Money Ball | Good Advice Pays Off

5 Ways To Give Your Parents An Awesome Tournament Experience

It’s summertime and tournament season is in full swing!  Our family schedule has been totally full of craziness with lacrosse tournaments in Lockhart, TX, Long Island, NY and San Francisco, CA. At these tournaments, I have found that this an awesome experience for families to come together, make friends (often with parents we’ve been competing against during the school season), and support our kids all at once.  Where else do we get that type of opportunity!

To that end, I thought I might take this chance to provide a few thoughts on how coaches, club directors and youth sports organizations can give parents and athletes a memorable tournament experience without spending a lot of time or money.  It’s the small things that count and it’s often easy to delegate these tasks to a willing parent. Here are a few ideas:

Organize A Potluck At The Fields

One of the best things I experienced this tournament season took place at a lacrosse tournament in Lockhart, TX.  The lacrosse team that my kids were participating on was a mixture of kids from other schools and districts we competed against all spring.  I fully expected to show up and see parents socializing with other families from their same school or district and was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t see that at all.  I found that a group of parents from a competing district had organized a huge potluck to feed all the kids and parents no matter where they were from (I’m speaking of the awesome parents from Westlake in Austin).  This was such a selfless act that really set the stage for a great experience and I am so thankful the Westlake parents came together to create a great atmosphere for everyone.  Further, the kids showed their thanks by bringing home some hardware and taking first at the tournament!

Organize An Outing To A Game Or Event

Organizing an outing to a game or event in the same city the tournament is being held is another great way to bring people together.  Tournaments are typically organized in fun cities to explore so there are always ways to put an outing together and extend an invite to the rest of the team.  For example, we were recently at the Long Island LAX Fest in Long Island, NY, which is also home to the NY Lizards who play their home games at Hofstra University.  One of our parents organized a trip to see the team play and the attendance was excellent.  Everyone got to see the home team win in overtime and as it turns out the players were more than willing to stick around and sign autographs afterwards.

Overcommunicate Details About Tournament Logistics

This one is easier said than done because everyone communicates in different ways. Some parents prefer a simple app while some prefer email or even personal communication.  I am personally a big fan of a simple (and free) piece of technology called Slack.  Slack helps our team communicate about a variety of topics in what are referred to as “channels.”  These channels could easily be adapted to a youth sports club so that parents and coaches can easily communicate and stay in touch as they are traveling to and from the fields (ex. channels for 14U Red or LI Lax Fest depending on your needs).  Check out slack.com for more information.

Provide A Way For Parents To Get To Know Each Other

I’ve seen several cool ideas that parents have used to help other parents get to know one another.  Simple stuff like laminated cards showing all the names and numbers of the players to more extravagant pieces with all sorts of information on them.  These days those are super simple to put together and are a great way to break the ice for parents, coaches and youth athletes.  Let’s be honest, it really comes down to a parent taking the initiative to put something together, but it’s certainly worth it once it is done!

The Tried & True Team Dinner

This is an easy one, but is such an awesome way for parents and athletes to bond. These days there are some awesome apps to determine good places to eat that are family friendly.  Apps like Yelp and LocalEats are great and if you have vegetarians or vegans in the group, HappyCow is a great app to find restaurants that accommodate those lifestyle choices.  Try to take the awkwardness out of paying for the bill by calling the restaurant prior to arrival and tell them you’d like to itemize by family.

I hope these were a helpful ideas to really make the experience of a tournament more positive for parents and athletes.  Several of them are simple no-brainers, but hopefully serve as a reminder that parents are often spending their vacation dollars to attend tournaments and the better their experience the more likely they are to participate next year (hopefully with your club)!  Enjoy the rest of your summer and please reach out to us at PaidUp if there is anything we can do to help you!  Feel free to email me directly at allan@getpaidup.com.


Can Someone Please Tell Me What Caused The Boom In Youth Sports?

We’ve all seen the statistics: 35m kids playing youth sports in the U.S. with 22m playing non-school related youth sports (ESPN The Magazine, Hidden Demographics of Youth Sports). $12b spent on youth sports annually; $7b in travel (CNBC.com) and $5b running through non-profit youth sports organizations for registration and other necessities which often get baked in (Columbus Dispatch, based on IRS data from 2010). But what the heck caused the boom in youth sports producing these crazy numbers?

Let’s start with a couple of things that happened back in the 70’s, which dramatically changed the landscape in youth sports. Let’s start with Title IX which became law in June of 1972. For anyone who’s been living under a rock for the last forty years, Title IX prohibited sex discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving federal financial aid. This law totally changed the game and the numbers prove it — the number of girls in varsity athletics grew from 295K to 2.8m from 1971 to 2001. Second, in November 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the Amateur Sports Act, which eliminated the role of AAU as administrator of the U.S. Olympic teams. The AAU then turned its attention to youth sports, which is its primary focus today. Last (and this one is specific to Texas though other states followed suit), in March 1995 the Texas Senate passed SB1, which dissolved the “concurrent rule” and allowed high school athletes to play on school and non-school teams in the same sport at the same time. In summary, these significant changes in the legal landscape brought a significant number of girls to youth sports, created a governing body to oversee and promote youth sports and allowed youth athletes to compete in school and non-school sports in the same sport at the same time. Game changers for sure.

Let’s also take a look at what happened to college tuition and fees over that same period of time. In the public, four-year sector tuition and fees increased 225% over the past thirty years. In the private, non-profit four year sector tuition and fees increased 146% over the same period. In real dollars, this translates from $2,469 in 1975 to $9,139 in 2015 (public, four year sector) and $10,273 in 1975 to $31,231 in 2015 (private, four year sector). With these drastic increases in college tuition and fees, there is a lot more emphasis on obtaining a scholarship — athletic scholarships in particular.

So, what’s the best way to get an athletic scholarship you ask? The numbers are a good place to start — according to U.S. News & World Report (June 2010), there are approximately 138,000 scholarships available in Division I and II sports and the average scholarship is $10,400. Suffice it to say the odds of getting a full-ride or even a partial scholarship are low. However, I believe it’s clear to everyone even remotely close to youth sports that in order to position yourself as a youth athlete to get a college scholarship you almost have to participate in your chosen sport at the club or select level. Can you start to see the connections and what caused the boom in youth sports clubs over the last several decades?

To summarize, it’s my belief — and I think the numbers support this belief — that the boom in youth sports clubs are directly tied to significant changes in the legal landscape as well as the triple digit percentage increases in the cost of college tuition and fees. Parent, more than ever, are plugging their kids into club sports in hopes of getting one of those 138,000 athletic scholarships and $10,400 in scholarship money. It boils down to simple supply and demand — limited supply of scholarships, major demand with 22m kids playing youth sports. The best way to try to bridge the gap is through competitive youth sports clubs.

Allan is CEO & Co-Founder of PaidUp (getpaidup.com.com), a payments company supporting youth sports organizations. Our mission at PaidUp is to remove the burden related to payments from youth sports organizations. We strive to improve the operations of these organizations by facilitating a more efficient, do-it-for-you platform and service to collect payments, manage reconciliations and provide reporting.


The Best Coach I Ever Had

Well, this should be a fun one. I have been playing sports since I was 5 years old so I’ve had a number of coaches over the years. Some were intimidating, some were encouraging, some were inspirational and some were ineffective.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have had two coaches that impacted me greatly and happen to be related to me directly. I grew up in an awesome home, but unfortunately my parents divorced when I was about three years old. So…I actually had two dads that coached me throughout my childhood and influenced my ability to perform in sports and in life.

I’ll start with my stepdad who coached me throughout my soccer playing days from age 5 through high school. I owe my stepdad a lot, but especially in the area of soccer. I’m told that I came home one day from school with a signup form to play soccer, and told him I wanted to play. To his credit, he approached my request with an open mind and dug right in (even though he grew up playing basketball and knew very little about soccer). I started playing soccer immediately and best I can recall he started coaching immediately. The first memory I have is our old Pistols team in Tulsa and from there I played on many teams he coached from Tulsa to Elk City, OK to Jacksonville, NC. I won’t lie, my relationship on and off the field with my stepdad wasn’t always perfect, but we made it work. He was very tough on me and required me to perform at a high level, but I have him to thank for my solid work ethic and ability to stay focused on a goal (both literally and figuratively). One of the best stories I remember was in a tight game back in Tulsa where we were down and desperately needed a goal. My stepdad believed in me and knew I was the one who could deliver. I distinctly recall being called over to the sideline and told to go get us a goal. I knew what was needed, but was confused about what position he was asking me to play. His response, looking me directly in the eye, was don’t worry about it Billy, “just go score.” Recall the part about my ability to focus on a certain goal, maybe it started to develop on this day in Tulsa, OK.

The other coach that I owe a lot too is my real Dad who was divorced from my Mom and didn’t always live close. However, when we were together we always had a blast and seemed to find our way to the tennis courts at some point during our visit. My Dad was (and still is) an awesome tennis coach and life coach. He taught me the importance of repetition and hard work. Case in point — continuous drills to refine my two-hand backhand until I could crush it down the line. I recall hitting hundreds of balls during each practice session no matter how hot it was outside or how tired I was. The words drilled into my brain were “work hard to get in position early” and “follow through.” Pretty solid message for my backhand and for my career. Thank you Dad.

Despite the inherent challenges of growing up with divorced parents, I thank God I was able to have not one but two dads that coached and mentored me. Not every kid is lucky enough to be in a situation like this where they can draw from two awesome men. I owe these two so much and love them dearly. In case you’re wondering about that soccer game back in Tulsa, I did exactly what I was asked to do that day. I put the ball in the back of the net.

Allan is CEO & Co-Founder of PaidUp (getpaidup.com), a payments company supporting youth sports organizations. Our mission at PaidUp is to remove the burden related to payments from youth sports organizations. We strive to improve the operations of these organizations by facilitating a more efficient, do-it-for-you platform and service to collect payments, manage reconciliations and provide reporting.


Why Can’t My Coach Be More Organized?

This is something we hear from parents on a regular basis: why can’t my youth sports coach be more organized? Well, I am actually here to defend youth sports coaches, directors and team owners because I think they are very organized…at the things that really matter to the organization.

It is my opinion that coaches (synonymous with club directors and team owners) are extremely organized at the things that really matter to the organization: recruiting players, coaching, mentoring, setting the most effective lineup, etc. In our business at PaidUp we have the opportunity to interact with a significant number of coaches and we get to see these things first hand. The amount of time and energy spent organizing the most effective tryout to find the right athlete, managing the recruiting process, practice preparation, game preparation and mentoring youth athletes along the way is really quite amazing. In fact, my partner and I had an opportunity to join a board meeting for a large select volleyball club in San Antonio last weekend and we saw firsthand the amount of time and energy that goes into every aspect of the organization. These types of meetings (board meetings or otherwise) are happening every weekend all across the United States by people who are extremely organized and highly efficient.

Having said that, there are definitely areas where coaches are less organized and not all that efficient. These areas include what I would call “non-core” functions to operating an organization — things like collecting payments and managing collections, ordering gear, organizing travel and ongoing communication with parents and players. While each of these areas are important and are a critical aspect of running a solid organization, they are all areas that can be delegated or outsourced to an outside company or to volunteers. The coaches we meet with as part of our calling effort with PaidUp all spend hours and hours working to make sure every aspect of the areas I discuss above are taken care of and have very little time (and energy) for the items I suggest are non-core functions.

So where does that leave us? I believe it leaves all of us (coaches, directors, parents, athletes) in a position where we have to recognize and acknowledge which functions are core to producing a positive result for our youth athletes and delegate the rest. Youth sports organizations (select sports organizations in particular) must be more proactive about seeking out the right companies to manage non-core functions and delegate those activities. There are a number of companies out there that can be trusted to handle non-core activities with ease and at a price point that does not burden parents. In fact, delegating these activities actually may create a better experience for parents given that the majority of their interaction with an organization is through those non-core functions I discuss.

In closing, I am super supportive of all of our coaches, directors and team owners across the county and hold them in high regard relative to the work they do with our youth athletes. However, I am going to make it a point to have more conversations with them about the importance of delegating non-core functions so they can focus their time and attention on coaching and mentoring youth athletes — which is where they truly excel. Will you join me?

Allan is CEO & Co-Founder of PaidUp (getpaidup.com), a payments company supporting youth sports organizations. Our mission at PaidUp is to remove the burden related to payments from youth sports organizations. We strive to improve the operations of these organizations by facilitating a more efficient, do-it-for-you platform and service to collect payments, manage reconciliations and provide reporting.


Cool Companies Changing Youth Sports…OMG!

Wow. There are some really cool companies changing the business of youth sports. Technology is changing and disrupting so many different industries and youth sports is no exception.

Having spent the last fifteen years in corporate banking and private wealth management, and transitioning into a more entrepreneurial Co-Founder and CEO role with PaidUp, I have had the opportunity to see a lot of different business models and interact with many different entrepreneurs. Over the years, I have been able to analyze and evaluate the pros and cons of hundreds of different business models (often times putting bank capital into them) and learn from founders and entrepreneurs seeing where they were having success and where they need to make changes. Having said all that, I continue to be amazed by the pace of innovation that is currently taking place globally and within youth sports in particular.

Earlier this week I had an opportunity to reconnect with a couple of entrepreneurs I was fortunate to meet at the recent Austin Technology Council CEO Summit. These two entrepreneurs are completely changing the way athletic gear and equipment is ordered, sourced, delivered and ultimately placed into the hands of youth athletes across the United States. The name of the Dallas-based company is Order My Gear (ordermygear.com) and the entrepreneurs I’m speaking of are Kent McKeaigg (CEO, Founder) and James Skidmore (COO, Co-Founder). It is clear to me that these two are changing the game within the business of youth sports and in my opinion they are just getting started. What’s even more fascinating is the business lineage that Kent comes from with his father essentially laying the framework for a business and distribution model that Kent would later refine and build using the power of today’s technology. I readily admit I am not able to communicate the power of Kent and James’s story as well as they can, but I would encourage you to take a minute, check out their site and reach out to them if you are in any way involved with youth sports (especially if you are involved in the athletic gear side of youth sports). The proof is in the numbers, OMG has launched over 60,000 online stores and successfully managed over $100MM in orders.

I am proud to be able to call these guys friends and I am hopeful that our company, PaidUp, can have the type of impact that the team at Order My Gear (aka OMG!) is having. Keep up the good work OMG and thank you for hosting me at your awesome new offices in Dallas!

Allan is CEO & Co-Founder of PaidUp (getpaidup.com), a payments company supporting youth sports organizations. Our mission at PaidUp is to remove the burden related to payments from youth sports organizations. We strive to improve the operations of these organizations by facilitating a more efficient, do-it-for-you platform and service to collect payments, manage reconciliations and provide reporting.


3 Reasons Why Taking Cash & Check Will Kill You

I’ve made over 1,300 cold calls on youth sports organizations in the last five weeks, and I am shocked to report that 46% of all the organizations I spoke with are still taking cash and checks to handle payments from families. That’s crazy! — here’s why:Have you thought about the risk of fraud or theft?

Having spent fifteen years in banking (albeit corporate banking and not retail banking), I have an acute sense for how disruptive check fraud can be. Check fraud was perhaps the most common issue I had to deal with related to clients. It happened frequently and was very messy to clean up, sometimes taking months and hundreds of hours of manpower to sort it all out. I probably don’t even need to comment on how easy it is to commit fraud with cash. In our business, we find that at least 2/3rd’s of all the organizations we talk to are established as non-profits — the recipe of taking cash and checks on 1 of every 2 transactions plus the audit and fraud risk inherent within a non-profit seems like a terrible combination.

It’s probably the least efficient method of taking payment on the planet.

During one of my phone calls I actually had a large youth sports organization (>300 athletes) in Austin tell me he had hundreds of parents mailing payments to him EVERY MONTH — he actually told me this with a straight face (though it was a phone conversation) and was totally OK with that method of transacting business. In addition, he had hired at least two people who were primarily responsible for managing the reconciliation process internally. That’s nuts! — just call PaidUp (getpaidup.com) and let them take your youth sports organization into the 21st century!

It’s not a guaranteed form of payment.

Bounced checks are a significant risk to an organization. Despite the fact that writing a check when there is no money to back it up is illegal, it still happens all the time. Regardless of whether or not a check clears it can take up to two weeks to clear, which is a long time to let a parent float a check. Contrast that with a debit or credit card that immediately clears.

I am certainly an advocate of a youth sports organization becoming more efficient for a variety of reasons. Regardless of whether or not they use our do-it-for-you payments platform, I hope to help them improve their processes and approach to doing business. I think I am going to start by trying to take that 46% number down to 0%.


Where Are They All Going?

The President and CTO of our company, PaidUp, showed me an infographic the other day. The infographic suggested a significant reduction in the number of youth athletes playing football, soccer, basketball, baseball and softball. The numbers were significant (Source: National Sporting Goods Association) and suggested the number of kids (ages 7–17) playing baseball was down to 5.3 million from 8.8 million in 2000. The numbers were not quite as severe in other sports, but they do show a downward trend.

The infographic seemed to suggest that these kids were leaving youth sports altogether, but my instincts tell me that is not entirely true.

I admit that my instincts are not necessarily supported by an abundance of data, but I do have some support for the fact that the male youth athletes are going to lacrosse and the female youth athletes are going to volleyball. For starters, my oldest son (12-years old and in 7th grade) was one of those statistics in baseball and football. He played both sports growing up, but has now decided to focus on lacrosse and absolutely loves it. He loves the strategy, loves the contact and is absolutely obsessed with the gear (sticks, mesh, heads, etc.). Further, according to US Lacrosse’s 2014 Participation Survey, total participation is up from 254K players in 2001 to over 772K players in 2014. That’s significant growth!

My other bit of anecdotal evidence comes from one of the many conversations we have with coaches through our company, PaidUp. Nearly every day, we speak to coaches across many sports, volleyball in particular. During one of these conversations with a local volleyball coach, she suggested that she is seeing an number of female athletes transition from softball to volleyball and added that this trend has been going on for some time.

It certainly doesn’t sound like kids are leaving youth sports in droves to never return. It seems they are mostly just finding another sport that they enjoy more!

Allan is CEO & Co-Founder of PaidUp (getpaidup.com), a payments company supporting youth sports organizations. Our mission at PaidUp is to remove the burden related to payments from youth sports organizations. We strive to improve the operations of these organizations by facilitating a more efficient, do-it-for-you platform and service to collect payments, manage reconciliations and provide reporting.


A Few Ways To Make Budgeting More Accurate [And Fun]!

To be clear, budgeting is only fun when you get it right.  It is never fun when you don’t get it right and forget to account for uniforms, tournaments, coaches fees, travel or other club related expenses.  Here are a few key things to remember when you are budgeting for the upcoming season to make sure you “get it right”.

Don’t forget to account for uncollected fees

We are in the business of making sure fees get collected and over time we have collected 97.45% of the money owed to clubs.  This is compared to the industry average in the youth sports space of 10-12% in uncollected funds.  That’s right, the industry average is 10-12% which for a $250,000 gross revenue club amounts to approximately $25,000 in uncollected fees every year.  Real money.  When you are budgeting for your upcoming season please make sure to include some type of reserve for uncollected funds – even if it’s just 3-5%.

Don’t neglect your miscellaneous line item

This is one of those important “catch all” types of line items.  This should include anything for your club that might be out of the ordinary.  We often see miscellaneous items like insurance for your club and athletes, or extraordinary expenses related to weather issues (like a freak rain event where you need to buy ponchos for the athletes). You never know when you’ll need to access your miscellaneous account and it’s definitely helpful to have a little reserve for those unexpected events.

Don’t forget to budget for travel expenses

Travel logistics and expenses for youth sports clubs are crazy (and a little out of control if we’re being honest).  In our experience working with travel youth sports clubs, expenses related to travel are a substantial line item and often account for a significant portion of the budget (sometimes as much as 50-60%).  There is no magic to this one, other than to overbudget for this expense to account for increases in tournament fees and/or often unpredictable airfare (which tends to fluxuate with fuel prices).  It is also a good idea to keep invoices for hotels, airfare, team dinners from last season so you know exactly what you spent instead of having to guess.

Don’t forget to budget for cash flow insurance to make sure you get paid

Many people are not yet aware, but there is now insurance available that allows a club to insure against non-payment for registration fees and tournament expenses.  For example, if an athlete suffers a season ending injury and isn’t able to finish a season, the insurance kicks in and ensures the club gets paid everything they are owed.  This is a very important topic for youth sports clubs and is an excellent way to reduce the amount of uncollected funds when it is done the right way.

 

I hope this is helpful and at least provides some insight on where a few shortcomings often are in the budgeting process.  I recognize there are probably plenty more tricks to budgeting effectively for a youth sports club and perhaps we can cover those in an upcoming blog.  Until then, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at PaidUp (www.getpaidup.com) if we can be of assistance with anything related to your budgeting process.


7 Things Families Participating With Your Organization Won’t Tell You

This is not a scientific study. I repeat, this is not a scientific study. However, it is created by parents who have had their children participating in youth sports for much of the last decade.

In addition, my work with PaidUp puts us in contact with hundreds of youth sports parents who are not shy about sharing their thoughts. So, while this isn’t scientific it does have years worth of personal history and hundreds of parent testimonials supporting the information. I hope this piece is helpful to all the coaches and club directors who may already be aware of these things (but might have chosen to ignore them:-)

To all the coaches and club directors out there across the country, these are the top seven things families participating with your organization won’t tell you:

1.They are frustrated with the lack of organization.

Admittedly, this is a catch all category, but it doesn’t change the fact that parents frequently communicate to us frustration over a general lack of organization within youth sports organizations.

2.They can’t understand why it takes so long to get a schedule of games and practices.

I know all the coaches out there are saying “if they only knew what it takes to bring a schedule together.” Unfortunately, parents have no idea of the logistics of coordinating athletes, teams, locations (especially in Austin), times and dates, but they don’t really care — they just want the schedule when you say you’re going to get it to them.

3.They don’t know where their money is going and that concerns them.

This is actually a big one and one that we hear quite often. This is especially true when it comes to high-end competitive youth sports where families are paying thousands of dollars per season and want some reconciliation of where there money is going. Many write it off as part of the cost of trying to get their athlete a college scholarship, but it doesn’t change the fact that they want some accountability.

4.They wonder if any thought was put into ordering uniforms and jerseys.

Somewhat anecdotal, but still relevant.

5.They aren’t making their monthly payments because no one has bothered to follow up with them when a payment is missed.

It’s true that some families just have a hard time making their payments for legit financial reasons. However, there is a larger segment of families that don’t make their payment because they forget and no one follows up to hold them accountable.

6.They are really bothered by coaches that use cuss words at practice and games.

Enough said. A no-brainer.

7.They don’t want to be communicated with via long emails!

They know there is a lot to communicate from week to week, but organizations need to find a better way to communicate. Maybe a three-minute video posted to YouTube once a week instead of a long email would be a more effective way to communicate with parents?

This is certainly not intended to be an exhaustive list, and there are probably another 8–10 items that have been communicated to us in our work with PaidUp. Perhaps the follow up to this blog is the “NEXT 7 things families participating with your organization won’t tell you.” Of note, we have several solutions that can be implemented TODAY that can alleviate much of this pain. Just let us know if we can help!

Topics: Athlete Retention, Budgeting, Tournaments


5 Ways To Increase Athlete Retention Within Your Youth Sports Organization

One of the most significant challenges youth sports club owners and directors face is athlete recruiting and retention. We know this because we ask them what their most significant business challenge is and 33% put athlete recruiting and/or retention in the #1 spot [recruiting coaches is a close #2 at 25% of the eight categories we track]. Here are 5 ways to increase athlete retention within your youth sports club:

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