When my ex-wife suggested we sign the girls up for softball I was reluctant at first. Our oldest was head over heals in love with horseback and the middle one a Barbie nut with little interest in athletics. And when we mentioned the idea to the kids, there was a significant amount of backlash. But I liked the idea of them being a part of a team and trying something new. I’m a firm believer that our job as parents is to expose our kids to as many different things as possible to help them figure out what they like or don’t like. We’ve found that typically, the more against something they are, the more they end up loving it. And so off we went. And of course, it took all of one afternoon throwing and hitting the ball around to get our son interested in joining the action and so it was that we had three new all-stars ready for training camp.
Once the excitement of the decision wore off it was time to sign everyone up. Now, as anyone who has more than one kid knows, when it comes to things like camp, clothes, backpacks, shoes, lunch, snacks and sports, whatever something costs you get to multiply it by the number of kids you have. So baseball registration wasn’t $120, it was $360. A potential glove wasn’t $60 it was $180. A new bat wouldn’t cost $70, it would cost $210. I could go on, but you get the idea. I quickly saw an investment of $1000 staring me in the face just to have my kid standing in left field picking his nose.
We decided to do some reconnaissance at a few different sporting goods stores to see exactly what we were in for. To set the scene, it was me and three kids all having panic attacks as all three started choosing their bats, helmets, gloves, cleats and gear bags. The cash register in my head was going at warp speed and the world was collapsing around me. Meanwhile the kids were quickly falling into a shopping feeding frenzy while dad was getting cold sweats and the shakes. Needless to say, we struck out.
“WHOA!” I said. “Let’s think about this for a second.” So I called my ex and asked for her thoughts on what
was appropriate since our agreement when we got divorced was that we would always split these types of expenses to the best of our abilities. And so a budget was established and the idea was suggested that we
shop around, starting at Play it Again Sports. This would help give us a sense of what was reasonable and
there would be no shock when the final tally was presented. We also decided to wait until after the first
practices so that we’d know what size bat would be best, what type of helmet would be appropriate and so on.
The other thing to consider was, we weren’t sure whether this would become a long term thing or not. The last thing we wanted to do was spend a bunch of money on gear only to have it sit in the garage after one season. So after the first practice for each of our rug rats, we hit the streets again, this time starting at Play it Again Sports. And low and behold, we hit pay dirt. There were plenty of bats to choose from for $10.00 and helmets for $5 – $10. While the eldest, as usual, “balked” a bit at the idea of used gear, the two younger ones loved it and dove into trying on helmets and swinging bats. We compromised with the oldest and went to Target, Walmart, Academy Sports etc. just to see what other options there were and eventually purchased things at several different places.
We agreed on new gloves for all three as this seemed like a staple and would be something they’d use whether or not they played in a league and found some pretty nice ones for under $25.00 at Academy Sports. We bought the oldest one a new helmet knowing that the speeds of the balls at her level would be higher and I wasn’t going to skimp on head protection, but still managed to come in under $25.00 at Target. I also found some great helmets at Dick’s Sporting Goods that were reasonably priced. The other two found great used ones for $5 each. Homerun!
The point to all of this is that you’re going to spend some money, but don’t panic (like I initially did). There are options if you’re smart about it. The initial shock of $99.00 bats (x3) and $75.00 gloves (x3) were enough to cause me to hyperventilate. Taking a step back and asking some questions and doing a little research really paid off and easily saved us hundreds of dollars. And the kids were thrilled.
Whether you’re divorced or not, getting kids involved in sports can be pricey. It’s just plain smart to look around before you dive into purchasing gear or saying “NO!” There are also parent swaps where you can find great deals on used cleats and gear. There’s craigslist.com, used sporting goods stores, e-bay; all sorts of options.
And honestly, the kids could care less. Especially if you establish a budget with them and show them that, if they’re smart they can get a gear bag, bat, glove, batting gloves, helmet, shirt, balls and a pack of bubble gum, all for the same price of a new higher end bat. Even our oldest, who complained about the used bat, fell it love with it once she got home, cleaned it off and had one of the coaches ask, “Where’d you find that bat?! That’s a beaut!”
Then, if one or two of them or even all three stick with it and determine they’re really into it we’ll invest in better equipment that keeps up with their skill level. Meanwhile, they get to learn the basics while we get to enjoy the games and still have money left over for a hot dog and soft pretzel.
And the best part? It isn’t necessarily about the gear, saving money, or the sports themselves. My favorite part of all of this is that the three of them, for the first time EVER have something they ALL enjoy doing and can do together. It gives us a chance to teach them about being a team and supporting each other. In fact, the first time our son yelled, “NICE HIT!” to our oldest I smiled a little inside. I also acknowledged it was worth all the effort and every penny, making me a little less hesitant to “play ball!”