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Saving for Youth Sports: How to Pay for Your Kids to Play

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Youth sports can be excellent character-building activities for children. They instill teamwork, communication and discipline. In addition to physical benefits, children engaged in sports can also reduce stress, enhance cognitive performance, and produce better emotional well-being, according to the U.S. Department of Health.

However, participation in these activities often comes at a high price. Sports costs vary from $191 (track and field) to $2.583 (ice hockey) per year. Inflation is the highest it’s been in 40 years, and its costs are rising. Wintergreen Research predicts that the youth sports industry will grow from $24.9 billion in 2019 to a $77.6 billion industry by 2026.

Our guide to saving for youth sports will help you learn about the costs involved and plan for them before they become financially unbearable.

Youth sports costs vary by sport. Costs include registration fees, equipment, camps, private his lessons and travel expenses. Travel, in particular, can be the most expensive when you factor in fuel, airfare, hotels, meals, and other items. Travel costs average about $196 per sport, according to Project Play, his 2019 research initiative by the Aspen Institute to track youth sports participation and costs. This amount varies greatly from sport to sport. For example, the average field hockey travel cost is $934.

Project Play estimates that families who play sports spend an average of $693 per child per sport each year. Their research also provides averages for different types of sports. For example, swimming costs an average of $786 a year, and skiing costs $2,249 a year. According to this data, a child enrolled in skiing and swimming would cost him $3,035 in one year.

The chart below shows the annual cost of the top 5 most expensive sports.

Key statistics on youth sports spending:

  • Travel is on average the most expensive youth sports expense ($196 per year) followed by equipment ($144) and private lessons ($134). (Project Play)
  • The sports most likely to be inexpensive for families are skateboarding and biking., 38% of parents reported not spending money on skateboards and 33% not spending money on bikes. (project play)
  • for children aged 6-12, only 24% of those with a household income of $25,000 or less played sports regularly, compared to 43% of those with a household income of $100,000 or more. (His 2021 State of Play Report for Aspen Institute)
  • 37% of boys participate in youth sports, 30% of women did. (state of play)
  • Cycling was the most popular sport in 2020, with 18.2% of children aged 6-12, followed by basketball with 14.8%). (state of play)
  • 2019-2020, the sport with the largest decline in participation was swimming (-23.6%). Tennis, on the other hand, had the highest participation rate (37.7%). (state of play)
  • 3 States with the Highest Rates of Sports Participation for Children Ages 6-17 North Dakota (67.4%), Vermont (66%) and New Hampshire (65.8%). (National Survey on Children’s Health 2019-2020)
  • 3 States with the Lowest Rates of Sports Participation for Children Ages 6-17 Louisiana (46%), New Mexico (46%) and Arizona (46.1%). (National Survey on Children’s Health 2019-2020)
  • Schoolwork was reported as the top reason A survey of several areas, including Harlem, New York, found why children don’t play sports. Mobile County, Alabama. Seattle King County, Washington. and Hawaii. (Aspen Institute Community Youth Survey)
  • There is a gap in sports participation of young people in low and high socio-economic schools24.6% of grade 8 students in low socioeconomic schools played sports, compared to 36.1% in high socioeconomic schools. (state of play)

  1. Open a sports savings account and donate regularlyWhen looking for a savings account, make sure it has a high savings rate, no minimum account balance, and no or low monthly fees. Some savings accounts may also offer bonuses that can be donated to sports expense funds.
  2. Set up call forwardingThere are several banking and third-party savings apps, such as Digit and Current, that can automatically move money from your checks to your savings account. Even if you set up automatic transfers to save just $10 every other week, you’ll still save $260 in a year.
  3. Take advantage of travel benefitsMany sports require regular travel. Travel credit cards can offer cash back or redeemable points for hotel stays, car rentals, flights, meals, and more. You can avoid paying interest by simply repaying the balance each month.
  4. See if there is a funding opportunitySome youth sports teams have fundraisers to offset various costs of participation, such as equipment and travel expenses.
  5. Consider low-income or free optionsOrganizations such as Every Kid Sports and the Kids Play USA Foundation work with low-income families to provide resources so that children can play. Local organizations such as the YMCA may also offer opportunities for assistance.
  6. Encourage your child to have a summer jobWashing the car, walking the dog, and babysitting in the off months is a way for your child to learn more about money management while also motivating them to save for sports.

Even with funding and low-cost options, you may still have to pay out-of-pocket expenses for youth sports. costs can be more manageable.

Here are some ways to budget for youth sports.

  1. Factor Sports Expenses into Your Savings GoalsConsider creating a separate item in your budget to save on various youth sports expenses such as entry fees, camps, uniforms, equipment, and travel expenses.
  2. Anticipate costs that may occur at different times during the seasonFor example, you may have to pay equipment and registration fees at the beginning of the season, and then pay certain travel expenses as the season progresses. Knowing your future expenses can save you money in advance.
  3. Save money by buying used sporting goodsEquipment is one of the highest costs in youth sports and one of the biggest areas of savings.Facebook Retailers such as Marketplace, Craigslist, or Play It Again Sports It’s a place where you can get used (and cheap) equipment.
  4. pool resources to save moneyCarpool your kids to a local game or receive group hotel rates to save on fuel and travel costs.
  5. Look for Volunteer Opportunities Within Sports OrganizationsYou can reduce or waive the participation fee by volunteering.
  6. register as soon as possibleMany sports organizations offer discounts for early registration for games and tournaments.


With high inflation and youth sports already costing a lot of money, it’s important to know what to expect when paying for your child’s sports participation so that you can prepare in advance.

Some ways to alleviate the burden of these costs include establishing budgets, financing, and exploring low-cost alternatives. Consider opening a savings account and donating regularly. Then you can earn interest while building up funds for your sports expenses.

— The original version of this story was written by Sean Jackson.