a new school this year.

The football coach explained via email that all equipment is provided for the players.UsedEquipment

I asked my son to email the coach back and clarify if that meant cleats as well.  This caused a discussion.

“Mom, he said ALL equipment!”

“Really?” I replied.  “Because it seems to me that it would be pretty tough to provide enough different types of shoes to fit the feet of 30 different teenage boys.  I mean, you’re not going to use someone else’s jock strap are you? I’m pretty sure he meant pads, helmet and uniform.”

The kid’s response was to email the coach.  A coach I’d never met, mind you, at a school that was brand new to us.

“Do I need to bring cleats?  Because my mom has a problem with used equipment.”

This, I thought, was not a good way to start off at a new school.  I could just picture the coach reading the email and thinking I was one of THOSE moms whose kid had to have everything brand spanking new.  That my kid couldn’t be subjected to used equipment.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you realize this is exactly NOT who I am.  As a matter of fact, I can only think of one piece of brand new sports equipment we’ve ever purchased for our kids and that was a helmet.  I don’t buy used helmets.  I used to buy used helmets until several other players started getting concussions and a team parent did research on helmets.  After that, it was only new, super strong helmets that cost as much as a car payment.  I suggest the same for any kid, by the way, not just my own.

The point of this blog isn’t to point out my current coach issues, although that will probably be another post, it’s to help you to realize that you can save money on kids’ sports equipment by investigating the local Play It Again Sports or other used sporting goods store in your area.  We have several. The key to making this work for your family, however, is really paying attention to the seasons and selling before the season starts (when the stock is low) and then buying at the start of the season (when the stock is high) so you have the biggest selection. Of course if you can wait until the end of the season to buy for next year, that’s even better, but I’ve found in the land of boys and sports I can never guess what size they’ll be next season. Honestly, I’ve never been able to remember to sell their gear prior to the season beginning either, but I know you’re a whole lot smarter and more organized than I am.  I’ve even heard there are some parents who sell gear early for a coming season while buying the clearance stock for the season they’re in but figuring out how that works just makes my head hurt.

A few key points:

  • Sometimes, saving money isn’t worth it.  Like I said, I don’t try to save money on used helmets.  I’m just not comfortable not knowing how many hits that helmet has already taken while protecting someone else’s brain.
  • If your football team wears white pants (why any football team wears white pants is beyond me), buy two pair.  One for practice and one for games.  Theoretically the pants would get washed after each practice to keep stains at a minimum but let’s be real.  If you have one game pair you can wash them and bleach the heck out of them and they’ll look good for games.  Daily practice pants won’t stand up to that level of care and attention.
  • You can save a lot of money on footwear.  Skates, cleats, etc.  There is an added bonus that they’ve been slightly broken in and are less likely to be stiff.  Just to be sure, have your kids wear them for short periods of time before a game or extended practice to make sure they don’t rub or feel worn in an uncomfortable way.
  • If you are trying to sell back a helmet or other piece of equipment that has decals or writing on it (when the kids were little, the coaches would put a piece of masking tape on the front of the helmet with their names on it), take some goof off and get it good and clean before selling it back.  It will make a big difference in the price you will receive.
  • Likewise, if you have smelly gear, make sure to give it a shot of Febreeze and some time outside.  Super cold weather also works as an odor eliminator.  In Minnesota it isn’t uncommon to see hockey or other sports equipment outside on decks during our sub-zero cold stretches. Works like a charm. For those of you in other areas of the country, I suppose a freezer could work, but I’m not sure how I’d get football pads in a freezer full of venison.

Oh, and if your athlete balks at the idea of used equipment, you can always put the kid on an equipment budget.  Try giving them enough money to buy a few things new, but requiring them to buy some things used.  You’ll quickly see where their priorities lie.

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