Sports Authority is a store that, on the surface, looks like it just caters to athletes. However, it may surprise you to discover that Sports Authority carries more than baseball bats and football helmets. The store is a mega-complex of shoes and apparel for the whole family, outdoor and camping gear, energy foods, watches, lawn games, in-home fitness equipment, backpacks and much more. I once even purchased a summer-print dress from Sports Authority that I wore to a wedding!

In addition to carrying a lot of merchandise, I've found Sports Authority to be much more accommodating to deal-seeking KCLs than stores like Academy and Dicks Sporting Goods (though deals, of course, are to be had there as well). Here are my favorite ways to save on items for me and my family at Sports Authority:

1. Wait for "Clear the Gear" sales

Sports Authority allows shoppers to take advantage of twice-discounted items with their "Clear the Gear" sales online. Typically, the sale allows for clearance items that have already been reduced by 25 percent, but further discounts are often offered on certain items, like the company's current extra 35 percent off already-reduced clearance ski and snowboard equipment. Five-star rated women's snow boots that originally sell for $229 are only $116 online after the discount—quite a savings for such a specialty winter sports item! But even if you don't need a specialty item, you can find everyday items, as well. This Maxi Pop Fun outdoor chair is something everyone in the family could enjoy. And at less than $38 after clearance and an extra 25 percent discount, this chair (originally $70) is a steal!

2. Use coupons

Sports Authority provides two kinds of valuable coupons to customers: with email sign-up, you automatically get a 10-percent-off coupon (to use on top of certain store-offered percentage-off discounts, though certain exclusions do apply) and a $10-off-$50-purchase coupon. Coupons are also sent through email, via U.S. mail, and are available in ads.

3. Shop the ad and use price-matching

Sports Authority's weekly ad keeps me up to date on in-store special offers. When I don't find what I'm looking for, I love the convenience of using their price match program. Similar to Walmart, associates are given autonomy to price match right at the register. However, unlike Walmart, you need to have the print ad in hand, and online prices for certain items are not always honored. Still, their policy is very clear, and associates are helpful at answering questions.

4. Never pay for shipping

If you're a member of Shop Runner, you can always get free shipping and free returns at SportsAuthority.com. Not a member? If you spend $75 or more online, Sports Authority will ship your items free, no code needed. Alternately, you can watch a coupon site like RetailMeNot for codes for smaller orders and various percentage-off coupons.

5. Buy higher-ticket items in store during the off-season

I've found that higher-priced items such as weights, home fitness equipment, kids' competitive sports gear and tents are frequently discounted in-store after the popular-use season, even more so than online. Elliptical machines are hundreds of dollars off not in January when people are rushing to get them to fulfill New Years’ resolutions, but in the spring and summer. Early fall is the prime time for buying spring tents and camping and outdoor cooking gear that's being phased out.

6. Work the racks

Similar to the discounts on gear, I'm able to find clothing discounts on the store’s racks at anywhere from 30–60 percent off. I’m able to get brand names like prAna and The North Face—that would generally cost more in company stores or places like REI—for much less at Sports Authority. For instance, I spotted a $65 North Face Polartec full-zip women's fleece in Retro Pink at closeout at T.J.Maxx yesterday for $39.99, which no doubt is a deal, but I bought it off-the-rack at Sports Authority last year for only $29.97! Many of my name-brand purchases have come courtesy of the Sports Authority in-store sales and clearance racks.

7. Use a Discover card

I always earn money when I use my Discover Card, and Sports Authority makes it easy. I can log in to the Shop Discover site to earn an automatic 5 percent cash back if I pay with my Discover card. But it gets better—Shop Discover offers certain deals only for cardholders, like a 10-percent-off code (SAVE10EP, valid through Oct. 5) when paying with my Discover Card online at Sports Authority, and that’s on top of my 5 percent cash back!. Other deals (like $20 off iHome speakers) help me save on gifts. I am also able to turn $45 in cashback bonus awards (which usually takes me 4–6 months to accrue) into a $50 Sports Authority gift card for $5 worth of free money!