Building a Free Youth Sports Program

Building a free youth sports program

This year as I was setting my roster, I had a player that could not afford to play this season. The club soccer fees had increased and the family could not afford to keep playing. This broke my heart. She is a very talented young player with a very bright future. She is going to be a great defender. The news that she was not going to be able to play because of the financial burden crushed me.

I know that she is not the only young player in this situation. I know that the cost of youth sports continues to rise, filtering more and more great kids out of the game.

As I set the budget for the year, I made it a goal for next year to be 100% free. I hope that next season, we will have the funds to allow for our young, talented player to come back. I want to build a fee-free youth soccer team that is not dependent on the financial aspects needed to run a club team but is bound together by talent and desire to develop as players and people.

I also want to help other teams, clubs, and leagues become fee-free to allow more kids the opportunity to play youth sports. Today, we are going to chat about how to create a free youth sports program.

The Road to a Free Youth Sports Program

The road to a free youth sports program is not paved in gold, but rather by hard work, rejection, and frustration. I do believe that this is the right thing to do. I do believe that sports are important to the youngsters. I do not want anything to stand in the way of a young talented player from getting on the pitch, court, or diamond.

Here are the things I am going to do in order to build the free youth sports program.

Set Fundraising Goals

Your season starts with a goal.

At the beginning of every season, your team staff will set a budget to operate the team. This budget is the cost to keep the team on the field and keep the kids playing. Now, if your goal is to become a fee-free youth sports team, your budget is the amount your team needs to cover.

The cost for the year will be made up of four main categories – equipment, tournaments, facilities, and administration. When you look to set your budget these costs will add up to your ultimate goal. Let me show you how I broke this down for the year for my soccer team.

Equipment – $1,500 

Your team is going to need equipment for training and games. This year we are going to be keeping some of the equipment from last season to help with the overall cost. One thing that we will not be able to carry over this season is the balls as we move from a size 4 to a 5 this season.

When you are looking at equipment cost there are many factors to consider. Think of everything that goes into your team. There is also the expectation that the players bring their own training equipment as well. Cleats, gloves & bats (baseball), shin guards, and whatever else the player needs.

Your equipment should consist of all the items that the team will need for training and games.

Tournaments – $5,600

What would youth sports be without tournaments? As you can see, tournaments are the third highest cost on my budget this year. The $5,600 is the breakdown of the total cost for 7 tournaments. This number will increase or decrease depending on your age, time, and type of tournament.

Facilities – $2,160

Most teams are going to need to rent facilities for practice. My team practices three times per week for 90 minutes each session. The average cost for training is $20 per session for the rental of fields and lights. So over the season, we will spend just north of $2,000 just to practice. This cost could change depending on your state, facility, or other factors.

Administration – $12,500

Most club or travel teams pay their coaching staff or have administration running the entire club. This cost could be reduced or as I have seen much higher. This cost is for the coaching staff and staff to run all the teams in our club. We also have a small office for the club admin, so rent is included in this cost.

Again, this cost is going to be dependent on your team. It could be $0, but ensure that as you set your goals you keep this in mind.

Total Budget – $21,700 

For this upcoming soccer season, my team’s budget is $21,700. This is going to be my fundraising goal for the next year. I know that I am not going to be able to raise these funds this year, but throughout the year as a team, we should be able to have a surplus for next season. This surplus is what will drive fee-free youth sports.

Start Fundraising for Next Season

Now that you have your budget for the season, it is time to build your plan to raise these funds for the following season. If you are trying to build a free youth sports program, your program needs to have a year to raise these funds.

Yes, your budget might change for the following season, but at least you have your basics covered. You will be able to buy your equipment, register for your tournaments, pay for training facilities, and pay your staff.

This year, I am going to be raising money for next season. This money will sit in an account and be ready for next season. I believe that this will be a great recruiting tool as well for the few spots that are open next season.

Organize a Fundraising Committee

To raise this much money for next season it is going to take a team effort. Someone needs to take control of organizing, planning, and executing a plan. This person should be your chairperson, team manager, or head coach depending on your team and goals.

For my team, I am going to be the lead these years. I have a plan in place to get this team to reach our goal. The point here is you need someone to own the fundraising for the team.

Create a Fundraising Plan

We now have the right people on board and we have the goal and it is now time to build the plan to get there. Here are a few of the fundraising ideas that we are going to take part in this year. There are hundreds of different ways to raise funds, but these are the few that we are going to take part in.

Fundraising Events 

Your team should look for creative ways to involve others. Fundraising events can be a great way to bring people together and raise funds for your team. Hundreds of local restaurants will give your team a portion of the proceeds from a night. The goal here is to get people together and have a good time. It is not enough to just ask people to buy dinner at the local pizza joint. Your events need to make a splash.

Online Donations

There are numerous platforms that will allow your team to collect donations. Starting a donation campaign online required promotion via social media, email, and other marketing tactics. One thing you need to remember is your why. Why are you asking for funds from people? What are you going to use the funds for? They need to know that their donation is going to a worthy cause.

Team Merchandise 

This one is our favorite. Your fans want to support your team. Furthermore, your fans want your gear. Printing and selling merchandise for a profit is a great way to raise funds for next year. Go beyond just the standard logo and create some memorable t-shirts that people will love. The more merchandise you sell, the more fund will be available next season.

Affiliate Links & Codes 

These days, there are tons of companies that will pay you a small commission for buying merchandise on their site. This is a great way to take advantage of some of the purchases that your team will already be making. If sent correctly, you could have multiple teams using your links and expand your earnings.

District Champ also offers a program just like this for youth sports teams. It is easy to earn $5 per t-shirt your team sells on the District Champ website.

Look for Sponsorships

Over the years there have been many companies that sponsor youth sports teams and have given funds to youth sports teams. This could be in exchange for an advertising opportunity or just out of the goodness of their heart. This can be a little tricky because approaching companies can be difficult. However, there are many companies that see value in helping youth sports, like District Champ for example.

Reach Out to Your Community 

I know that this is hard for many, but you need to reach out to your community in order to be successful in your fundraising campaigns. You never know who is going to be willing to help you and your team.

These are just a few things you and your team can do to drive funds to your team. I am sure you and your fundraising committee will think of thousands of new and innovative ways to meet your goals and create a free youth sports program.

Track Progress 

There is nothing more disappointing than doing a bunch of work and not seeing the results. If you are serious about creating a fee-free youth sports program you will have your ups and downs. In order to keep from being disappointed, it is important to track your process because you will see a few events do really well and a few do not so well. Knowing the events and tactics that worked will help you do more of the same. Track your results and keep your eyes on the prize.

Show Appreciation

As you get more and more support for your free youth sports program, make sure to show your love to those that have supported you. Call them out on social media, send them a thank you note, or just give them a phone call and say thanks. Your supporters are amazing, show them how much you appreciate their support.

Building a Free Youth Sports Program

My hope is that one day, there is a fee-free youth sports league. I hope that an amazing young talented individual is able to come back and play next season to get better and develop as a soccer player. My hope is that this post will also inspire you as a youth sports leader to do the same. Do what you can to lower your fees and ultimately get to a fee-free youth sports program.

I know there is a long road ahead to achieve this, but I believe that it is doable. Yes, there is hard work ahead. Yes, there are going to be times when I want to give up. It will be worth it if I am able to give one young athlete the opportunity to play.