Be Smart About Used Sports Gear

Survive Youth Sports by Buying Used Equipment and Taking Good Care of It

boy tying hockey skates
Beginners can get new-to-them equipment at a sports gear swap.. Art Vandalay/Photodisc/Getty Imagse

Unless you're made of money, used sports gear is a must if your child plays youth sports. Until you know whether she's going to stick with a particular sport or position, it's just too pricey to buy new equipment every season—which could mean every few months, if she plays more than one sport or has any brothers or sisters.

Especially while your child is young, growing quickly, and in the trying-things-out phase of youth sports, used gear is ideal.

Here's how to make the best of it.

Best Sources for Used Sports Gear

Big chain stores that specialize in resale, such as Play It Again Sports, usually have a good inventory of used (and new) equipment. They inspect the sporting goods they sell to make sure they are in reasonably good condition, and they price accordingly—in other words, baseball pants with a few mud stains will be marked down lower than those without any.

Local sports leagues and organizations are also a good resource since they often sell used gear as a fundraiser or a service to member families. Put the word out among friends, relatives, and neighbors if you're looking to buy, too. They're more likely to be honest about the condition of any gear they're selling, and to give you a good deal.

How to Check Out Used Sports Gear

Generally, it's best to avoid buying used helmets. You want the most up-to-date protection for your child's head!

Plus, you won't know if a used helmet has ever sustained a hard hit or a fall. Also stick to brand-new for personal items, such as mouthguards

For other kinds of protective equipment (such as chest protectors, knee pads, or shin guards), check that padding is intact, fully attached, and not moldy.

Make sure any rubber or hard plastic parts are free of cracks or breaks, and that all straps and fasteners are functional and in good condition.

When it comes to items like bats, racquets, and even shoes, you'll have to use your best judgment as to whether the gear is in good enough condition and fits your child well. Talk to the coach or to another experienced, knowledgeable player or parent before you shop, and get their advice on what to look for. They may recommend certain brands or styles.

Keep Used Sports Gear in Good Shape

When you first buy used gear, wash or clean it. You can even put protective gear in your washing machine or dishwasher. Just be sure to use cold water and a gentle cycle.

After laundering, and after every use, dry your sports gear! Dampness, whether from sweat, mud, snow, or ice, can lead to rust, mold, bacteria build-up, and other wear and tear. Wipe hard surfaces with a towel and let pads and shoes air-dry; some clothing can go in the dryer on low heat.

If you help your child take good care of his sports gear, you may even be able to recoup some of its cost by selling it again when he's finished with it.

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