By Jack Perconte, McClatchy-Tribune
Buying sports equipment for your son or daughter is usually an easy thing to do, when affordable of course. Parents can take their child to the store, or look on-line, and find the equipment that their child needs and likes.
This does not involve too much pressure because the kids can pick the equipment. When it turns out not to suit their needs, it was basically their choice, and parents can explain that to them and that they will have to live with their decision for now. However, the amount of pressure on parents increases dramatically when it comes time for parents to surprise their child with a holiday present. It is never a fun experience to see your child open a gift on the holiday only to see a disappointed look on their face.
Following are some parental tips that can help parents avoid the “I can’t believe you bought that” look:
1. Set your budget.
1. Focus on the child’s favorite sports first. Kids are generally not enthused with a gift of a sport that they are not that interested in.
2. Take inventory of child’s equipment to see what might be possible gift ideas.
3. Place emphasis on what a child may need and not just what they desire. Sometimes these are one and the same items but it becomes a more complicated decision when they are not the same items, especially for families where money is tight. Buying a gift based only on a kid’s desire means parents will have to buy the needed item later and this can put an obvious strain on family finances.
4. Realize that a child may not get enthused with a gift for a sport that they won’t play for a number of months, even if it is their favorite sport.
5. Research what size equipment is needed by checking child’s previously used gear. Learning what other players their age use can also be helpful, as well as determining how much the child has grown since last playing the sport.
6. Check league, school or organization rules for size regulations if applicable for product to be purchased. Knowing these regulations can prevent headaches and money loss once the season starts.
7. Research the various products available to find out what are the “hot” brands. Parents can check with coaches, their kids’ friends or other parents. Very serious athletes, coaches and some store employees generally know which equipment are the “in” items, and kids usually want the “cool” equipment.
8. Network around for product referrals from like-minded buyers on-line, at specialty stores or with friends. Attending a specialty store for that particular sport’s equipment may be necessary.
9. Remember the saying, “You get what you pay for.” Cheap products may not last very long and you may end up spending more later on for a replacement. This is especially true for the serious athlete who tends to use their equipment quite often. However, it is good to balance cost with good judgment on the degree of quality needed, of course. Buying expensive items that kids will outgrow in a year is very expensive and may not be necessary. Less expensive products may suffice when a product is only needed for a short season.
10. Look for used equipment when budget is small, but parents can still adhere to all the previous points.
11. Remember that once equipment is used, even once, it is probably not returnable, so it is important to make sure athlete is “sold” on gear before allowing them to use it.
Of course, no one likes to see his or her child disappointed at Holiday time, but practicality has to be taken into account. Learning that they cannot have everything they want is a necessary lesson for kids to learn. For those situations when the item was not what they wanted, it is necessary to explain to children that they needed this equipment more and you could only afford this. Suggesting to kids that the more expensive products may be possible in the future is sound and soothing advice to kids. Likewise, letting kids know that you will continue to work hard to afford good sports equipment, as long as they continue to work hard at the sport, is good positive parenting.
Finally, letting kids know that they can earn the most desired piece of equipment with a job or by performing chores, is also good parenting advice.
Jack Perconte played 12 years of professional baseball. After retiring from professional baseball in 1987, Perconte opened a baseball training academy in Naperville, Ill. The hitting drills, mental training and coaching tips found in “The Making of a Hitter” (www.themakingofahitter.com) were culled from the 60,000 hitting lessons Perconte estimates he gave while operating the academy. He has also written “Raising an Athlete,” and writes for the blog http://positiveparentinginsports.com.