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Youth sports for lower income families?


pinkmint
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This is a spinoff from my other thread about finding ways to channel my 7 year old's energy. 

 

I know that I definitely want to find a way for DS to burn off energy each day. I'm not sure if sports is the right thing, but I would probably be more open to trying it if not for the intimidating costs. Looking at our situation, it's not realistic to get him into a sport. 

 

I look at the websites of the local youth sports organizations, which happen to be confusing and lacking in basic information, but they do have people you can email. Am I really supposed to contact someone and say: "Dear Contact Person, I am poor but still want my son to do a sport. What are my options? Pitifully yours, Pinkmint" 

 

Also, how important is being involved in a sport? It seems like if a boy is not in a sport it's seen as some kind of non-normal, problem situation. Is my son athletically inclined? Maybe, I don't know. 

 

I guess this is part of a bigger picture question too. How do kids from poorer families who live in small, rented homes with little to no outdoor space, and sketchy neighborhoods get the exercise they need? Is this like my post from months ago where it was generally agreed that you CAN homeschool without a set of curriculum, it's just way harder? Is finding a way to burn off your son's energy like that? If you can afford organized sports than you're all set but if you can't then you've just got a hard road ahead? 

Edited by pinkmint
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I don't know your exact circumstances but we have found sports through CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) to be very economical.  DD did cross county which was three hour-long practices a week for eight weeks and six different weekend meets for $35.  Of course, YMMV if you aren't Catholic but I suspect other churches might have something similar. 

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You need to get good at finding the different options in your area.  I would start with your local parks and rec department (probably it's a county level office).  They often offer youth sports for little money.  My 5 year old is going to be doing soccer starting in Jan and it's $25.  Our parks and rec has youth: soccer, basketball, volley ball, baseball, and cornhole.  And they offer scholarships.  And here's the thing: I live in the poorest county in my state...this is not an affluent area with a big tax base to fund this stuff.  It's all just done at a barebones level (there are no uniforms or fancy equipment, etc).  Ask at your local YMCA what they offer.  Often their classes/workshops are a good price and again, they offer scholarships.  Ask around and find what local sport clubs are in your area.  A friend of mine has her boys in the local wrestling club.  It's like $100 for 6 boys.

 

Ask relatives to fund some of this stuff instead of buying more junk for Christmas.

 

No, you don't HAVE to have your boy in a sport.  My oldest (17) never could get with sports and so never really did.  But I'll tell you what....I've seen what other boys have gotten out of organized sports and while I still hold that it is NOT a necessity for a boy to have a good/healthy upbringing, I DO wish I had pushed harder for him to try and find one he liked.  It's a good place to learn cooperation, teamwork, and failure.  Not the only place (and yes, some sports programs are horrible and run by horrible people) but very often a good place to learn those things.

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Running, bike riding, frisbee playing, hiking, kick ball, soccer with friends.. All pretty cheap. (Used bike & equipment from garage sales)

We never did organized sports teams when the kids were little.

You do need a place to play them- town park, church lot, school field after hours, school track..

Edited by Hilltopmom
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Every city/county I've lived in (smaller cities in the south) has had youth sports available through the city's recreational department - and ALL have scholarships available for families who need it. 

Every private dance academy my daughter has attended, has had scholarships available to those who need it.

The fine arts center she now attends for art class has scholarships available.

 

We haven't utilized the scholarships, but they are there. I think a better way word an email (lol) would be something like...

 

Dear So-and-So,

I am writing to inquire about potential financial aid and/or need-based scholarships. Please let me know if you offer financial assistance for X (insert name of sport or program).

 

Sincerely,

You

Edited by AimeeM
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Almost every non-profit organization we've participated in offers partial and/or full scholarships for families.

 

Please, please do not feel pitiful. Our children's choir works very hard to ensure that ALL families are able to participate. No child should be turned away due to finances....that's the goal, anyway. I've participated in many scholarship discussions, and they have always been kind, respectful, confidential, and very careful to speak in empowering rather than condescending terms when determining scholarship guidelines. I know that the athletic/arts activities in which we've been involved are the same. They do not want to turn away children just because the fees or tuition are out of reach. Most of the organizations actively fundraise specifically for scholarships/financial assistance.

 

So yes, :) reword and send the email. "My son is interested in this sport. Do you offer scholarship options for families?" They should let you know what your options are and what their income guidelines are. :) Initially, you don't need to disclose any more information than that you'd like information about financial assistance.

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Some places local to us do have sliding scale options and scholarships for various kids activities.  I think it's totally fine to e-mail someone and ask "Do you have scholarships or sliding scale options for lower income families"?  

 

That said, we have had periods of time where I had to enforce 1 hour of hard outside play daily.  I prefer doing activities because my kids are getting quite a bit out of them and it's WAY easier for me.  But it is doable to do phy-ed on your own.  Hard activity makes a HUGE activity in my kid's behavoir. 

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Please, please do not feel pitiful.

 

:iagree: :iagree:

 

I just wanted to double ditto on that.  We're fortunate enough to not have to do it any longer, but the first years of our marriage scholarship programs were the ONLY way our kid got to participate in anything.  And you know what, we never, ever, ever received even a hint of unkindness or disrespect.  The programs need a certain number of students to run and they would far rather give free/discounted program to some kids who need it and want to be there, than not have the program at all. 

 

Some day, even though you don't see it now, you will find your way to contribute and will want to.  Allow those of us on this side of it to help you out.

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Especially if it's a super local organization then there's often leeway. Our rec soccer group was just a little, local run thing. In a group like that, it's easy to email the head and say some variation of the above wordings asking for scholarship or about sliding scales.

 

I was one of the people in the other thread who urged you to get on the physical activity for him. I don't think sports are important per se. One of my ds no longer does sports really unless he happens to play with friends... but he dances several times a week. So it's really about just getting kids moving. I think family hikes or just playing hard on the playground can really be enough. However, one of the nice things about organized sports is how it can help kids build specific skills and challenge them. Also, it forces you out. We get out a good bit to let my boys run around and play or walk and hike as a family, but some weeks we're better than others and sports (or, in the case of my other ds, dance) keeps us at a minimum. I required my less athletic ds to do *something* organized. He used to do soccer, now he does a homeschool diving class. That's fine. As long as he's doing something.

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Seconding a county parks and rec department or even the Y, which often has financial assistance available.

When summer rolls around check out swimming programs. Everyone should be able to swim well and it is tiring! :)

 

City, county or state parks may have more than sports - nature activities or environmental clean up or gardening.

 

What does your local library offer? Storytime and a playground can be a lifesaver.

 

Seconding the mall walking in poor weather. We used to drive a bit to go to a really nice one with fountains and lots of natural light.

 

We have done one sport a year for our Ds since he was 4. The first two years were a total waste of time, imo, and would have been better spent in free play. Your Ds is getting close to the point where he could really benefit from sports, though.

 

Are there scouting programs near you, run by organizations you trust? Scouts can be a good social outlet whch includes activity, service, teamwork and practical skills. We know many boys who do better in scouts than in sports. Most of the scouting organizations we know provide scholarships.

 

I guess all these depend on transportation. You said your area is sketchy, but can you get to nearby areas without too much trouble?

Edited by ScoutTN
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Do you have parks you can visit regularly to just have good running around time?

 

For organized sports, check with the local community center/parks and recreation program/park authority. I work at a community center, we have various forms you have to fill out, then you get a discount. You have to redo the forms yearly (I think). Check what your locality offers.

 

I think youth sports for little guys can be fun. However, I'm not sure it provides a good amount of exercise. Usually these activities have one practice and one game a week. That's only two days. At the game there's a lot of standing around waiting to be put in. However, if it's something you can support, by shooting hoops together or kicking a ball around on other days it could be great exercise while your ds develops his skills in the sport.

 

If you get a discount at a community center check out swimming lessons. I find swimming wears kids out. Plus, some places have family swim nights. Just splashing around gets kids tired.

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Every city/county I've lived in (smaller cities in the south) has had youth sports available through the city's recreational department - and ALL have scholarships available for families who need it. 

Every private dance academy my daughter has attended, has had scholarships available to those who need it.

The fine arts center she now attends for art class has scholarships available.

 

We haven't utilized the scholarships, but they are there. I think a better way word an email (lol) would be something like...

 

Dear So-and-So,

I am writing to inquire about potential financial aid and/or need-based scholarships. Please let me know if you offer financial assistance for X (insert name of sport or program).

 

Sincerely,

You

 

I live in the Northwest and the same here. Both the Y and parks and rec have scholarships. When I first got out of grad school and was just picking up with work I got a scholarship and both my kids got half off their activities for that year. It was great. You could get up to a full scholarship at the YMCA.

 

I understand the need for organized sports with two little ones. It's not like you can always run around with him, with babies in tow, so you need someone else to supervise while you sit! It sounds so easy to make them run around but without a bunch of older kids to follow about, lots of little ones don't just up and run all day.

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I've found that city parks and rec sports are much less expensive than teams run by various sports organizations and clubs. See if your city or surrounding cities have recreational leagues.  You also might check to see if any local churches have Upward sports teams. It is relatively inexpensive and some churches will offer scholarships. Just be careful, because if your child is very athletic and wants to be more competitive, it gets harder to find competitive teams for older kids that don't require travel and lots of money. 

 

ETA: In my area it's very hard to find scholarships for low income families. Extracurricular activities fill up so quickly with people who are willing/able to pay full price, that there's no incentive for sliding scale or scholarships. Even our city rec programs don't offer scholarships and private dance studios, gyms, or sports clubs wouldn't even consider it.

Edited by mom2scouts
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My personal choice was always to try and find a low-cost option rather than getting a scholarship for a higher-cost option. 

 

Not because I have any issues with scholarships or financial aid, but simply because the expensive clubs tend to have expensive tastes. It's not true in all cases, of course, but often you will find that they frequently want to buy fun but expensive extras, they often meet up after games or lessons for dinner, if the kids do stuff together for fun it's often pricey, etc. 

 

I don't think it's that much harder if you can't afford, or don't wish to participate in, organized sports. If he is on a team, you will have to drive him somewhere daily for practice, so you could just as well drive him to a nice park with a friend and let them run around like crazy people. Put up notices for a park day at the bookstore and the library and the park itself if they have a gym/building (because bookstores, libraries, and parks are where all the homeschoolers hang out!). We never really did sports, not because we couldn't afford it, but because I don't have sporty kids, lol. They still needed exercise. 

 

Definitely it helps if you can toss them outside to play. When you say it's a sketchy neighborhood, do you mean not that safe for him to be outside alone, or not that safe for him to be outside even with you? At that age, I would walk nearby while my kids rode their scooters, or we would all walk, but that doesn't help if even you don't feel safe. 

 

If you do want to try sports, low cost is going to be stuff like the rec department and churches for the most part. If you aren't on Facebook, I'd make an account - that seems to be the way most homeschool groups and activities are advertised, they aren't putting up websites for the most part. 

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You can get exercise without organized sports. none of my kids participated in organized sports in elementary age. My very athletic son did not choose a sport until he was 14.

We just exercised as a family. I took the kids to the park every afternoon, we walked, biked, and on weekends we hiked all together.

How bad is your neighborhood, can you not go outside at all?

 

Low cost options can be through school programs, community programs, PE for homeschoolers.

But I find team sports overrated and unnecessary.

Edited by regentrude
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Our local YMCA offers very inexpensive youth memberships and will even waive the entire family membership fee for those that qualify. They have organized team sports and exercise classes, but also swim lessons and open swim and gym times. Our city also has Boy's and Girl's Clubs in the lower income parts of town that offer a wide range of organized teams and activities and open gym times for free. They are located within walking distance of the elementary and middle schools in the area, so students can go there directly after school. They also offer inexpensive homeschool sports activities during school hours.

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Young Champions/Champion Force (different names depending on state)-non-profit, low cost activities, with scholarships and fundraising available as well. In my area, the options are cheer and martial arts, but in other areas they also have soccer, basketball, visual art, and hip-hop.

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My personal choice was always to try and find a low-cost option rather than getting a scholarship for a higher-cost option.

 

Not because I have any issues with scholarships or financial aid, but simply because the expensive clubs tend to have expensive tastes. It's not true in all cases, of course, but often you will find that they frequently want to buy fun but expensive extras, they often meet up after games or lessons for dinner, if the kids do stuff together for fun it's often pricey, etc.

 

I don't think it's that much harder if you can't afford, or don't wish to participate in, organized sports. If he is on a team, you will have to drive him somewhere daily for practice, so you could just as well drive him to a nice park with a friend and let them run around like crazy people. Put up notices for a park day at the bookstore and the library and the park itself if they have a gym/building (because bookstores, libraries, and parks are where all the homeschoolers hang out!). We never really did sports, not because we couldn't afford it, but because I don't have sporty kids, lol. They still needed exercise.

 

Definitely it helps if you can toss them outside to play. When you say it's a sketchy neighborhood, do you mean not that safe for him to be outside alone, or not that safe for him to be outside even with you? At that age, I would walk nearby while my kids rode their scooters, or we would all walk, but that doesn't help if even you don't feel safe.

 

If you do want to try sports, low cost is going to be stuff like the rec department and churches for the most part. If you aren't on Facebook, I'd make an account - that seems to be the way most homeschool groups and activities are advertised, they aren't putting up websites for the most part.

I have to agree with this. People will often ask parents to take turns bringing snacks for the team, without thinking that may be a hardship for some. Or suggest a particular color of soccer socks, after you have already bought yours. At the end of the season, there may be a request for a coach's gift. Or everyone on the team signs up for post-season training at a $$$ place. Etc.

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have you considered dance?  My sons study ballet at a considerable discount. A serious ballet school is always looking for boys and there is often a 'boy discount' if you ask for it. I could NEVER afford to have my boys dancing if they were girls, lol. If we lived in a bigger city and there was more competition, they could dance for free.

 

And dance is excellent exercise!  The kids at the school are super fit and very healthy.

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Not low income, but rural. I've spent so much $ and time driving on sports. I don't regret it, because you don't know until you try, but DS is so chill, he would do anything I put him into, and just as easily stop. He is never clamoring for anything, which would make it easier (you know, 'I could say "I'm just following his lead". This is separate from the issue that nowadays to be competitive in something, you have to spend many hours and weekends, and we are just not willing.

Currently, DS will do no sports. I do think it is important to exercise daily for health. In France he is doing tennis recreationally and swimming in school, but when he returns, he will run with DH 3 days a week, ski most weeks, and do a youth fitness class that's 2 hours each Sunday. I hope this is enough exercise. Running is free and the class is cheap. Skiing, if done middle of the week at our local crappy hill is fairly inexpensive per hour too. Local parks have snowshoeing trips where you rent the snowshoes for little money.

Edited by madteaparty
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Not low income, but rural. I've spent so much $ and time driving on sports. I don't regret it, because you don't know until you try, but DS is so chill, he would do anything I put him into, and just as easily stop. He is never clamoring for anything, which would make it easier (you know, 'I could say "I'm just following his lead". This is separate from the issue that nowadays to be competitive in something, you have to spend many hours and weekends, and we are just not willing.

Currently, DS will do no sports. I do think it is important to exercise daily for health. In France he is doing tennis recreationally and swimming in school, but when he returns, he will run with DH 3 days a week, ski most weeks, and do a youth fitness class that's 2 hours each Sunday. I hope this is enough exercise. Running is free and the class is cheap. Skiing, if done middle of the week at our local crappy hill is fairly inexpensive per hour too. Local parks have snowshoeing trips where you rent the snowshoes for little money.

This reminded me that some of our local ski areas offer very inexpensive packages of rentals and lessons to homeschoolers during non-peak times. Parents usually take turns carpooling to cut down on transportation costs.
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All the big ballet schools here have free boys ballet programs. We've gotten scholarships for AYSO soccer a few times. Our local Rec centers have scholarships too. I always hate asking or sending that email, but I've never been treated rudely or made to feel badly because I asked.

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I don't know how it works everywhere, but the baseball, softball, basketball and soccer teams all fundraise for their fees.  They sell chocolates or perogies or something else and the group's fundraising pays for everyone's league fees and uniforms.  Sometimes you will have a parent who will say they'd rather pay outright than fundraise, but the teams I mentioned don't let it be optional.  It's a communal pool that way and anyone who doesn't mind a little door knocking can play.  The hockey team, unfortunately, is a cash only club, and you need to bring a LOT of cash to play that.   

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We've found Little League to be the least expensive, by far.  My understanding is that every area charges differently, but ours usually runs about $60/yr (includes spring and fall ball, and uniform) for the first kid, $50 for the second, and $40 for 3rd+.  They have community bats and helmets, and they try to keep an inventory of used cleats, though our consignment shop usually has a good variety.  They also make scholarships available.

I do spend a ton in gas across 3 teams, but I'm in a semi-rural area, so "local" games can be 20 or more miles away some weeks.

 

I don't see team sports as necessary.  I played 1 single year of basketball in my whole life and didn't really enjoy it.  But it's certainly a good, healthy thing to have when it's possible and if the kids like it.

 

We happen to have decent property for the kids to run and a little bike riding is pretty safe, but we still try to get to some parks, even on decent winter days.  My younger ones STILL spend a ridiculous amount off time bouncing off walls and furniture.  :glare:

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My mom bought the kids their gear as a present. 

 

This reminds me, you can often find your gear free or cheap from other parents in the program with outgrown gear.  It's very common for people to just swap around sizes and the gear sort of becomes property of the club.

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I'm going to add.

 

Our swim league is quite generous with scholarships, in addition to the general fee they require the team the child is on to provide a suit, a cap, goggles and t shirt. It's really great for the kids because they practice daily in summer and have a lot of fun.

 

We did have an incident one year where the league gave 3 scholarships to a family and the family missed half the meets without telling anyone. We make it clear at the begin info the season and make announcements before each meet that we need to know who is coming--the incident was not lack of knowing what to do. This is really hard on the team. Multiple relays were affected. I knew the family was scholarship because I was a manager. It had a negative impact on our program. I think a family accepting a scholarship needs to try their best to fully participate or be upfront when they can't. This is true for all participants, but when a scholarship athlete negatively affects a program, he could also be impacting whether future scholarship athletes participate.

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I think its great for kids to ply sports, and I don't think it is necessary for them to join  fancy teams.

 

In fact, studies in rec have suggested that kids who carry on in physical activity as adults are ones who are comfortable in different sports settings.  So - for me, being able to feel like you know what to do and that it will be fun is far more important than any kind of elite teams, and probably better than concentrating on one sport.

 

Where I live, going through city rec gives the best prices , also the Y or Boys or Girls Club, or some of the community centers.  There are  lot of beginner classes for team sports that are cheap, and they also tend to have open gyms or pick-up games for very cheap or often free, at scheduled times.  We also have some free skating and swimming lessons during the winter and summer seasons.

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Definitely look at city or county rec departments.  My son participated in track for $15 for the whole season last year (2 workouts a week) and there were no uniforms or equipment to buy.  If you have a YMCA nearby look into that as they offer scholarships and so much is included with a monthly membership including access to the pool.  Our Y has a  "cardio blast" class for kids twice a week where they run the kids through an hour of really hardcore but fun gym games.  

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We live in a small, rural town and pretty much only have very affordable sports available to us.  Community ed is big here, and generally handles all the sports in the area except the traditional school sports.  So, my kids have gotten into hockey, swimming, track and field, ice skating, and soccer through community ed, usually for around $25 per session (usually 2-3 months).  But even community ed offers a sliding scale and scholarships.  My kids, as they got older, were allowed to be on school sports teams as well, as homeschoolers.  That was around $50 for the semester.  Churches sometimes have leagues too.  Here, it's mostly softball in the summer.

 

So, we dabbled in some community ed activities and lots of at-home stuff when they were younger, but didn't get seriously involved with a sport til 7th/8th grade (that's when the schools begin most of their teams).  Up until then, they ran around a lot, rode their bikes, did swimming lessons, family ice skating in the winter months, etc.  We also had a twice/month homeschool gym day.

 

I get what you're saying though.  In other neighborhoods we've been in, the exercise at home part would have been a lot harder.  I guess it would take more of an effort on my part then -- going to safe parks where the kids could run around, nice trails where we could go on family hikes, etc.  At a young age, I think it's more about getting any kind of exercise at all (even just jumping around inside the house!) and then getting a little exposure to a variety of other types.

 

I was pretty determined about getting my kids into a regular exercise or sport as they got older, because I think it's such a healthy, lifelong habit.  So, we really tried to find something that they'd enjoy.  They all tried school sports and some really latched on to those, but others did not.  Some only did it for a year or two, and then decided they didn't like it.  But we still kept at it, taking family walks, bike rides, etc.  Eventually, they all found activities that they really enjoyed.  One morphed from a ballet dancer to a mountain climber!  Another is content doing yoga and taking long, daily walks.  I'm still trying to find the right activity for my youngest.

 

Being on an actual sports team does have its neat aspects, and I'm glad my kids gave it a try.  But is being on an actual team crucial?  No.  I think the important thing is to help them find physical activities that they enjoy, whatever it is, to set up some good lifelong habits.

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