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The Most Expensive and Least Expensive Sports for Kids

Many parents hope their kids will stay active by participating in sports. However, the cost of signing kids up for these types of athletic activities can be steeper than you might imagine. If you’re trying to be frugal, you might want to sign your kids up for sports that are less expensive. While you can’t control which athletic activities your children end up liking and excelling in, you can encourage them to give cheaper sports a chance. Here’s a closer look at some of the costs associated with youth sports so you can determine whether your family is able to afford participating.


When it comes to cheap sports for kids, soccer is actually one of the best options. While there are expensive travel clubs and training camps available just like in many other sports, the startup costs for casual play are extremely affordable. This is largely due to the fact that there isn’t much equipment required to play. Plus, the few pieces of equipment you do need to buy are incredibly affordable:

  • Soccer cleats: $20-$50 (very young players often start out wearing their regular gym shoes)
  • Soccer socks: $5-$10
  • Shin guards: $10-$20
  • Soccer ball: $10-$25

Because soccer is such a popular sport for kids, many cities offer several affordable leagues. AYSO is one of the most popular leagues for new players, and also one of the most widely available. It features 850 programs nationwide with over 400,000 players in total. Registration for AYSO and other local kid’s soccer leagues typically cost around $100-$200 per season. Many of these teams have volunteer coaches and reuse uniforms year after year or include T-shirt fees in the cost of registration to further save on player expenses.

Baseball and Softball

Young kids usually start out in low-cost T-ball leagues with volunteer parent coaches. Like soccer, there are expensive travel teams and training camps for older players, but most families can opt for affordable local leagues that cost around $100 to $150 per season, including uniforms. The required equipment is easy to find for low prices as well:

  • Baseball glove: $15-$30
  • Baseball cleats: $20-$50
  • Baseball bat: $20-$40
  • Helmet: $15-$40
  • Baseball: $1-$5 each

Balls, bats and helmets are usually provided by the league for games and practice. However, you might want to purchase this equipment for practicing at home, too.

Cross Country and Track & Field

Both of these sports offer a low cost of entry since all kids really need is the right shoes. Younger kids usually start out with regular running shoes. Once they get a little older, you’ll probably need to get them a pair of racing spikes. Fortunately, these equipment needs aren’t too expensive:

  • Running shoes: $20-$50
  • Racing spikes: $50-$120

See if your child’s school offers a cross country or track and field team. You may need to pay a participation fee, but it’s usually only $100 to $200 for the year and includes uniforms.


Basketball is another affordable sport available for frugal families. The league costs are quite affordable at about $100 to $150 per season, with uniforms typically included in that fee. As for equipment, it doesn’t get much cheaper than the bare necessities needed for this activity:

  • Gym shoes: $30-$50
  • Basketball: $10-$30

In many cases, kids can join a school basketball league for an even cheaper price once they reach middle school.

Most Expensive Kids’ Sports

If you’d like to avoid getting your child involved in a particularly expensive sport, consider two main factors: equipment costs and availability. Some sports have particularly extensive requirements when it comes to equipment, which pushes the cost higher. Rarer sports will generally have fewer low-cost options for participation and higher paid instructors which further increase associated fees.

Here are a few examples of children’s athletic activities that usually have higher costs:

  • Hockey
  • Lacrosse
  • Horseback riding
  • Gymnastics
  • Golf
  • Skiing
  • Sailing
  • Fencing

Tips for Saving Money on Kids’ Sports

There are a few ways you can cut back on costs regardless of whether your child is participating in an affordable or expensive sport. Here are some frugal strategies to consider when paying for kids’ athletic expenses:

  • Buy used gear: Kids outgrow their sports gear quickly, so there’s no use in investing in expensive, brand-new items when you can find affordable used versions instead.
  • Limit activities: Limit your child to one or two sports activities per year. This will cut back on equipment expenses and team fees. They can still play other sports for fun with friends in their free time.
  • Have “down time” for sports: For example, make spring and fall the only time when you sign up for a paid sports league. Taking one or two seasons off saves money.
  • Volunteer: Some leagues offer discounts for parents who participate by coaching, working at the concession stands or helping to maintain the field.

Keeping your child active and helping them to make fun memories doesn’t have to be expensive. Use these tips to get your kids involved in sports while still being frugal.

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