How to save money on the sport your kid loves
| 3 min read
From gear to registration fees to traveling for tournaments, playing on a soccer team isn’t cheap. On average, families spend $537 a year for one child to play soccer, according to an Aspen Institute Project Play report. While soccer isn’t the most expensive sport for kids to play — that would be ice hockey — it is increasingly out of reach for many families.
So how do you stay in the game? Here are seven ways to bring down the cost of playing youth soccer.
After-school and recreational soccer programs are much less expensive than club soccer — some may even be free — and they offer many of the same benefits: an opportunity for your child to be active and exercise, learn to be part of a team and develop skills and discipline.
Non-profit soccer leagues are a high-quality, low-cost alternative to traditional competitive soccer leagues. They are often run by volunteers, which reduces costs. Some non-profit leagues may also be connected to churches and other organizations, which subsidize the expense for families.
If your child wants to play soccer competitively, check if the league offers financial aid. Many offer scholarships, covering 25 percent to 90 percent of the cost. Some leagues offer need-blind tryouts. Kids who make the team can then ask for a waiver or registration discount, submitting paperwork such as a recent pay stub and tax filing.
Some soccer leagues offer a discount for parents who get involved — especially if they volunteer to coach. Erika Holmes, a mom of a 7-year-old in Tampa, Florida, who was reluctant to coach at first, estimates that she’s saved about $500 by volunteering to coach her son’s recreation soccer team for the past three seasons.
In addition to coaches, soccer leagues also need enough referees to officiate every weekend’s games. Parents and teenagers as young as 12 can train to be referees, earning from $15 to $50 per game.
Refereeing a few games on the weekend — ideally on your home field to minimize travel —can significantly offset participation fees over the course of a season.
Let other parents know if you need soccer gear. Kids outgrow soccer cleats and even shin guards quickly, so many parents are eager to pass them on and clear the clutter from their home. One great resource is your local community’s Buy Nothing group, as is the neighborhood site Nextdoor.
If you can’t find free used soccer gear, the next best thing is to buy it at a steep discount. Check out kids’ consignment stores, Goodwill, garage and rummage sales. Most equipment still has a lot of life left. Lindsey Hunter Lopez, a mom of two in Los Angeles, picked up a used soccer goal through a local buy and sell group. She’s also sold her child’s too-small cleats, enabling her to buy the next pair.