Via SwimSwam contributor Chris O’Linger, an assistant swim coach at the University of the Incarnate Word.
In part 1, we addressed how to establish values and a guiding philosophy for you newfound team. Now, we turn to another topic:
– how to keep your program financially sound, and more importantly, afloat.
Chris believes that the most crucial part of developing a successful program is securing marketable pool time with adequate lane space and time. There are many constituent parts to this, including “knowing your market”. For instance, Chris Hadden works just outside Columbus, Ohio where the average household has two working parents. With this knowledge, Chris had to find a way to practice later than 4:30, because the athletes may not have the appropriate channels of travel to get there on time. The next step is to negotiate a decent pool rate, and budgeting your fees predicated on volume. Chris explains, “Generally, the more time you can secure [appropriate pool space], the better negotiations will go.”
Another point to touch on is having a coach-owned team versus having a parent or board run team. Several vices come along with owning your own team; Not having to answer to many parents or executives is ideal, and honing personal freedom over most decisions is glorious, the situation makes fundraising much more difficult. Many parents will believe that the fees should keep the team above water financially, and that any extra effort fundraising will just thicken the pockets of the head coach/owner. If being a coach-owned team is your decision, and you choose to incur all debt, a primary source of your team’s income must come from hosting events within the sanctioned guidelines of USA Swimming and your LSC.
In summation, Chris recommends creating and maintaining a highly detailed spreadsheet, as it is crucial to be on top of your expenses and revenue on a tight basis.
“Many coaches throw around fees like darts praying that they will exceed or match your cost, but with a ‘splash rate’ spreadsheet, my staff and I know exactly what we are paying every single practice in the water, and we are certain of our income because our ratios per group stay consistent.”
The best route to start would be to develop a firm grasp on your expenses and how to spread out your fees to cover them, and learning your market and industry.
“Swimming is a tough sport to draw high numbers and pay appropriately because our club sport involves the employment of sport professionals, whereas most sports only require volunteers with little semantic grasp on the sport. You need to find a way to not exceed your market price. This is where fundraising comes into play.”
Chris’ expense reports let him know that his fees are low enough to draw in athletes and families, and that he meets his bottom line for revenue. He also explains this to the participating parents and asks for a solid effort on one fundraiser a year. He also makes sure that everyone, including himself, is on board and has a responsibility, and that the fundraiser matches the climate and market spread amongst the community. Aiming fundraising efforts toward a growing trend will spark more interest in your program and lead to more money than an annual four-hour car wash. In part 3, coming soon, we will discuss how to reevaluate your program and how to implement change.
O’Linger is an assistant coach for the Incarnate Word swimming and diving program. He swam collegiately at both the University of Florida and University of Tampa. He earned a degree in social psychology from Tampa. He is studying kinesiology.