Stretching Your Athletic Program's Available Funds

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Stretching Your Athletic Program's Available Funds

With the financial fallout surrounding the ongoing pandemic, many of us have had to tighten our belts a bit. Everyone is on a budget, including the youth sports program your player is involved in. To add to the stress, costs to participate in youth programs, like all of our other expenses, have been soaring over the past several years.

With some people being hit with an unexpected loss of revenue, and others fearing the unknown, very little money is being spent on non-essentials. For some, the hard-earned money they have been saving for a rainy day is being spent on the sunny ones. Each youth program should do what they can to help ensure that our youth don't suffer the loss of participation in team sports for reasons that are out of their, or their parent's control.

Just like it is fiscally responsible for individuals to live within a budget, and stretch the funds available to them, youth sports programs need to get creative with their budget during these trying times as well. In many cases, this becomes a circular formula, as the majority of these programs are non-profits, so they are spending the money of the parents whose children are in the program.

But there is always a solution to be had if enough effort and thought are behind it.

As a "business guy", I look at these things through the lens of someone who wants to address the problem as if it was critical to my company's success. I would suggest that each program do the same and behave as if it were operated by a board of directors that is responsible for managing the program’s funds, providing the best customer experience, and maintaining client satisfaction. In other words, how can I get creative with our budget to equip our players with the tools they need for success without placing additional burdens on their parents?

There is not an easy solution, but we must approach the challenges in front of us as a business problem. If a business is unable to service its clients, is not able to invest in the assets it needs to operate, or price increases make their product cost-prohibitive, the business is in jeopardy and everyone suffers. In our case, it is the kids who end up suffering most.

It is the "boards" responsibility to be innovative and explore solutions to ease the strain on the families that participate in the program while ensuring they have the proper access to practice fields and equipment for training and games.

There are a few things youth programs can consider when purchasing equipment to save money.

The first thing to consider is to go in with other youth programs on your purchases. What I mean by that is to consider buying equipment with other youth teams. If you are buying a hitting net for the baseball program, consider splitting it with the softball program. This will work for soft toss machines, hitting tees, field drags, and radar guns. These are small items that can be shared amongst programs as they are designed to be used for baseball and softball.

Big-ticket purchases such as pitching machines can also be shared. Many of the top of the line pitching machines are now being made as combination pitching machines. This means they can throw both baseballs and softballs with simple adjustments to the machine. Purchasing a top of the line JUGS, ATEC, First Pitch type of machine that comes as a combination machine can be a little more costly, however, it is being split between two programs. This will make the purchase more cost-effective in the end.

Talk to other area coaches about a "timeshare" situation on some of the more costly items like batting cages and field equipment. Even if they may be adversaries on the field, they can be allies off of it. They are facing the same challenges as you, and partnerships of convenience can benefit you both.

Engage the community. Employ social media to share your story. Be transparent, and ask for feedback. The support you receive may not be monetary, but it is possible you will be surprised at the ideas and suggestions you might get from others with a different perspective. 

Having good equipment is vital to youth programs. As mentioned above this can be a challenge with costs escalating. If it is possible the various youth programs that are spending other people’s hard-earned money should try to pool resources together to get the best equipment available.

Many of the reputable sporting good manufacturers are coming up with combination equipment for programs on a budget. If it is logistically possible to share equipment amongst programs every effort should be made to do this. This will help keep costs down and give programs the ability to purchase top-quality equipment.

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  • Jeffrey Kiley
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