So, your children’s sporting seasons don’t start back up for a couple months. You have a bit more time and money for yourself, right? Wrong! You’re in this for a lifetime! Children are expensive, so let’s get used to it.
All jokes aside, with the season approaching, you’re probably thinking about how to budget yourself to purchase their equipment and accessories and prepare them for a safe and successful season. As your children rapidly grow, the football gloves they used last season may not fit properly, their cleats may be a little too tight, and so on. Replacing their gear periodically can get expensive, so it’s best to have a plan. Look on the bright side: It’s better to have your kids playing sports, learning teamwork and dedication than to have them sit on the couch all day glued to their gaming consoles. You want them to have a good experience and be well-equipped and prepared to make the most of their season, so let’s get to it!
Pop Warner Official Equipment Requirements
Pop Warner is the oldest and most well-known youth football, cheer and dance program in the world. Their football programs match children with similar ages and sizes to maintain fair and competitive games. They also have academic requirements for their participants, which encourage children to do well in school also. Chances are, your children may be participating in a Pop Warner program or a similar setup. A good place to start calculating your needs is by looking at their official equipment requirements.
Most Pop Warner leagues will provide your child with a helmet, shoulder pads, a team jersey and team pants. Keep in mind there are registration fees that apply when enrolling your child in the Pop Warner program. According to the official Pop Warner site, their fees can vary from $75 to $200 to register. Additional equipment fees may apply.
- Footwear/Cleats: Football cleats are not required by Pop Warner, but highly recommended. Football cleats are not a must, but they do provide more support than soccer cleats. If you purchase screw-on cleats, make sure to avoid any metal material. Most cleats are constructed from rubber today.
Pricing on youth football cleats seems to vary quite a bit, depending on preferences. A quick search will pull up a massive selection of cleats to choose from. Prices range from $20 on the low end and you shouldn’t pay more than $70 for a quality pair. Depending on how quickly they are growing, you may want to purchase more conservatively in this category considering the fact that they may not fit for more than one season.
- Practice Pants/Belt: Your children’s football pants should fit snugly. Keep in mind they will sag when they get wet. The pant legs should end just below the knee. Some pants come with a belt, some do not. If they do not, make sure to purchase a football belt.
The pricing on youth football pants is very reasonable. There are many different brands, styles, and colors to choose from. Prices range from $5 to about $20. If you have to purchase an additional football belt, most of them will not set you back more than $2.
- Girdle/Pads: The girdle is worn under both the practice pants and the game pants. You will need to buy a package of pads to put into the girdle. All pads will fit into the girdle except for the knee pads which are inserted into the practice/game pants.
The prices on youth football girdles vary quite a bit. Depending on the brand and the style, they can range from $10 up to as much as $55, but most of them do come with padding. Fortunately, these are constructed with stretchy material and will last a couple seasons hopefully.
- Protective Cup/Athletic Supporter: This is required by Pop Warner. Some girdles have a pocket for the athletic cup, or you can use an athletic supporter/cup.
From personal experience, we recommend you get the athletic supporter/cup combination as any cup that doesn’t fit properly can become very painful under certain circumstances. These are relatively inexpensive and you should be able to find a good one for $7 to $10.
- Practice Jersey: Be sure that it is big enough to fit over the shoulder pads (but not too big).
These are very affordable and available in many different colors and sizes. Your child’s youth football practice jersey can be purchased for around $10.
- Chin Strap for the Helmet: We suggest a protective chinstrap, which has a plastic cup that fits under the player’s chin.
Youth sizes are available for smaller children. Save yourself the trouble of going back to the store multiple times by bringing the helmet to the store to try it on. The prices on these vary quite a bit. You can purchase a very basic one for under $5 though. If you want the bigger brands, expect to pay about 3 times as much.
- Mouthguard: All players must wear a mouthguard while playing. They should be worn before the snap or the team is penalized. The mouthguard must attach to the face mask and must be colored. Clear mouthguards are not allowed.
The pricing on mouthguards can vary quite a bit. This is one piece of equipment you will not want to skimp on, however. A quality mouthguard will provide more protection over the more economical products. Some brands even include dental warranties with their product, up to $10,000 worth. Expect to spend at least $20 on a great mouthguard, but they should last for a couple of seasons at least.
- Football Gloves: Football gloves may enhance your child’s performance by helping them grip the ball. Ball-handling players want to go for the more tacky gloves. Linemen especially benefit from padded gloves because of the protection provided to their hands.
There are different brands and styles of football gloves. You will want to purchase these based on what position your child will play. Some models favor linemen and others favor wide receivers, running backs or fullbacks. For smaller children, youth football gloves are available, too. Most models will cost you between $10 and $20. They are a great investment for their performance-enhancing and protective nature. They also come in handy for keeping your child’s hands warm while playing in cold weather.
Other Essentials to Consider:
Playing a football game can really work up a sweat and an appetite! While it sounds delicious, a double cheeseburger and french fries at halftime wouldn’t do much to fuel your child during the second half (although it would certainly fuel a food coma). Quick, light sources of energy come in handy here. Look for light snacks and quickly digested carbohydrates like granola bars, energy bars, energy gels and sports drinks. Make sure to budget about $3 worth each game, including a snack and plenty of water.
ACL tears are frighteningly common in football. Last year, a whopping 59% of all professional football teams had at least one player tear an ACL during their training camp. We’re talking about professional athletes here; if it can happen to them, it can happen to your child, too. A great way to possibly reduce the risk of an ACL tear or other knee injuries is to purchase a knee brace for your child. Wearing a knee brace during a football game may help to provide extra stability and prevent missteps that can injure the knee. A good knee brace can set you back $150, but an ACL tear can cost thousands of dollars in copays and surgery to repair so choose wisely.
Let’s dig a little deeper into this one. The position your child plays will dictate what type of brace will suit their needs the most. The sleeve braces provide support and allow for the most freedom of motion. Most of the players on the field who aren’t linemen will want to choose these. The hinged braces provide the maximum level of support and stability. Make sure to pick the type of brace that will best suit their position and their needs.
Although you would probably hope so, not every one of your children’s games will be a home game. Some of them may require extensive travel and even an overnight stay. If your children make it to the championships, expect to travel even further. There are too many variables to give you an exact figure here, but when you’re working out your budget, try to set aside some additional funds for traveling.
By now, you’re probably asking yourself how much this will cost. We’ve kept a running tab for you. By crossing off all of the items above (required and recommended), you can expect to spend between $350 to $600 per child. A large portion of this bill will vary on the registration fee and some of the accessories. Remember to prioritize your spending on the protective gear as opposed to a flashy jersey, etc. Items like the knee braces and youth football gloves will give your child more bang for your buck than a pretty jersey.
Keep in mind these calculations are per child, so you will want to adjust. Let’s assume you have one child and you are 2 months out of football season. If we calculate your specific costs at $500, that means you want to stash about $62.50 a week for 8 weeks. These estimates are generous. You can easily get away with the $350 or $400 figure and save some money. At this rate, however, it’s very doable.
Is It Worth It?
The answer is a resounding “Heck yeah!” You may consider their sports programs expensive, but it has to be seen as an investment for their future. We now know that adolescents who participate in team sports perform better in school and better in a team setting. Pop Warner programs are one of the few programs with academic performance standards, which gives your child another incentive to perform well in the classroom also.
Children learn accountability and conflict-resolution by cooperating with others on a team. Let’s not forget the physical aspect of football as well. Children need exercise to combat obesity and develop muscular strength and endurance that will serve them well later on. Football is a great way to keep them active and engaged with others as opposed to being glued to their TV sets during all of their free time.