Are Sports Clinics for Your Child Worth the Cost?

by AJ Pettersen · 6 comments

Within the past decade, the amount of money put into youth athletics has skyrocketed. I grew up and saw this firsthand in baseball. Clinics, lessons, travel teams all ‘promise’ to make your child the next big thing, but do they really deliver? The reasons for putting kids into these types of activities are different. Some parents need a babysitter; some think their child is the next Babe Ruth, while some are just following what everyone else is doing. If you want to send your children to clinics or sign them up for special travel teams, you need to do your homework. There are a few ways you can do this.

Qualifications

Sometimes when I listen to the instructor during a lesson in progress at the local batting cage, I can’t even be certain he or she ever played baseball competitively. Check with other parents and kids who have used similar instructors or programs. Are they well qualified for the job? Check on levels at which they have played or coached. Anyone can claim to be a guru, but a sound background check can reveal plenty.

Motivation

What is the goal of the program? If it looks like a few people trying to make a quick buck, it probably is. Many of these services can run up quite a bill. I have worked clinics and camps and understand the business. If you are seeking out services for your child, you should watch them conduct a lesson or practice. Do they seem genuinely interested? Do they remember your child’s name? Does your child come home happy afterward?

Can You Do The Same?

I have been able to make it to professional baseball without any clinic help when I was in youth athletics. This is because I believe you can reach great heights by studying the sport yourself. While clinics and certain programs offer a chance to play more, they may not offer anything more than you can do on your own. Watching baseball can be helpful in the development of a player. I still watch the guys at the top to see if I can pick up on things. The people who played at the highest level do it the best. This is something that most clinics and teams cannot offer.

I would suggest that any young baseball player play as much as possible. Playing pick up games or neighborhood wiffle ball is instrumental in learning to play baseball. Some of the greatest players ever to play have come from Latin America where they played stickball growing up. Play, play, play. Sometimes you don’t need to write a check for your child to do what they love to do.

What Will You Do?

Use these few tips to determine if these types of services are right for your child. While I only spoke about my experiences with baseball, I know the same types of issues arise in other sports. Do your homework and know where your money is going. What are your views on these services and their place in youth athletics?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Modest Money March 28, 2012 at 7:41 am

Most importantly make sure it is what your child actually wants to do. If they love the sport enough, the extra playing time may very well be worth it. I went to a soccer camp as kid, but it was not because I was a particularly strong player. I went because it was what I really enjoyed doing.

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Nawanda37 March 28, 2012 at 9:28 am

I don’t have much time, but I’d like to respond.

Much of what is said here is spot on: observe the clinic, try to get a read on their motivation, and check out their credentials. However, you aren’t actually exploring the question that serves as the title of your post. None of your advice is bad, but it’s obviously one-sided. If you pose a piece of writing as a question, it makes sense to approach it from both sides and allow your readers to make a decision.

Private/small group instruction can make a world of difference for a player. I am a private soccer tutor for students who have been playing for years. I have also put on clinics in the past. If students are willing to work hard in class, and to do their homework, they will invariably see permanent and amazing results in a month or less. In fact, thanks to my nearly two decades of soccer coaching, and my understanding of body mechanics, I can improve almost anyone’s kick in about five minutes. Students who learn this at a young age are put on an entirely different tack in their soccer career. The kind of one-on-one attention that I can give in a tutoring environment is nearly impossible to pull off as a coach of a full team without an impossibly impressive staff.

I have never had a disappointed customer (that I’m aware of).

This may not be the case with baseball, but the sad truth for soccer is that most youths are coached by very well-meaning (and heroic, in my opinion, for committing the time) parents who have somewhere between no and very little knowledge about how to teach the sport. This is the source of countless bad habits in almost all American soccer players (all the way up to the college level, boys and girls). [Side note: Without opening a huge can of worms, it is my opinion that this is the cause of the United State's poor standing in world soccer.]

To sum up: clinics/tutors should be painstakingly vetted before you hand over your money and child. However, their value, especially to young players still forming habits, can be massive.

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MoneySmartGuides March 28, 2012 at 9:48 am

I think if your child wants to do it, then they should. But if it’s the parents pushing the child, then they shouldn’t. I went to a camp for baseball, but it was in high school and was recommended by my coach, who I trusted. It turned out to be a great camp. If it wasn’t for his recommendation, myself and my parents certainly would have done the due dilligence to make sure the camp was a good one.

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Carl Lassegue March 28, 2012 at 3:10 pm

I personally don’t think those clinics are effective. The more you play the better you are going to get so instead of throwing money into a clinic, find a free league where your child can play and have fun and he will eventually get better.

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Financial Advice for Young Professionals March 31, 2012 at 2:20 pm

I grew up playing volleyball competitively, played in college and I have been coaching for 8+ years. You would be amazed at how expensive girl’s volleyball is. The girls on my team are spending $4-6,000 per club season. I charge a modest $50/hr, others charge up to $80/hr for 1 hour private lessons.

I think camps are the best option, pay a few hundred bucks, get 4 days of solid instruction. The key to improving is playing with people who are better than you.

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Marbella April 3, 2012 at 4:09 am

I come from a small community that had a rule that said that the children would try to have at least two different sports, both to develop themselves and also to make friends with similar interests. It worked great and the municipality paid for all expenses, child and youth activities were free.

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