Having a child playing sports, much less two or three playing on multiple teams in the same sports season, can be a challenge even for the most organized family. Surely there is a dimension where all your kids would practice on the same night, at the same location; however, this is not the universe where that is happening.
To help you exist in this reality, there are a few ways you can save time and money, and manage to keep your sanity, all while functioning as a glorified Uber driver.
The most important strategy for any youth sports family is to always look ahead - far ahead - and be proactive.
That all starts with registration. Don't wait for the new season's flyer to arrive in your mailbox before you start planning each season. What are your kids going to want to play? When is the registration period?
Planning ahead, even for registration, can help you save time and money. Many times, youth sports leagues offer a discount for early registration. There may even be a "silent" registration period for you to take advantage of, especially if you will have a child that has played in their specific league before.
Being proactive with registration also means getting the best times and locations sometimes. It's always best to register in person as well. That way you know that the registration has been received, and you can also get any questions answered on-site.
Record Important Info on Your Phone
Many leagues these days rely heavily on the internet, email, and text messaging to stay connected to their parents, players, and coaches. Parents and coaches that refuse to embrace those tools end up spending way more time on the phone or searching for that hard copy of a practice schedule or rules. Being able to access everything from your smartphone simply saves time, and keeps your family organized.
Many times it helps to take it one step farther within your own family. Set up an online calendar of everyone's practices and games, and sync all the smartphones in your family to it. That way everyone has the information at their fingertips.
Keep All Equipment in the Same Place
One of the best ways to stay organized is to designate a spot in your home for all the necessary equipment, uniforms, etc. to reside. There's nothing worse than being ready to head out the door, only to realize one of your child's jerseys can't be located, or that a ball glove is in another car miles away from the field. Make it somewhere close to the door that you exit on the way to wherever; that way it's easy to remember in your mad rush to the car.
One of the great things about youth sports is how it teaches responsibility. Putting each child in charge of their own equipment is a good way to help impart that lesson, plus it takes some of the stress off your shoulders.
Prep the Car for Sports Days
There are so many variables involved in youth sports that are going to be simply out of your hands as a parent. Inclement weather, last-second schedule changes, you name it, the effective sports parent needs to be prepared. You'll save yourself a lot of time and money by playing heads up on sports days. When the weather gets rough, you’ll want to be especially prepared; you might want to consider stocking some of the cold-weather clothing basics in the trunk like an extra coat.
Keep a bin in your vehicle with extra items that your little athletes might need. Extra clothes and shoes, extra equipment and even a small first aid kit can keep you prepared for any curveballs that get thrown off the field.
Don't forget the items that all youth sports superfans need. You'll want a portable chair, an umbrella and possibly a cooler for drinks and snacks.
Spend Less on Equipment
Without question, the biggest expense in youth sports is the equipment. Sometimes there's just no way to mitigate how much raising a young athlete can cost, but there are steps to saving money.
Investing in used equipment, either via garage sales or used sporting goods stores, is a great idea. Keep an eye out for equipment you might need down the road, as well. Post-season sales can be a great time to grab a new pair of shoes in the next size up in preparation for next season.
Meal Prep for Sports Days
Of course, athletes and parents alike need sustenance. There's lots of time and money to be saved when it comes to eating. Instead of giving in to a hectic schedule and eating out, prep meals ahead of time Sunday night. Slow cookers can be a sports parents' MVP.
Coming prepared to a game with water, sports drinks and healthy snacks can also help eliminate trips to the concession stand.
By being proactive with your family's athletic endeavors, it's easy to stay organized and not negatively impact your financial bottom line.