Turning used equipment into treasure is valuable way to save money


October 22, 2006|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

DEAR CAL -- We have four very active children, all under 13. The cost of keeping them equipped for sports is pretty substantial. We've generally gone to a used-equipment store for things like gloves, bats, cleats and helmets. But now our oldest, our son who is 12, is getting very self-conscious about using used gear and wants us to buy him new stuff. My first question - at this level (still in youth leagues), is there much difference in quality between new and used equipment? My second question - how do we explain to him, and to our other kids, that buying new equipment for everyone is simply too expensive for us? Wanda Collier, Baltimore

DEAR WANDA --That's a difficult question, because many parents have made the mistake of buying brand new equipment for their kids only to have them change their minds and stop playing sports. The cost of equipment is very high, and even in our family, growing up in baseball, we had to share and pass down equipment.

There are a couple of suggestions I would have as far as how you present the used equipment. I would have a closet, a locker or a trunk where you keep the family's athletic equipment. Maybe you have dad's glove in there and then go out and buy a couple of gloves from a used equipment store, so it's almost like going through a treasure chest when the kids have a need for equipment.

Kids' feet grow so fast that they rarely wear out their cleats. I would look for opportunities to use cleats for multiple sports. There are many cleats that are multi-purpose. Turf shoes, for example, or shoes with rubber cleats, can be used for baseball and soccer.

The treasure chest can help disguise hand-me-downs and can hold the family collection of sports equipment. It can be cool for a kid to say, "This is the glove that dad used." I'm sure that most kids would be willing to take it out on the field, use it and maybe even re-string it with new leather. My dad spent time showing me how I could take an old glove and make it better simply by putting new leather in it. That can turn out to be a bonding experience for a father and son.

I would look to offset costs by having the team purchase equipment. The cost of bats and helmets can be shared by everyone on the team since these items can be used by all of the players.

Usually, where there's a will, there's a way. Sometimes by being creative in your approach and presentation you can accomplish your goals as far as limiting cost and not upsetting your kids.

DEAR CAL --Our daughter seems to know what she's supposed to do on the soccer field during practice. But in games, she seems to be timid. Is there any way to coach aggressiveness? Larry Melton, Columbia

DEAR LARRY --There really isn't a way to teach aggressiveness in your child. I think that happens through experience. Until you've actually had to deal with the aggressive nature of competition and playing against kids you don't really know, you don't realize that it's not a friendly game anymore. It's more of a serious game. You learn from your experience.

I would suggest talking to your child to get an idea of what they are feeling in those games. If she seems to be more free in practice, maybe there's a reason for that. Maybe instead of telling her that she needs to be more aggressive and to get into the mix and not shy away from the ball, you can really dissect it. Ask questions about what is going through her mind during games while encouraging her to get in there. If it is the fear of injury that is preventing her from being aggressive, maybe you can deal with that by telling her that many times you get injured when you are timid and that you are safer if you go in there and are strong.

No matter what, I wouldn't worry too much about this type of situation, because game experience is how we learn the most about how to be aggressive.

Have a question or issue arising from your involvement in youth sports? Send it by e-mail to askcal@baltimoresun.com.

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