Kids and Youth Sports

Yes, I know it’s July.  I know school just ended and the school sports season is just a speck on the horizon. . .

Photo by Mahdi Abdulrazak

Remember on last week’s menu plan when I told you I had become an MVP Generation Go Ambassador for MVP Health Care and that each week for 8 weeks I’d be talking about a different topic and giving away a $50 Giftcard?  Well this week’s topic is “Youth Sports” and honestly-it isn’t too early to be thinking about it.

MVP Generation Go wants to encourage all kids to get out there and get active, and sports are a great way to do that!

Photo by Jerry Wong

I don’t think there is anyone out there who would argue with the fact that participating in sports is good for children.  The evidence continues to mount that American children are not getting enough exercise-and team sports are a great way to exercise while having fun.  Sports also have many other benefits and can teach teamwork, good sportsmanship, the benefits of practice, and how to cope with disappointment.  Don’t downplay that last one–we don’t always win in life and it’s a valuable coping skill to learn.

So if we all know that sports are so good for kids, why aren’t all of our kids in sports?  The two biggest reasons for not participating in sports are the cost and the lack of interest from the kids themselves.


Photo by Elyce Feliz

There is no doubt about it, sports can be expensive, but they don’t have to be.  There are ways to be frugal while participating in sports.

1.  Buy Sports Equipment Used.

As a frugal gal I always feel why pay full price for new when you can pay a fraction of the price for used!  While there are stores that specialize in used sports equipments (I believe one is called “Play it Again”, there may be more) there are many other ways to find used equipment.  Check out your local Craigslist, check your thrift stores, cruise the yard sales, ask other parents if they have stuff to share or sell, or even post about what you need on Facebook!

2.  Buy Sports Equipment on Sale.

This is sort of a no brainer!  Keep an eye out for sales, or even ask the associates at your favorite sporting goods store when the items you are looking for typically go on sale.  If you know that you child will be playing the same sport for several years, you may be able to hit after season sales and purchase for the next year or even two.

A note regarding equipment from Greg Dashnaw, Head Athletic Trainer at Siena College:

It is extremely important for everyone involved in sports to have proper fitting gear. Your performance and development on the field of play can be affected by your equipment. Two examples would be:

1. Proper fitting footwear. Brand new sneakers, turf shoes or cleats that are not broken in can cause blisters. This can cause you to miss practice and game participation. Old shoes that are too big or too small can cause you to change your gait, this could lead to other injuries.

2. Helmets that are too big are poor protection and can lead to injury if it slides down and blocks your vision. Ones that are too tight can cause headaches.

It is important to have someone that is knowledgeable about the equipment that you need for your sport help you pick out the right size and get the right fit.

3.  Volunteer for a Discount.

I’m lucky-sports teams for kids in our town are heavily subsidized by a longstanding Joint Recreation Committee that holds a couple of really big fundraisers a year-so participating in youth sports is free (although donations are always welcome).  I know this isn’t the case everywhere and that a lot of folks have to pay a registration fee for their kids to be in sports.  If this is the case in your area they may have a discount for parents who volunteer in the program-why not ask?  If they don’t have a program who knows, your question may spur them to start!

4.  Ask about Scholarships.

If you are truly in such financial need that you cannot afford the registration/sports fees at all, ask if there are scholarships available.

Lack of Interest

Of course the other big obstacle to getting kids engaged in sports is the kids themselves.  Let’s face it-if your kids were already begging to participate (and don’t get me wrong, many kids do) you wouldn’t need to read this post!

Photo by Caramelody

1.  Know Your Kid

Not every sport is for every kid.  Take a look at your kid-do they seem to enjoy group activities or do they prefer doing their own thing?  My daughter, Princess, is 10 and although she has always been very social I realized several years ago that the activities she prefers when left to her own devices are ones where either she gets to be in charge of the group or she is acting on her own.  That has carried through to her preferences in sports–she really didn’t like the idea of being on a big team like soccer or softball, but she loves swimming and wants to try tennis. . . both activities that are based more on an individual.  Matching your kid up to a sport that fits their personality is much more likely to result in them being interested.

2.  Know What’s Appropriate

There is a great article over at the Mayo Clinic website “Children and Sports: Choices for all Ages” that gives great advice on what types of activities are appropriate for what age groups.  Choosing appropriately is especially important with younger children–you don’t want to frustrate them!

3. Know What’s Available

Photo by JBLM PAO

Don’t assume that the team sports available through your school are the only sports out there.  If your child doesn’t make the cut for a school team, or is interested in a sport that your school doesn’t offer, take a look around!  Ask the Phys Ed teachers if they know of other options, talk to other parents, call your local YMCA, YWCA, Google the name of the sport and the name of your town. . . You may find that karate, fencing, tennis, swimming, crew or other “a-typical” sports are available in your area.

4. Try It Out

It’s intimidating for a kid to be signed up for a 2 or 3 month season of a sport that they aren’t even sure they are going to like.  Some kids might decide that it’s better not to try at all rather than commit.  Look for ways to introduce your child to new sports in your area-many times you can sign up for a short camp, a clinic or even lessons in various sports. For example, MVP Health Care sponsored a free lacrosse clinic in June–who knows what is going on near you!

5.  Play at Home

For a truly frugal alternative, why not organize an event of your own!  Get some friends together to play soccer, basketball or baseball (on a scale appropriate to their skill level).  You can even just play a bit with your kid in your own backyard-just make sure it’s a fun time and not a series of failures and criticisms, especially for a younger kid.  Playing and enjoying a game at home may lead to a child wanting to participate at school.


Now on to the fun part-today’s giveaway! This giveaway starts today, July 11th and ends at midnight EST on Friday July 15th.  Winners will be announced in next Monday’s MVP Generation Go post.

To enter, we would like to know how you prepare for your children’s sporting events, how you ensure sports safety, how you make sure everyone is a team player, or how you encourage being a good sport! Your comment sharing your favorite tip is  your entry.

For an additional entry you can:

Tweet your youth sports tip with #GenerationGo and #YouthSports included in the tweet (one entry).

Don’t forget to head on over to the MVP Generation Go Facebook page and give them a “like” to see all the great posts by the other Ambassadors-and to see their gift card giveaways as well!

*****This is a sponsored post*****

DISCLOSURE: I am an MVP Generation Go ambassador.  MVP Has provided me with compensation for this post.  My participation is voluntary and my opinion is always my own.  The $50 Gift Card for this giveaway was provided by Kids Fun Plaza

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  1. Melanie says

    so far my son is only into soccer (he is 6) but we are looking into a baseball league for next spring/summer…. we have found that prices for recreational soccer vary quite a bit, city sponsored teams can be as cheap as $40/season, whereas clubs can be hundreds of dollars (we are doing our local city rec team)..

    For me poor sportsmanship is a big no-no, we see other kids throw themselves on the fields and make huge scenes and I flat out tell my son, if you are a poor sport, you will NOT get to play in the next game… there have been a few times he has expressed disappointment about the outcome of the game on the way home, but as long as he does so respectfully, I am ok with that.

  2. Karina House says

    I try to listen to my kids about what they are interested in, and let them have exposure to it. I’m not trying to raise professional athletes – just grown ups who enjoy being physically active and trying new things. I let my son try fencing, and when she’s older might consider synchronized swimming for my daughter.

  3. says

    What a great post Jenn. I’m always so proud of the amazing content you put out there. On a personal note, my problem is that my kids get really excited about a sport, then I register them for the year but end up wasting my money because they lose interest afterwards. It’s happened twice already. So now I end up paying more (for monthly rate) and not take advantage of the yearly rate discount. But at least I don’t run the risk.

  4. says

    Thanks for the great tips!! And thanks for your sweet comments about my lemonade stand, and stopping by our little ol’ blog last week!! Looks like you guys are having a fun summer!

  5. says

    Our little ones are too little for organized sports right now…although some parents probably would have their two year old in organized sports! We are outside of the norm in this because we won’t be encouraging our kids to get into tons of sports. So many of our friends have kids that are in 2-4 sports (almost always overlapping at least two of them) and have kids that start and stop sports like crazy. Again, we aren’t there yet, but we will have a 1 sport/year rule and the child will need to be committed to the entire season. They only have to complete that one year, but we are very anti-quitting things part way through and want to pass that on to our kids. If they show amazing talent and need/want to seriously pursue a sport (like my husband did with his musical instrument) then we’ll make the financial and time investment as a family to help them year round if needed. However, if it is just for fun (like track was for me) we won’t push for more.

    And maybe in 5 years we’ll have a whole different set of ‘rules’ but so far this is what we are set on! We want to keep it fun and keep them ‘kids’ as long as possible! Just playing is important to us (not sports necessarily) and often our friends’ kids can’t come over to play because they are too busy playing sports and being so scheduled…seems sad to me.

    Thanks for the giveaway,

  6. Emily says

    To promote sportsmanship in my children we always make them finish any season that they start. We do not allow them to be a quitter no matter what. We explain that if they quit the team in the middle of the season that they will be letting their team down.

  7. Liann S says

    My daughter is only 3 and is just beginning to try a few sports. I have learned a few valuable lessons from observing how my sister handles her 2 children and sports. She allows them to do any sport they want to whether they can affort it or not. They are now 9 and 12 and still do 3-4 sports a year. I feel they are not really committed to any sport and do it because their friends are. I am going to be cautious of this and help my young daughter excel at a sport she loves and is committed to.

  8. says

    My daughter always worries about her team losing when playing volleyball and I always encourage her that as long as they do their best, then there are no losers and just try to have fun.
    tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

  9. Lanie says

    We play sports together as a family, and that really does teach them the “rules” of the games and it teaches them that they can’t win all the time!
    We also always volunteer to help coach. I believe this helps too!

  10. Christine Morrison says

    We buy cleats and pads second hand. We put the word out to family and friends (if it’s a sport they’ve never tried before) and ask to borrow gear. We look around for local pick up leagues/homeschool co-ops, many let you join their group for minimal cost. Lots of athletics are free: biking, swimming, hiking even tossing a ball in the yard. This fall we’re going to try Geogaching/letterboxing along with our hikes. We try to keep in mind that consistent exercise and organized sports are not necessarily the same thing.

  11. says

    My son is in summer/fall baseball (two separate activities) and outgrows his uniform and equipment almost yearly. Last year he needed a new baseball bat – you can spend as little ($10-$15 at Target/Walmart) or $100’s at a sports equipment store. We went to a second hand shop and found a $150 bat (new) for $35 (used). He was thrilled (and paid for it with his own allowance).

    I teach him that none of the kids on his team (including himself) are major league players – they are 12 year olds just trying to have fun. He should always strive to do his best, but not to get down on himself (or his team mates) when they make mistakes. Have fun, and build each other up!

    My daughter has cycled through several activities – cheer leading, gymnastics, and dance. Dance is the only one that has really stuck, and even that one she was considering quitting as she doesn’t like being in a situation where she doesn’t know anyone. We asked one of her best friend’s parents if she would like to join, and she did. Together they had a blast, and made a ton of new friends together!

  12. says

    Please remember, for many of us, to add in cost of COMMUTE to sports. Not everyone lives in a suburban youth sports paradise! Then there are the hidden costs: the cost of the APPROVED snack, the cost of going to special practice facilities because the coach says it SO FUN! And it’s only $75 an hour!! And the cost of the stupid photo package that your kid MUST have! And the RIGHT sports bag that they MUST have! And the GATORADE that they MUST have or else you’re risking dehydration!!! And the cost of after-game ICE CREAM cones at the areas trendiest, most expensive ice cream place. And the cost of the sports medicine specialist when needed………

    We got off this horrible roller coaster. My kids had way more fun and got way more exercise making obstacle courses in the yard, climbing our trees, playing soccer with each other, playing basketball with each other, going for long walks with me and the dog. We’ve never, ever looked back. Today my daughter IS in cheerleading in high school–outrageous cost is covered by a dance-fundraiser. She loves it. They only compete at the local Fair. Most of my friends who “invested” in “travel” teams have seen their money, spent in hopes of a college scholarship lost to burn-out and injuries. Yes, it’s adorable to watch 4 year olds play soccer, but one family I know nearly lost their 14 year old to suicide–he was so SICK of soccer and they wouldn’t listen! Why wouldn’t they listen?? THEIR social life was wrapped up in HIS soccer!

    In the 1972 Olympics Americans were HORRIFIED by the Soviet Block kids-sports system. Today we have it.

  13. says

    I have three kids in three different sports and recently retired from coaching. My tips:

    1. Talk to your child about the commitment of being on a team before the season starts – what is expected and what they can expect to get out of it.
    2. Leaving the coaching to the coach. Don’t bark corrections at your child while they are practicing or playing a game under the direction of the coach. You are paying to have your child be COACHED by someone other than yourself. Your job is to offer encouragement and display unconditional love.
    3. Get involved. Youth sports need volunteers in order to operate. The best way for you to learn about your child’s sport is to volunteer – whether it is timing at a swim meet, being the team mom for t-ball, or serving on the parent organization board, you are needed.
    4. Have fun!!

  14. says

    With 4 kids 13 and under we have absolutely done our share of kids sports. My most important piece of advice is to let them play what they are interested in (within reason of course). Trying to force a sport on a child because you the parent think it will be good rarely works.

    I also think taking the summer to try a new sport out via a short session or a week long camp is a great way to get your child involved and let them find out more about the sport without a huge commitment. My oldest is trying out gymnastics right now for a 9 week summer session. Had we started in the fall we would have had to commit to the school year. He has already opted not to continue with this.

    When it comes to attending a sporting event – be flexible in your time (things change) and understanding of the coaches (likely other parents) and umpires (frequently middle school kids trying to earn some money). It is just a game people! No need to get huffy about a missed called.

  15. says

    As far as safety is concerned, please be sure that a coach or assistant coach has all of the following training: CPR, first aid, training on concussions. I know that this may sound extreme but soccer – which many consider to be a good youth sport as cost can be negligible (shorts and shoes, ball and shin guards, mouthguard) – is a sport that has a lot of head injuries. There are head bands that can be bought to help prevent concussion – mild brain trauma – injuries. The problem is that most coaches do not know the symptoms of mild concussions.

  16. Mari says

    I give my son apple slices with peanut or almond butter before a game or practice. I encourage him to drink water or gatorade before and during and after activity.

  17. says

    We have always encouraged our kids to be active. But that means I have to be an active part too. Helping them practice…making it fun family time…GOING to each event…and celebrating after each game. It has instilled such a love for “playing” in our home!

  18. Sarah Sparks says

    Just remind them that it’s only a game and there are always more chances to practice and win!

  19. Donna Moren says

    I have always let me kids try what they wanted to in the sports arena, but we also have a frisbee and some other lawn games too. I want them to understand that being healthy and being active are not necessarily found only in organized sports but can be in a park or on their bike, at playdates and in the local pool. I love to watch soccer and acrobatics, and I also like to watch them running through the sprinkler in the yard with the dog!

  20. says

    Hi Jenn, Thanks for a great article! Another excellent option through the year that many churches offer is Upward Sports. My grandkids have played on their basketball, soccer, and flag football teams and love them. Open to all, their primary focus is Godly sportsmanship and each week they have Bible memory verses for the children to memorize and share at the practices. Many of them also offer scholarships and EVERY child that wants to play gets to play. Having been one of those kids who was always picked last since my sports skills weren’t as good as my bookworm skills, I REALLY appreciate that. You can easily get more info about them at and I can’t recommend them highly enough.


  1. […] DISCLOSURE: I am an MVP Generation Go ambassador.  MVP Has provided me with compensation for this post.  My participation is voluntary and my opinion is always my own.  The $50 Gift Card for this giveaway was provided by Kids Fun Plaza.  Make sure to check out my other MVP Generation Go Amabassador posts:  Meal Planning and Kids and Youth Sports […]

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