Photo Credit: Rick Schroeter - SilverPeak Studios Canada
Organized sports are one of the many ways we can help our kids develop character, build friendships and stay active and healthy. But for many families, the high price of these activities can put a strain on finances. Our sport is one that gets constant attention for its cost to play.
With equipment, registration and ice costs, the price of playing hockey can add up quickly. However, there are a number of ways that associations and teams can balance the hockey budget by determining what’s important to spend money on from an individual and team perspective.
One of the first factors that has an effect on the cost of playing is how involved you want to be. It’s a perception that is a barrier that may keep new families from signing their son or daughter up in minor hockey. Like any activity, the level of engagement can be a cause of rising costs. If players will be on the ice four or five times a week, it’s going to cost more.
That being said, there are options that exist that can reduce the costs for families. Playing house or local league cuts down on the amount of practices and games and can allow for budget to be spent elsewhere, perhaps even a second extra-curricular activity.
Another budgeting tip to keep in mind is establishing price points for what to spend on equipment. While there is a $300 hockey stick available, players don’t need the top of line, most expensive model. Regardless of the price, safety is always the top priority when looking at equipment. Coaches and trainers are educated on equipment fitting to ensure players are safe on the ice.
When it comes to younger players, they often aren’t wearing out the equipment, rather they are simply outgrowing it. Many associations host equipment drives or exchanges that families can take advantage of. Reallocating ‘secondary’ costs like team-branded tracksuits and gear towards additional ice time or other team activities doesn’t mean spending more money but rather choosing to spend it differently.
It’s important for associations to maximize their use of ice time. Teams can incorporate off-ice training (weather permitting) for activities like conditioning and team building. When running drills or scenarios, coaches can stop the play and walkthrough with the players to explain without having to worry about how ice time is being used. Players can even work on stickhandling and passing off the ice while focusing on skating on the ice.
The way players are going to best enjoy the sport and keep coming back is by learning skills, feeling confident and having a sense of improvement. If there are financial barriers that still exist, reach out to your association or work with an organization like KidSport or Jumpstart that help keep kids in the game. A number of OMHA centres are also hosting First Shift programs, a learn-to-play hockey program designed for kids aged 6-10 who are new to the game. It allows participants to easily try hockey for $199, which includes enrollment for a six-week, on-ice curriculum and head-to-toe Bauer Hockey equipment that each child can keep.
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