Updated: Jun 6
Written By: Beau Caldwell
This article began with me doing research on comparing costs of each LSC’s age group championship meet. The data is interesting and the variations of formats are intriguing to someone who has a knack for that kind of material, but that’s not where the real cost lies, and not where the burden is on the entry level families in our sport.
It’s reasonable in all youth athletics that there will be some added costs; however, it’s our responsibility as coaches and those in a leadership role to respect the parents’ time and money. In our sport, the parents are footing most of the bill, and most of the time the parent is completely OK with letting the coach make the competitive decisions. But what happens when the parent’s time and money is not factored into those competitive decisions or a coaches season plan?
Time + Money = Emotional reaction. If you’re asking for a lot of both time and money, the parents will expect the athlete to shine in their races, possibly beyond their capabilities you see and know as a coach. It’s the responsibility of the coach to include in their season plan, not just the energy systems and volume the athlete will do each week, but the extra costs the parent will need to spend for their athlete to participate. Planning total days of travel throughout the year is essential to avoiding sticker shock amongst families, and help the athletes participate where and when they need to.
Most clubs talk about the age group championship meet time-standards and getting as many people to participate in such, but are costs talked about with parents as much as standards and qualifying are with athletes?
The age-group championship meet usually happens twice each year, and it’s up to the club to figure out its schedule for non-championship months. Let’s analyze the cost of a championship meet:
Fixed costs - What does it cost to enter the meet?
Entry fees per event
Facility & meet surcharges
Club charges for coaches travel (if applicable)
Variable costs - What does it cost to travel to/from and stay at the meet?
Food - $25-$30 per person, per day
Hotel - $125-$175 per night
Gas - $50-$75 for a 300 mile round trip
Parking at hotel and/or meet (if applicable) - $0-30 per day
Working parent missing work - variable
Add it up - based on the averages, A 3.5 day meet for someone who needs a hotel:
-Enter the meet: $78.42 - average cost of a 3.5 day meet (which is the most common)
-Hotel: $450 - $150/night for 3 nights (incl taxes)
-Food for 1 athlete & 1 parent for 4 days- $200-$240
-Gas: $63 (median of estimated cost)
Estimated average total - $791.42
What can be done to reduce costs?
(LSC) 10&U timed finals - If the 10&U sessions are Saturday & Sunday, arrive by 12:00 noon on Saturday, finish by Sunday at 5:00pm, the family that lives 4 hours away could depart by 7am Saturday, arrive home by 9pm on Sunday - New estimated minimum cost: $391.42
This cuts this age group’s overall cost almost in half and gradually grows the parent into a bigger financial commitment. This concept could possibly apply to other age groups.
(LSC) Eliminate the partial qualifier - Let athletes and families get more out of the meet
The average cost above is for someone swimming a full-meet. The most common number of events offered at a 3.5 day championship meet is 7. But what about the person who only qualifies for 1 event and their coach expects them to attend? There’s ways to make it more worthwhile.
Average fixed cost for entering 1 event - $23.90
Estimated cost to enter 1 event (23.90) + 1 night in hotel ($150) + 2 days of food for 1 parent & 1 athlete ($100) + Gas ($63)= $336.90
$336.90 minimum for athlete entering 1 event
$791.42 minimum for 7 events - $113.06 minimum per event
(Club) Evaluate travel and overnight costs on a year-round schedule.
How many months/year or nights/year are you asking families to purchase a hotel? Coaches should know these numbers and know what they’re asking of their families when making their meet schedules. Calculate how many other months your club is scheduling minimum 2.5 day meets out of town on a year-round basis.
(Club) But we have to travel for better competition, right? Maybe, but not all of the time. If an athlete has to attend a more local meet below their competition level, it’s the coaches responsibility to find that athlete a competitive purpose for why they’re attending that meet. Achieving split goals, earning new standards in new events, or demonstrating new skill sets are a few examples a coach can challenge an athlete if the competition isn’t quite as deep as they’d like.
What’s the common denominator?
Everyone pays some sort of monthly or seasonal fee for swim training. Coaches salaries, facility usage, and other club needs must be paid for. Divide the total cost of travel by what one pays in monthly dues. This will be different for every club, but does give you an idea of how much increase is being asked of parents.
The 3.5 day meet costs a minimum $791.
The athlete who pays $250/month in training is adding 3.16 months worth of dues.
The athlete who pays $150/month to attend the same meet is adding 5.27 months worth of dues.
Take the 3.5 day meet costs and apply them to a 2.5 day meet - cut out 1 hotel night and 1 day of food for athlete & parent. Meet cost is minimum $591.42
The athlete paying $250/month - 2.36 months worth of dues (reduced by 0.8)
The athlete paying $150/month - 3.94 months worth of dues (reduced by 1.33)
In conclusion -
Whether you’re a part of the club or LSC leadership, added costs should be discussed when it comes to meet scheduling and formatting. Over the course of a year, the athletes will still get most of what they need, and the parents will appreciate that these discussions are included in the planning.
Beau's Free Resources:
Click Here Fort the cost breakdown spreadsheet
Click Here For the meet Format Folder
Beau Caldwell is the Head Coach of Elmwood Sharks in New Orleans, LA. He is in his 17th year of coaching USA Swimming and served in relevant governance capacities as an LSC technical planning chair and an age-group committee member. He has an interest in streamlining meet formats and is available for consultation. Please contact email@example.com for inquiries.