Minor hockey, basketball, soccer and baseball all promote teamwork, fitness and friendship starting at an early age. However, as many parents throughout the world can tell you, putting yourself, or children, through sports does have a drawback.
Sports cost a lot, plain and simple.
Whether it is the registration fees or the cost of the equipment, one way or another sports are sure to hurt your bank account.
The cost of sporting equipment has grown significantly for minor league sports over the years and continues to be on the incline. Part of the reasoning behind this is due to the vast amount of attention being drawn to sports-related injuries and the increasing importance of being protected from them.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at the four sports mentioned above and the costs associated with them, ranked highest to lowest, according to an article written by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2013.
Although thought by many to be Canada’s largest sport in terms of participation, hockey actually ranks behind golf for people over the age of 15, with slightly more than four per cent of Canada’s population playing hockey compared to just over 5 per cent for golf according to a 2010 Stats Canada survey. On top of that, hockey also ranks behind soccer for Canadians under the age of 15, with almost double the amount playing soccer.
Although it might not have the highest participation, hockey is by far the most expensive sport to play. Sign-up fees can run you anywhere from $300 to $500 per child for normal minor hockey and from a whopping $6,000 to $15,000 per child to put your kid through AAA, the highest-calibre of minor hockey.
That’s just the sign-up cost.
On top of the yearly registration fees, hockey equipment for a child can cost between $280 at the extreme low-end, to upwards of $1,200 for the high-end, which evens out to an estimated average of $1,200 per child, per year.
Mark Whetham, the assistant manager at the Sport Chek located inside Conestoga Mall, provided insight as to why hockey equipment costs so much now, compared to 10 or 20 years ago.
“The technology of the equipment and the amount of research that goes into them are what has driven the price up. Look at what Bauer skates used to be, (a piece of) leather and a blade.”
“America’s national pastime” is also a sport in which many Canadians, young and old, like to play. The average cost of sign-up for baseball is a tad bit lower than hockey, costing in the $150 to $300 range per child for a normal league and $1,000 to $3,000 for a more competitive level.
Higher than that even, Sarah Lorge Butler of CBS MoneyWatch’s Family Finance blog wrote in 2011 that one family she heard from was shelling out about $4,000 (US) for a nine-year-old to play on a travel baseball team.
Add in between $120 and $550 for a uniform, bat, batting gloves, helmet, glove and cleats and you are looking at an average total of $600 to put one child through a year of baseball at a normal level.
An increasingly popular sport in Canada, basketball’s growth rate of participation among the country’s youth exceeds that of hockey and soccer. According to an article by Alicia Jessop, a contributor to Forbes.com, since 2010 basketball participation has seen a growth rate of 16 per cent and is the most popular team participation sport in Canada among youth between the ages of 12 and 17.
With popularity, comes a price.
According to their website, the cost for registration to the Kitchener-Waterloo Youth Basketball Association is $225 per child for house league, with a higher cost (not listed) for rep league travel basketball.
Equipment costs for basketball, a uniform, shoes and a ball will add on an additional $120 to $480, depending on what level of equipment you desire. The total average cost for youth basketball is roughly $500 per year, per child.
Last but certainly not least, “the beautiful game” is the least expensive sport for Canadians to play; which also likely explains the large number of participants it receives.
Soccer, because of the little cost it takes to operate, generally has low league fees, ranging anywhere from $50 to $200 per child. Rep soccer, however, can cost $500 to $1,000 per child, with soccer academes such as the Kitchener Elite Academy rising even higher to the $2,000 to $3,000 range.
Jerseys and socks are almost always included in the initial sign-up cost, so would-be players only need shin-pads, cleats and a ball, which range anywhere from $60 to $300. The total average cost to put a child through one year of soccer is approximately $250, substantially lower than the $1,200 fee of hockey.
Now that you have a good grasp of exactly how much it costs to be able to play some of the most popular sports in Canada, let’s take a look at how to reduce those prices.
Buy (or trade for) used equipment.
Buying used equipment can go a long way in potential savings. According to Brendan Clarke, supervisor at Play It Again Sports in Kitchener, “When pricing used equipment we generally refrain from selling it for more than half of what it was worth brand new.”
As long as you don’t care about wearing the newest stuff, buying used can sometimes cut the cost in half. As well as used sports stores, another great way to find used equipment is via the popular buy and sell website kijiji.ca.
Buy equipment out of season
Every year once a certain sports season is nearing completion there are sales all over the place, very good sales. Taking advantage of these deals can get you fairly new, unused equipment for upwards of 30 to sometimes 70 per cent off the original price. Going this route is tricky, however, as you need to purchase equipment that will leave room for growth.
Apply for financial support
Many communities have programs in place to provide lower income families with financial support to put their children through sports. One such initiative is the Canadian Tire Jumpstart program, which at last count has helped 702,373 kids be able to play sports.
Do research on what you are buying
Top-end equipment is designed more or less to provide athletes with comfort, rather than actual added safety benefits.
“Depending on what level you are playing at in particular sports it is not always necessarily better to get the highest priced equipment,” Clarke said. “For anyone playing competitively the higher priced equipment typically is not only lighter, but has lots of money put into the research and development of it.”
Create/take part in a league-lender program
“I think the price of equipment is too expensive. A solution to help decrease the cost of kids playing hockey (and other sports) would be to see more community programs that help families find used hockey equipment (to be reused),” said Aaron Armstrong, the captain of the Wingham Ironman Junior C hockey team who has been playing hockey for 13 years.
Instead of selling it to a used sporting goods store, you could start a league loaner program where you can rent equipment each season instead of buying new gear. As long as the equipment is in good shape, this is a great way to fundraise for your sports organization.
The skills and friendships that are constructed through the power of sports play an important role in life and knowing how to cut some of the cost is just icing on the cake.