Bengaluru-based Medha Shashidharan, 17, has been playing badminton for 11 years now. Each month her parents spend as much as 70,000 on her training, physiotherapy, diet and supplements, personal training, and renting the court. Medha is all set to pursue a career in badminton and dreams of representing India in international tournaments. “She’s planning to take up sports science for her bachelor’s degree so she gets the time to focus on the sport," said Chamundeshwari Thiagarajan, 44, Medha’s mother.

Building a career in sports takes immense dedication, discipline, hard work and patience. But all other challenges aside, there is also the high cost of training and equipment, which could compel your child to give up their dreams. Even the best of players find it difficult to get a sponsorship and it’s not specific to a particular sport. “Often the expenses become a burden. Though Medha is among the top badminton players in the country, she hasn’t received any substantial sponsorship," said Thiagarajan.

Medha has been trying for sponsorships to support her international travel and stay expenses but has only received a couple of small ones from sports gear brands. While her parents are funding her sports expenses for now, they might not be able to do so for much longer. If your child is getting ready to pursue a competitive sport, here are a few things you should take into consideration.

Smit Sanjay Patel, 19, started playing cricket at age 4. Currently represents Gujarat at the national level
Smit Sanjay Patel, 19, started playing cricket at age 4. Currently represents Gujarat at the national level

Be prepared

Training for most sports is becoming more expensive by the day. “There are many factors that are responsible. But the single largest factor is the goods and services tax (GST), which is 18% on coaching fees, sporting gear as well as on renting practice spaces such as a court," said Irfan Sait, managing director and head coach, Karnataka Institute of Cricket. While more parents are encouraging their children to take up at least one sport for physical and mental fitness, it would be a complete different ball-game if your child decides to make a career in it. One view is that there is not enough state support. “Unfortunately there isn’t much support from the government, especially for beginners. Only champions or winners are offered financial aid. Most others struggle to survive and their parents suffer quietly. You are promised sponsorships only when you succeed," said Sait.

The extent and intensity of your child’s involvement in the sport and supporting activities will decide the costs . Keep in mind that the list of expenses can be quite long. Deepali Sen, a certified financial planner and founder partner of Srujan Financial Adviders LLP—whose 17-year-old son Aaryan aspires to play cricket for the national team—said the expenses would involve gym costs, which include TheraBands, foam rolls, ice packs and weights, as well as trainer fees, club membership fees, costs of hiring a ground, nutritionist’s fees, dietary supplements, and in some cases, fees for a sports psychologist.

Topping the list of expenses is the high costs of getting a physiotherapist on board. “Physiotherapists are brought in to ensure that the form while playing is right and the longevity of the player is enhanced," said Sen. According to Thiagarajan, each session of physiotherapy costs around 500.

Smit Sanjay Patel, 19, started playing cricket at the age of four. Today he represents Gujarat at the national level in the under-19 category. He’s been training at the M’Power Cricket Academy in Ahmedabad for the last six years, but its only recently that his coaching fees were waived only recently. “Initially, I paid 6,000 for three months for coaching but since I am a batsman, the cost of my sports gear and equipment was very high. It still is," said Patel. He added that a single bat,which he can use for a maximum of four months, usually costs him 20,000-25,000; batting pads, which last six months, cost 3,000-4,000, and a helmet, which can be used for two years, can cost about 9,000. But that’s not all. “Gloves are a recurring expense. A pair costs about 3,000 and can be used for hardly a month," said Patel.

For Patel, sponsorship is not the solution. “Brands do offer to sponsor my equipment, but they’re not always the best quality so I don’t take it," said Patel.

Another major expense Patel has to factor in, is that of renting a ground for a 20-over practice match, which can cost as much as 8,000. However, now that he’s playing at the national level, Patel earns about 40,000 for each match and plays around 16-22 matches every year.

But for young sportspersons who haven’t gone professional, the parents shave to bear the expenses. Having a financial plan in place can help accommodate the many expenses without denting other long-term goals.

Money plan

First, have a chat with your child to understand how serious he or she is about pursuing a career in sports. If they’re not sure just yet, take it easy. “Don’t go all out with the first year of training. Build the equipment and gear slowly. If they need a kit, don’t choose the most expensive one. First buy the basic things your child needs and then build on it. If the child starts going for competitions, consider buying the high quality gear," said Shweta Jain, certified financial planner, CEO and founder, Investography Pvt. Ltd.

To tackle the costs, start by making a list of all the essential expenses under different heads such as monthly, yearly, ad-hoc and one-time costs. “One can work out an average from the expenses incurred in the previous few years. Based on this data, it’s best to start investing in a “sports fund" on a monthly basis and dip into it for the expenses, as and when required. It also makes sense to keep a buffer of 5-10%. The key is to ensure that one does not end up going overboard on frills and eating into essential expenses," said Sen.

Not having a dedicated fund and using your monthly surplus for the sports expenses could dent your finances because sports-related costs could be asymmetrical. “Training fees could be lower in the off season while other expenses like physiotherapy could be higher during the prime season," said Sen. If you spend as and when an expense arises, you could end up fire-fighting.

Having a separate fund solves this problem. “The money could be invested in short-term debt mutual funds, medium-term debt mutual funds and in equity mutual funds, depending on which goal it is for. The asset allocation should be driven by needs," said Sen.

To ensure that you don’t go overboard, list the avoidable expenses so that you can prioritise critical goals over them. The latter includes your own retirement, loan repayment, and investments.

Finally, don’t pressurise your child just because you’ve invested in his or her training. “It is easy to get carried away with success, but be there for the failures too. This will ensure that they confide in you and you become their strength. Competitions can be tough, so be there for your child," said Jain. While you focus on their present, don’t neglect to build a corpus for their future needs. If there’s an unfortunate turn of events and your child is unable to pursue the sport, it’s important to have a back-up plan.

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