Written by Dave Yasvinski
Wednesday, July 25th, 2018
For many families, this year will be the first where their kids dip their toes into the wide world of competitive sports, and while the experiences can lead to a lifetime of rewards, they can also result in heartache if expectations don't match reality.
It's important to make sure you're putting your kids into sports for the right reasons, says Karri Dawson, the executive director of the True Sport Foundation. "When you actually talk to kids, the number one reason they participate in sport is to make new friends and learn new things. And the number one reason they drop out of sport is because it's not fun."
The Rising Cost of Sports
Even if you do find the right emotional environment for your child, it may not come cheap. According to the Canadian Youth Sports Report — an extensive study of the industry conducted in 2014 — families spend an average of $1,000 on organized sport per child per year. But while the costs can be steep, there are organizations standing on the sidelines ready to lend a hand.
KidSport Canada is a national non-profit organization that helps children 18 and under to get into the game with a confidential application process that can lead to financial assistance for families in need. Bryan Ezako, the national manager for KidSport, says the organization has assisted over 750,000 kids over the past 25 years. "We're trying to reduce those barriers that prevent children from participating," he says.
Saving on Equipment
There are other ways to take a bite out of that $1,000. An easy one is to buy equipment your kids are going to need out of season. It may be difficult to gauge exactly what size they'll need eight months from now, but the deep discounts you can find on everything from hockey skates to soccer cleats make the gamble well worth taking.
If the price tag is still too high, you should think about picking up used gear from a reseller. Not only will you find good equipment at appealing prices, but you can also trade in old equipment to receive money off your purchases.
And if you have the time, you might want to consider offering up your services as an assistant coach or volunteer with your child's team. In addition to allowing you to share in the experience with your little ones, many leagues offer a discount or even waive registration fees altogether to get more parents involved.
Showing Interest as a Parent
Once the financial picture comes into focus, the key becomes fostering interest in your children — and one of the best ways to do that is to lead by example. "Children that actually see their parents engaged in sport are more likely to also adopt or be interested in something like that as well," he says. "If a family is physically active and engaged in recreation and play organized sport then that child is more likely to."
Making Sports a Positive Experience
True Sport's goal is to ensure kids have positive sporting experiences by focusing on the shared values of fairness, excellence, inclusion and fun. This means creating an environment free from harassment, overbearing parents and unrealistic expectations.
"You have to let your kid be themselves and find their own way," Dawson says. "You need to let the coach coach the child. You need to let the child play the game and your job is to watch them and to support them and not to be their coach and not to be their agent."