Sunday, May 15, 2016

Grade School Ball vs Club Ball - Should the same players be doing both?

While this is a blog about keeping volleyball affordable, I wanted to divert for a second to talk about grade school volleyball and how better to integrate it with select volleyball. 

The reality is that most grade school teams, public or private, don't allow their kids to play both club ball and school ball in the same sport at the same time.

In Missouri, tryouts and the start of club practice overlap with Catholic school-based grade school leagues.  There are many fewer public schools who have middle school teams but there is some overlap with club season with some of those teams, as well.  In Illinois, the public and religious school grade school leagues don't even start until December (with games starting in January) and end in the beginning of April meaning kids, if they play for the grade school team, don't even get to start club until April.  . 

Here are some realities from my experience with grade school ball:
  • Grade school ball is bottom heavy, talent-wise at least in the St. Louis area.   That is anyone who signs up can play and gets to play a fair amount. 
  • Grade school coaching is generally not as good as club coaching
The result is that the better players or those good athletes who could benefit from more advanced training don't often get that from grade school ball.  They are generally forced to play at a lower, slower level of play, with less playing time due to bloated rosters and, if the coaching is not there, they are not improving their individual game.

All this so that they can play for their school or play with their friends.  

My solution is to start club tryouts earlier for grade school kids.   Make those tryouts in August.   I think by doing that kids in Missouri would choose club ball over their grade school team and that would help both the kids who made a club team and those who didn't as the latter would get more playing time for their grade school team and the former would get more accelerated training.  For the Illinois kids, this would allow you to play a split season.  Going from August to December and then picking back up in time for regionals and late season play.   For the Illinois kids more of them might play club if they didn't have the conflict with school ball and, eventually, might see the futility of school ball compared to club ball and just focus on club ball.

These are radical ideas but I have always been an out-of-the-box kind of guy.  But it is not like I don't have experience.   In some of the larger parishes they simply shuttle the less talented players to "B", "C" and "D" teams.  But many schools don't do that.  Either they don't have enough kids sign up to do multiple teams in an age group or their school doesn't allow they to do the "A" team, "B" team thing.  In either case the better players are not getting their money's worth from grade school ball.  So, in a sense, this is about saving money.  But it is more about putting the better players or better athletes in a situation when they can advance faster. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Fundraising - Is it needed and, if so, how should it be handled?

Fundraising is a part of most amateur sports, especially when travel is involved.  The question is, is it worth it for the parents and kids doing the fundraising?

Philosophically, I think fundraising by kids is good.  It helps teach the kids responsibility and makes them take ownership of defraying some of the costs their parents are paying. 

Practically, finding a way to defray costs is really important for resource-challenged families who don't have the disposable income to pay for youth sports. 

Still, is it worth the time?   There is a TON on the internet about fundraising ideas but not much, if anything, about whether it is time effective. 

Without talking about the legalities of fundraising where kids or parents are making money at an activity yet not having it count as income that the IRS knows about, let's talk about the profit in fundraising.   Here are some questions to ask:

1. What is the TRUE profit?  Here are some things to think about:  

a. Time spent - Assuming a minimum wage of $10 an hour, in the end did your profit equal 14 times the hours you spent (assuming you have to work 4 hours to pay the income tax on every 10 hours of work if someone worked a minimum wage job instead of doing the fundraising)?

b. Hidden costs - People contribute a roll of tape, posterboard for signs, a bottle of ketchup and, in some cases, everyone is asked to bring a dessert or a 12 pack of water or soda.   Make sure you include these costs when considering your true profit and, in fact, the time it took you to do these tasks. 

c. Fundraiser chairperson - Assuming a parent is doing this, that person (or people) should include the cost of their time.  When they do that, was it still worth their time?

If you really look critically, is it worth your time to do fundraising?  Some clubs make it easy for you and only make you sell tickets to an event.   Still, there is a cost associated with that in terms of the kids' and parents' time.   Is it really worth it?

For big fundraising events (trivia nights, night at the races, etc.) you have to ask yourself where the bottom line profit is going.  Does it go to help the club?  Does it go to defray your specific costs for playing on that team?  My favorite answer is 'It helps defray the overhead for running the club and, in that way, makes it so we don't have to charge you as much money'.  Given what you have read below, isn't it the club administration's job to defray overhead and aren't there plenty of ways they should be thinking about doing that?   Look, there is a lot of money to be made off events like this.  Besides the cost of admission you have concessions, (e.g., beer, food) 50/50 raffles, etc.  If all that profit is not going directly to the people who set up and worked that event, you have to ask yourself why not. 

Two of the themes of the posts on this blog are transparency and accountability.   I am not saying this happens in any club in this region but it is so easy to hide where profits from fundraising that I think clubs need to be extra transparent on the balance sheet for fundraising.  And parents need to ask for that transparency.

I will leave you with this example.   My club used to run tournaments at local gyms.   I did all the work to get those tournaments sanctioned, recruit the teams, did all the scheduling myself, fill out all the paperwork necessary to get the facilities, came in and set up everything the day before.  All this was done for free by me to help defray costs and I got no money for that.  Parents were assigned jobs as far as concessions and set up and tear down/cleanup and had to participate by bringing food items. 
Everything considered we made roughly $1500 in net profit for two tournaments with ZERO money going to the club and all of it going to the players/families who worked the event.  That's about $150 a family for two tournaments.   Using the math above, that is equivalent to working about 21 hours at minimum wage over those two events.  The question that parents need to ask themselves is whether the time they spent was worth the money they made.  After dong this for two years the parents of my teams all voted not to do it again as they said that it was not worth their time, based on the money they made.  And that was with me spending probably 30 hours myself to make those tournaments happen and the coaches of the teams also pitching in for free for maybe 15 hours total to help out. 

So, I am not telling you to NOT fundraise with your club.  I am asking you to consider TRUE profit and to ask your club for an accounting of where the money is going and, if it is going to the nebulous 'overhead', ask them what, in detail, overhead means and if there aren't other ways to defray overhead.   If some or most of the fundraiser profit is going to pay salaries of club administrators, I think parents show know that.   In my opinion, fundraising profits should go 100% to defray the costs of individual families and should not be going to the club or its administrators or coaches.