“Think of all the money we’ll save once our kid is playing in college and we leave club soccer behind!”
Hahaha. Ok, my bad. Maybe their kid is playing at Duke or UCLA or Michigan or a football-tv-revenue-driven P5 program. If so, they’re probably right, but competition for scholarship dough is a little more intense and what’s leftover is no small price tag. And there are a few programs very well-funded at all levels. For example, Rollins College facilities (d2) in Florida are nicer than Florida International and Florida Atlantic’s facilities combined–both D1 and very large schools in the southern part of the state.
Parents mostly become a problem because they just don’t know what they don’t know and left to their own devices–will screw it up like I did. And my expectations of the ongoing financial support of a good college soccer experience was WAY out of whack. That was a foul.
The undiscussed truth of college soccer for most kids is that the programs they’re realizing their dreams with are underfunded. Some youth club directors make more than D1 soccer coaches. Some high-level club coaches that also coach high school soccer and do private training make far more than some D1 coaches. Many kids will STEP DOWN in athletic facility quality and program financial support from high school to college.
Don’t believe me? Here are a few true stories from 2021:
- D1 Women’s Program. Girls had to split bagels in half to make sure everyone had breakfast on a two-game road trip. Before taking on a P5 program, they had half a bagel and water from the bathroom faucet as pre-game nourishment.
- D1 Men’s Program. Players had to provide their own tape to preserve budget.
- D1 Women’s Program had no strength program in place for 9 months. Football, Baseball, and Basketball team did of course.
- D2 Men’s Program rented minivans and put 6 boys plus coach in each to save money on transportation to their conference rival that was 4 hours away. Imagine playing for a seed in your conference tournament after being crammed in that van for 4 hours.
- A 2021 D1 Conference Champion plays on a field with NO LIGHTS or bleachers (not even the cheap kind).
- D3 Men’s Program that finished in the top 25 would not be able to budget for travel without money raised from parent assessments and fundraising.
That last one sound familiar?
The Power 5 have over-romanticized what it is to be a college athlete. And if your kid isn’t one of the roughly 3,000 kids (men AND women from 18-23) in the entire country enjoying benefits from that big-tv contract money or 85,000 tickets sold per week during college football season, you might be asked—or somewhat required—to help raise money.
Bet you weren’t expecting that, huh?
Let’s break down a few comparisons for how this happens. The SEC pays $45,000,000 to each school (on avg) per year (B1G pays the most for now, BTW). That’s in addition to the monies pumping through the program already. Few people can imagine that Texas A&M athletics drives over $200,000,000 in revenue. By comparison, Tennessee Tech (D1 OVC) brings in about $13,000,000. The average D3 school generated $400,000. Tennessee Tech offers almost the same number of sports that A&M does on around 6% of A&M’s revenue and the average D3 school offers half the number of sports Tech does with only 4% of Tech’s revenue.
How can you offer that many programs with such small revenue by comparison? Cut costs. Lower-end facilities, smaller travel budgets, lower coach compensation, Fewer coaches, and support staff, increasing shared resources (like athletic training and AD support) and that just scratches the surface. For most programs, your nicest away trip will include Frontier Airlines, super-low-cost fast food and Holiday Inn Express if you’re lucky. That’s a long way from the luxuries you see at the top of college sports, but it’s far—FAR—more common than Renaissance stays with steak dinners after jumping off the team private flight charter.
But don’t most programs have ‘giving days’ to solve this? Yes, but guess which schools win the most from those activities – the already revenue-rich schools. Almost all schools have at least bi-annual giving pushes where they seek one-time, monthly recurring, and legacy gifts starting at $10 per month. P5 schools win the most because they have the largest athletic following and alumni base. Even at P5 schools, most donors get to direct their funds to certain programs. Guess where most money goes? If you said NOT soccer, you’re correct. Beneath that, there are fewer people willing to give, which leads to less money collected and fewer benefits to each program. So, to ensure your college kid gets the most out of the experience, you first need to flush the stereotypes.
When most people think of ‘giving’ to a college athletics program you get visions of a backroom filled with cigar-smoking, uber-wealthy people giving huge money for exclusive access to box seats in Happy Valley, Bryant-Denny or LA’s Coliseum. And that happens. But the reality is that programs need thousands of people giving $10 per month as much if not more than one individual giving over ten grand once. Carson-Newman University (D2 and a GREAT school) in Tennessee is unlikely to raise millions every time they do a push like Ohio State will. But they’ll need many people to give $10, $50, $100 and $300 per month for at least a year just to put a reasonably viable athletic experience in front of their kids. And because most people are earmarking their donations to the most popular college sports, programs like soccer, volleyball, swimming, golf, etc. get less of the pie.
So, it’s almost like to ensure your college soccer star gets a reasonable amount of funding you’ll have to kick in and help? Yep. I just signed up for recurring delivery of a few hundred bucks in sports drinks, protein bars, and bus snacks to keep in the locker room of my daughter’s team in addition to my monthly financial contribution. She’s a D1 kid, so stop thinking this only applies for D3, NAIA only. That’s bull$#!t. As I said earlier, there are D2,3 and NAIA programs better funded than her D1 soccer experience. Maybe not a ton, but there are.
Watching your kid play college soccer is pretty freakin’ awesome, I’ve gotta say. But in most cases, you might want to keep at least part of that club money moving to support their college soccer experience. I realize not all experiences are the same, but there are more programs than you think that will need your support.