How to Host a Sports Gear Swap

Clean your closets, get like-new sports stuff, and maybe even earn some cash.

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

As a parent, I want my kids to try out many kinds of sports and fitness activities. But the costs, especially for shoes and other equipment, can mount up quickly. When my son started ice hockey, the league provided all of his gear—from helmet to skates—on loan, for free, for the first year. Once we knew he was going to continue with the sport, we started picking up equipment he could keep. But we still stuck with used items as much as possible.

That's where sports gear swaps come in.

Swaps are an ideal way to pick up (and get rid of!) sports gear, especially when your child is just starting out in a sport. And if you don't have access to one in your community, it's easy to set up a swap yourself—even more so if you know you have a pool of at least 10 families that will participate. (Don't forget to invite alumni families. Their kids may no longer be active in the sport, but they probably have old gear to get rid of!)

1. Decide what types of gear you'll swap. Are you organizing a swap on behalf of a specific sports league or program? Or is it a school- or community-wide event that will offer a wide range of items? Be sure to recruit some volunteers to help, especially if you anticipate hosting a big event!

2. You'll need to find a place to host your event, and schedule a date and time. Sometimes a league-specific swap can be held at your facility.

Depending on how you set up your swap, you may need a large, secure, indoor location.

3. Determine the terms of your swap. There are lots of options:

  • Make everything free and available on a first-come, first-served basis, or on the honor system: Give something, get something.
  • Charge an admission fee and allow attendees to take anything they want, in limited or unlimited quantities.
  • Give donors tokens or tickets, based on the number and/or value of items they contribute, which they then exchange for items they want to take home. (If you do this, considering also allowing people to buy tokens if they don't have anything to donate. Or give free tokens to families with kids brand-new to the sport, or under a certain age.)
  • Ask for donated items, and then charge a small purchase price for each to raise money for your sports organization.
  • Garage-sale style: Secure a space and publicize the event, but let donor families display, price, and sell their own items. (To fundraise or recoup costs, charge donors a small fee to participate.)

4. Set guidelines for donated items. Is your event just for baseball equipment, say, or will you accept gear for any sport? How about clothing? What about adult-sized items? Ask donors to clean or launder anything they're bringing to swap, and make sure it's in usable condition. It's best if you can accept items in advance, organize and display them, and then invite swappers in to "shop." You'll get more items for your swap this way.

But it only works if you have space to lay everything out and store it between the donation period and the swap hours.

5. Determine what you'll do with leftover items. If you're charging a purchase price for your swap goods, hold an end-of-day clearance sale. Hold anything that's left for a future swap, or donate it to a thrift shop or youth-service organization. You can also allow or even require donors to take home their own leftovers. What's most important is to be clear about this before your event begins.

6. Publicize your event! Get the word out so you have lots of sporting goods to swap. If this will be a fundraiser, make sure participants know that in advance. Consider adding fun extras like skills demos, refreshments, raffles or prizes, and activities for little kids to make your event more appealing and exciting.

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