Thursday, April 21, 2016

Why Does Club Volleyball Cost So Much?


My club had two teams this year.   One team finished the season ranked 25th out of 79 teams in their age group.  The other team finished 36th out of 80 teams in their age group.   Out cost per player was under $250 for returning players and $300 for new players who needed uniforms.  Most clubs in our area charge $800 to $3000 per player, not counting mandatory fundraisers and travel costs for out of town events.

Coaching in the St. Louis area for almost 30 years, I have asked myself this question a number of times. "Why are people paying thousands of dollars a year for club volleyball?" 

Here are some of the major costs associated with club volleyball:
  • Club overhead charges (including administrator salaries)
  • Coach salaries and per diems (food and hotel)
  • Uniform packages
  • Practice facility charges
  • Tournament entry fees
  • Player and coach registration fees and coach background checks
  • Equipment charges
  • Parent costs (hotels, airfare, gas, food, gift for coaches at end of season)
Certain costs (tournament entry fees, player/coach registration fees/background checks, uniform shirts (2) and shorts/spandex and a small amount for equipment/club overhead) are mandatory to have a team.  

But what about the other costs?  Most of the costs above are not needed if the goal is to make players better.  Since it is likely that only 5-10% of kids playing select volleyball will ever get volleyball scholarships, it would seem the goal is to make players better for three reasons:

a.  To teach them about playing in a competitive team environment in a sport they show proficiency at and love to play.
b. To optimize the team they are on and the role they have when they enter high school as freshmen
c. To maintain their ability to have a successful high school career (if they play club volleyball in high school).

You could add a 4th category, to have fun with their friends.  While that is important, it seems like that could be accomplished for much less than what people are paying for club volleyball.

Here are some of topics I plan to discuss on this blog:
  • Uniform packages: Does your son or daughter really need a team backpack?  Do they need a warmup?  Do they need a practice t-shirt? How many uniform shirts do they need?  How many pairs of shorts/briefs do they need?
  • Travel: Does your team need to be traveling out of town or even playing at an in-town national qualifier?  This is a huge money drain on a parent, with one trip, if the family flies, potentially doubling the cost of the season for that family.  We will discuss whether all teams should travel and ways to keep it less expensive.
  • Coaches getting paid: Do you need to be paying your coaches and, if so, how much?   In the St. Louis area and in our region there are over 500 select volleyball teams and probably closer to 800 coaches.  How many of those teams have coaches that are getting paid?  How many of those coaches do you think need to get paid?  That is, does your coach have the expertise and experience to coach kids at the level they are assigned to?  Do they actually have the ability to train players at a high level?   Is there evidence that your coach continues to do self-improvement in their volleyball coaching and coaching techniques, in general? 
  • Cost of practice: Is your club looking hard enough for cheap or free practice facilities or are they using centralized practice facilities which are costing your team $30, $40 or even $50 an hour?
  • Overhead: Is your club trying to keep administrative costs down to the bare minimum?  What are acceptable costs and what costs can be contained.
  • Simple cost-cutting: I will discuss ways to save money that is needless spent, like playing in local $175 tournaments just to get first referees for your matches.
  • Accountability, literally -Do you get a line item expense report at the end of the year which would allow you to answer a lot of the questions above?  If not, why not?
In the 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 seasons our parents paid under $250 a player for an entire season with an average of 7 local tournaments plus regionals.  One of our teams added the Gateway Festival and the Mideast Qualifier in St. Louis and it only raised their amount to $350 a person.  This season our two teams finished ranked 25th (out of 79) and 36th (out of 90) teams in the region.  It can be done and it can be done cheaply.

I hope to give some examples of how this can be done in this blog.

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