I have been extremely lucky as a club director over the years. As near as I remember I have never paid over $35 an hour for gym time and, except for a couple of seasons where we used a central facility, have never paid over $20 an hour for gym time.
This past season 75% of our gym time for our two teams was actually free and all we paid for our other gym time was $10-20 an hour and we practiced on wood courts about half the time!
How did I pull off this miracle:
a. Deciding that it was more important to practice for free than for all my teams to practice together in one facility.
b. Spend the time finding free gyms to practice in.
Some club directors LOVE to have all their teams practice in one facility and, in fact, work to make that happen. There are advantages to practicing predominantly in one facility. Among these, simplifying the practice schedule for the club administrators is not an insignificant one.
However, the tradeoff to the good things you get from practicing in a large facility is that court time is usually pretty expensive. I have heard that some facilities charge up to $50 an hour per court. When you add that into your cost of playing club volleyball, it can really skyrocket the parents' cost during the season. Some club teams put in more than 100 hours of practice during the season. At $50 an hour this costs $5000 or $500 for each parent for practice time for a season. Is having a centralized practice facility worth that much? I thought that there had to be a better way.
So we looked for, and found, practice facilities all over the area we practiced in and found free ones all over that area. I won't go into details of how we made that work but, trust me, there are free practice facilities all over the Gateway Region. You just have to find them.
Now, I will tell you that this creates a lot of work for the club administrators (me, in my club) but it is worth it to me because it helps me keep my costs WAY down. And you know what else, I can give our teams their entire practice and tournament schedule by December 1st so it's not like our players are waiting until Monday night to see if I can find a practice facility for Tuesday. That has happened a couple of times when snow days came on us suddenly but, generally, all the parents know where all the practices are from the beginning of the season and, in cases where there might be a couple of holes in that schedule, it gives the parents a chance by helping out and coming up with free gyms for us.
Now people have said to me 'well, our facilities are better'. You know what, in many cases you are right. However, since I managed to coach the first girls team in our region's history to medal at the open division of nationals and ran practices EXCLUSIVELY on tile floors in a free gymnasium, I am pretty sure that not having the best practice facility was not a hindrance to either player development, player safety or winning. BTW, this year we practiced 50% on wood floors and 50% on tile floors in our club and practiced for free 75% of the time.
So the questions I suggest you ask your club director are:
a. How much did you look to find us free or cheap facilities to practice in?
b. If we, as parents of this team, can find acceptable and free or cheap places to practice, can we get money back at the end of the year?
As your practice facilities likely represent a significant chunk of the money you invest in your child's club volleyball team each year, I think club directors should be busting it to find teams cheap or free practice facilities. If they are not, they are not thinking about protecting the money of the parents in their club. Since that is the theme of this blog, I consider this a very important point for all club directors to consider.