BY JOEY FERNANDEZ Contributing columnist
Editor's note: Action Line is a weekly column from the Better Business Bureau answering consumers' questions and concerns about money and business issues.
Dear Action Line:
My son is entering high school and wants to play a team sport. He's never played a sport before and I worry that I'll spend a lot of money on his sports gear and he'll end up quitting the sport. Is this common for young people? Also, are all brands the same? Is there anything I should be looking for in sports gear?
The back-to-school rush is here. In addition to the usual cart full of notebooks, papers, pens and crayons, many families will spend a substantial amount of money on athletic equipment, ranging from helmets and pads to cleats and hockey skates.
And for good reason. According to The Center for Kids First, 30 to 40 million kids ages 5 to 18 play organized sports in any given year. And while some are in it for scholarships down the road, most -- 65 percent -- play sports as a means to hang out with friends.
Although shopping for athletic equipment and apparel might seem like a no-brainer (a football is a football, right?), depending on the sport, parents can potentially end up spending a sizeable chunk of change on gear.
With that in the mind, the Better Business Bureau serving Central California offers the following tips when shopping for your young athletes:
* Consider how serious your child is about the sport. If he/she is playing soccer for the first time, shin guards off the rack from your local retail store should do just fine. If your athlete is playing at the high-school level, consider investing in equipment that fits well and is especially designed for his/her position.
* Don't skimp when it comes to safety and protective gear. For this reason, reconsider purchasing used helmets or masks because you don't know how they were used or how many hits they've taken.
* If shopping for shoes or apparel, use the same considerations you would if you were purchasing those items for another purpose. Do the shoes fit well? Are cleats really necessary? Will your son really wear neon green gym shorts?
* Shop both online and at brick and mortar stores . Many sports retailers have websites that detail what to look for in different sports gear, such as football pads.
* Look into purchasing used equipment, either from a retail outlet or from families whose children have outgrown the equipment or dropped the sport. Coaches will often have names of parents interested in selling such equipment.
* Don't be pressured into buying high-dollar equipment just because a pro athlete endorses the product or because it's "guaranteed" to improve performance. The only guarantee is that it will cost more than a similar item without a star's signature.
* Make sure you understand the return and/or exchange policies of the retail store should you need to exchange or upgrade equipment.
-- Joey Fernandez is assistant director of business services for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 1601 H St., Suite 101, Bakersfield, CA 93301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.