Amanda Rodriguez, a mom of three and founder of the blog Dude Mom, shares her best tips for affording the skyrocketing expenses associated with youth athletics.

Advertisement

Early on, Amanda Rodriguez noticed that although her parents worked hard to make sure that she and her brother could go to college, they were struggling financially, unsure of which bills to pay first and avoiding credit cards.

"Then, as I got older, I started to learn that those practices weren't the norm for somebody who's trying to build wealth in their family," she notes. "I didn't want to have that type of lifestyle for my family if I could avoid it."

Rodriguez, who became the first person in her family to go to college, started growing her family with her husband at 22. Although she worked since she was 14, she felt she hadn't spent a lot of time managing money as an adult before becoming a mom. The couple felt a change was needed. And upon finding out they were expecting, they relocated from California, where Rodriguez was working as a teacher, to Maryland where the cost of living would be lower.

"We wanted to be homeowners and that wasn't something that we thought that we could do if we stayed where we were staying in California," she recalls, adding that although they didn't know anyone where they were moving, it would also be easier to afford raising a child and for her to become a stay-at-home parent.

They welcomed their son in 2001 and when he was 2, they signed him up for a youth soccer program. It would become the first step of many Rodriguez and her husband took toward supporting the youth athletic careers of their ultimately three children.

"At this point, we play high-level competitive sports," says Rodriguez. "My older son played travel soccer, and my two younger ones play Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball. My youngest one also plays football."

And the cost of traveling, training, and equipment to play competitive sports at the level they play them adds up. In fact, over the course of the past two decades, it's come to a grand total of approximately $70,000, according to Rodriguez.

"When we realized that our children were going to be competitive at a higher level, we had to make some lifestyle changes," she explains.

Rodriguez started her business, writing a blog called Dude Mom and creating her platform as a social media influencer. She also started signing up for travel points at hotels (which would come in handy when they traveled for the boys' games).

And in the midst of making sacrifices for her boys, people have asked her why. "For us, it's not just because they want it," she says. "It's because they love it, and they need it, and they're passionate about it. And my kids wake up every day and feel excited and joyful. And naturally, we hope that they're able to go on and play in college."

The way they see it: "Their college fund is their sports," says Rodriguez. By investing in their athletics, they hope they'll get financial assistance with college, and if not, go to junior community college to avoid being saddled with student debt. It's a plan that so far, has been working out beautifully for the family of five.

Here, Rodriguez shares her top tips for parents who are also supporting their children through youth sports.

Be OK With Making Sacrifices

"We are very committed to being able to make it happen for them," says Rodriguez. "My husband's income is to take care of our home, but my income for the most part is to make sure that they're able to have the trainings that they need and be able to go on the trips that they have. So obviously, there are a lot of sacrifices involved with that."

Although the family could have a larger home or new car, there are certain things they feel are worth sacrificing to pay for the boys' youth athletics.

Do Your Research on the Costs

Although you might want your child to be on a basketball team, it's worth exploring what it will cost for them to be on higher-level basketball teams, like those affiliated with AAU. "The first time we went and [the games] were $25 to get in, I literally was like, 'Well, I guess I have to go sit in my car because I wasn't planning to pay $25 to watch him play,'" says Rodriguez.

She recommends asking questions upfront and ensuring there are no hidden costs. "People just really need to understand what they're getting themselves into, get to know the difference between a competitive program and a recreation program and what those things kind of cost," says Rodriguez. "And then, you're able to plan better if you know what to expect."

Find an Organization That Works For Your Kids

"They're not all created equal—some are good, some are bad, some are expensive for no reason and some are worth it," notes Rodriguez, who encourages parents to do research and figure out where their money is going and how exactly they're investing it.

She adds that there are also teams on which kids can play and travel for free. "We know a lot of families who have literally moved their kids to other locations so that they can partake in things like that," she says. "You really have to explore what is going to work best for your family."

Make Sure You're in It for the Right Reasons

You may be a sports aficionado, but it doesn't mean your child is. It's important, points out Rodriguez, to make sure your kid is passionate about being a young athlete. "I think a lot of parents get into this, and they get like really far down the road, and then come to the realization that their kid is not really as into it as they are," she says. "If you want this to work for you, your kid has to be driving this bus. You cannot be the one up here in the front seat. Your kid has to be the one who wants to be here and wants to do it and wants to put up the work."