Wrestling tournament weekend means a few things, super early mornings, hovering over a scale and money spent. Is that all? No! But it’s easy for moms and dads to get roped up in the details of the weekend outside of winning humbly and losing gracefully.
As a family of 6 and on 1 military income, my family can surely relate to the stresses extracurricular activities can bestow on a budget. We were ‘overachievers’ and had 4 kids back to back to back to back. We hunkered down through the diapers and baby bottles and felt we’d gained an extra income when the last was potty-trained. Oh if I could talk to me then I would laugh, and say keep pulling that money aside; for your diapers and bottles will soon become entry fees and gas money.
I laugh because it’s funny but I laugh harder because it’s true. We’ve done both ends of the spectrum in terms of sports with our kids. The basics are still the same just exponentially different in terms of finances. Ultimately, I want to give the big family on one income a little sparkle of hope on how to make ends meet for extracurricular activity.
1. You do NOT have to pay to do sports. You can join a club if you like, however, the schools and a lot of the YMCA’s/Boys & Girls clubs offer sports available to families at little or no cost. In fact, there are some ways you can just do a “trial” period where you engage your child for an agreed upon amount of time to determine if this is actually what little Johnny wants to do. Some families, this may be the answer.
2. Budget accordingly (Always OVERbudget, don’t UNDERbudget) Our budget includes our monthly fees. I also work up a mock budget based on the calendar for entries, gas, lodging, food, etc. to ensure we are setting ourselves up for success and not digging ourselves into a deeper hole. This mock budget doesn’t have to be exact, but by pricing things out and incorporating it into your family budget it can easily help paint a more clear picture of what to anticipate.
3. Fundraisers A lot of people don’t realize this, but you can do fundraisers for individuals as well as for teams. This is a huge perk! This can be anything from car washes, gift card raffles and more. The best part is having the kids get involved and do the work to see that it takes a good work ethic to do all the fun stuff they want to do. Heck, set up a lemonade stand in your neighborhood for your kiddos to earn some money for their extracurricular activities.
4. Sponsors Parents/athletes can write up a letter requesting sponsors. Typically, small businesses in the area will sponsor an athlete(s) in exchange for marketing of their business. This is a huge opportunity for your little ones to help drive the local economy and also allow you to let little Susie to play on a tournament team. Tournament teams tend to cost much more money then exhibition.
5. Packing Food/Drinks Anytime you have an event, check to see if outside food/drinks are permitted. Fortunately, in wrestling tournaments there tends to be a lot of venues that DO allow outside food/drinks. This is also true more so now due to COVID. This is a HUGE win for those smaller families with big dreams. I tend to pack granola/protein bars, bottled waters, PB&J sandwiches, fruit and some sort of chips/popcorn, etc. I throw all of this into a thirty one thermal tote with some ice packs and away we go! I’m spending noticeably less on food because I’m not buying $2/slice pizza at the concession stand that’s got enough grease on it to make my kid vomit before making it to the mat.
** Overnight trips look into staying somewhere that has amenities for you to cook your own meals and/or includes free meals with your stay. This is easy to do and determine when you lay out the outline for your season to work up your budget.**
6. Volunteer There’s so many opportunities in different clubs to help out and volunteer your time or abilities. Maybe your local club needs help on their budget or maintaining their finances. Perhaps you could coach or assistant coach. You have the option to also handle the “team mom” slot where you help the parents come together for the entire team. Ask your local club if this is something you could trade for. Maybe you can put on team events or coordinate the fundraising for the team. There’s so many ways you could help! Most of the time coaches are allowed in without paying the spectator fees which helps to relieve some financial strain as well.
7. Marketing A lot of people don’t realize how much word-of-mouth or social media marketing can really impact a business. Having moved all over the world, I can confirm that every place we have ever lived there has been some sort of social media group (if not, multiple) designated specifically for that area and with one main concept: What/Where/How/Why/When Questions. So when you see a post go up asking about local clubs in the area, share your honest review! I tend to lean heavily to the share who’s great and politely address privately with the company/business regarding any negative dealings. I also like to believe people don’t TRY to do bad so grace goes a LONG ways. I digress. This helps boost local economy and helps the club. Even wearing your clubs spirit wear can help!
8. Carpool when you can This doesn’t work as well for our large families, but it is something that can be utilized if the entire family isn’t attending the event and/or if the family isn’t a large family. You can split the cost of gas to attend an event. Typically there is a number of athletes from the same club/area that you can cut down exponentially on costs.
9. Used Gear One thing a lot of people forget is the ability to reuse gear. Our oldest son got his first wrestling shoes when we lived in Virginia and he was 4 or 5 years old. When our youngest son expressed interest in wrestling at age 5 and 6 I knew I had my oldest sons shoes and head gear. Now if you’ve met our youngest, then you know that passion was very short lived and I am beyond happy I saved the gear because I would have not been a happy mama had his “passion” faded as quickly as it did and I purchased new gear, haha. Even still though, I’m saving all my kids gear because they can pass it on to their younger siblings and/or we can use it to help others have the gear they need. I love all that good karma in the universe!
10. Plan for anything I know some of y’all are out there laughing, especially if you’re a military family, but hear me out. You’ve got to plan for the unexpected. Now I’m a huge “tribe” person because I believe it truly does take a village to raise kids. Having said that, I tend to take on ‘Mama’ role in the sense of having all the children’s meds for different ailments, bandaids and wraps, ice packs, hair ties, extra snacks and more. I would rather have extra then have to run around with my nasty mom bun all jacked up looking because I had to give my daughter my hair tie. Most ‘veteran’ sports mamas know this trick and you can usually find 2-3 per team that will ensure the littles are all taken care of. I will admit, my husband usually laughs at me but when I come in clutch I’m usually met with gratitude.
BONUS TIP: If you are staying at a hotel, make sure you sign up for their points system so you can accrue points to utilize with the same chain at future tournaments!
So take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back for surviving the diapers and bottles. Then straighten out your crown mama and put on that SIMPLY SPORTS STRONG smile and go enjoy the memories being made with your kiddos! Take way too many pictures and yell until you’re hoarse. This phase seems like long days but the years go by quick. Look how fast the diaper/bottles stage went? Don’t let the details take away from the beauty.