Are you being ripped off by your travel team? Every year, we hear from families around the United states – and field hundreds of fan questions about the financial integrity of the softball business and in particular the managers and coaches of travel and school teams. The keyword here is “BUSINESS,” because it seems that softball has become a multi-million dollar industry with so many hands in the pockets of families like all of us. And the worst part, is the sport is already expensive enough – and taxing enough on hard-working families that it is a downright shame the way many people are being taken advantage of.
Over the past 15 years, we have seen and heard it all when it comes to the monetary dishonesty of folks in this business – both at the high organizational level and the community rec and travel levels and of course school ball. We have heard of organizations padding the team budget by tens of thousands of dollars by adding costs that simply are untrue, and of local coaches taking advantage of players by increasing fees above and beyond the real amount. And beyond that, there also parents who use money to leverage their child’s ‘opportunities’ and coaches from the high school to the travel level that are more than willing to accept these monies under the table, underhandedly hurting dozens of hardworking children in the process.
Now we want to be extremely clear! We whole heartedly believe that the vast majority of people who coach and invest in these kids are good, and that the vast majority of folks put the kid’s first, and we also KNOW personally and from other friends who run teams that many families who coach end up paying more, and making up the difference and spending their own money for ‘team’ things, and are often left writing the bigger check when a family doesn’t (or can’t) pay their dues or skips out owing money.
The problem often is, that those in charge of the finances often know that parents won’t say anything out of fear their questioning will hurt their daughter. So they essentially just let it go…
Even so, we want you to know what to look for – so you can be certain that your team is being run with integrity, and that you are not paying more than you have to or being taken advantage of. Because chances are, you are working super hard to afford your daughter the opportunity to play and it disgusts us that many people are taking advantage of us.
- Overstating the cost of tournaments. Look. Tournament fees are available online. Most of the time you can look up the tournament by your state and association and find out how much it costs. Make sure these costs match up to what you are being charged. Sanction fees are once a year per association (and are normally paid fall-summer) and do not apply to every tournament, and the cost of each tournament should be divided by the amount of girls on the team. Coaches or team managers can easily make $100 per weekend by being dishonest about these costs and inflating them. Also, many large organizations get into the big (and really expensive) tournaments for FREE because their participation helps to draw in college coaches and other high level teams. Do a little research, and make sure you and your teammates aren’t being overcharged.
- Inflating costs of uniforms. We make uniforms for a living – and we also have bought enough cleats, and helmets and bat bags to know what they ‘should’ cost. Many teams make it seem like the players are getting a ‘deal’ because the team is being repped by Easton, or Under Armour, or Nike….Have you forgotten that these companies are offering discounted pricing to teams buying in bulk??? Look at the cost of your ‘package’ and look up the real costs of items. We assure you that there is often a percentage being added to your uniform fees that can be over $100-$200 per player. Rememeber that teams getting things in bulk get bulk discounts. If you are a smaller team, don’t be afraid to ask for receipts and quotes and to shop around. Teams that are looking out for their players and team families will have zero problem providing these. Also — it’s awesome to look good playing, but don’t be afraid to shop around. We assure you, you can do a good looking numbered jersey for $20 per player.
- Transparent FUNDRAISING. Fundraising can make thousands of dollars for your team. Is your team showing you how much was raised and where the funds are going? Fundraising must be transparent! We have heard of teams and coaches and managers pocketing thousands upon thousands of dollars on fundraising endeavors because the parents have nothing concrete and transparent to look at. Anyone can create a spreadsheet with altered numbers. ASK how money will be tracked and allocated? Keeping money in a ‘team account’ after the end of the season in no way guarantees that the families who raised the money will benefit from it. ASK QUESTIONS, and look up the companies you fundraise with online so you can verify how much the team is making.
- Is your team providing a monthly statement from the bank and RECEIPTS??? This is a MUST for teams who collect large amounts of monies from their families. Team managers should have NO PROBLEM handing out a monthly BANK statement to parents. Whether the team is an organization, a SCHOOL team, or just a regular single travel team – you should be able to see where your money is going. If they are unwilling to provide statements….be suspicious. In fact, t
eams on the up and up will do it without being asked. The last thing you want to happen is paying for a big event months in advance only to have the team fall apart, and your money gone – and the event never paid for.
- Team expenses. Look at the budget! How much is the team charging for two dozen balls, a bow-net, indoor facility rental, a tee, and insurance. A single team pays around $125-$200 for insurance depending on the age group. You can get game balls for $54 a dozen. A scorebook is $4, as are line up cards. Know what things cost folks!
So what can you do? For one thing don’t hand over cash. Write a check. If you pay for your tournaments on an ‘as you go basis,’ make your check out to the tournament association. Ask for receipts. Look up the real cost of softball items, and don’t just blindly follow along. Volunteer yourself to help with the team budget. If uniform costs seem outrageous – offer to shop around for your team. Make sure there are checks and balances on your team. If any one person is holding the books hostage from the team – then there might be a problem. Look up the cost of tournaments online with the hosting association to make sure the cost matches the cost quoted. You work hard and sacrifice a lot to make sure your daughter can play, and it’s just not fair to be taken advantage of, or to be paying more than your fair share.
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