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Saturday, July 13, 2013

When You Are Not Entitled to Fundraise for Your Travel Sport

I was driving through my town today after a great workout at the gym, en route to the local Starbucks for a simple indulgence of a soy mocha and a breakfast wrap.  At every street corner, I saw girls and parents with signs hailing that the "local" soccer team (the blast, explosion, tornado, cyclone, whatever) is going to nationals!  And, they have open cans to let you show your appreciation and support them, too.  What a joy to face during your "me" time early on a Saturday morning.

I walked by them with such a sense of purpose that they knew I wasn't interested.  I also didn't want to engage them in a dialogue regarding why I wouldn't think of giving them a plugged nickel, unless the circumstances for a single player were so unique that she alone warranted support (more on that later).  Put simply, they have a lot of nerve asking for anything from anyone.  Here's why:

1.  If they are from the town, then they really are selfish.  Why?  I won't give you my zip code, but suffice it to say that we are well above the poverty level.  So, translated, you want to go to some godforsaken, overheated place in the midwest to play in "nationals" (which is a euphemism because, as with many sports, there are many such "national" tournaments), then pay for it yourself.  You have the money to do so, and, if for some reason this is a tight economic year for you, then don't go out for dinner so much or don't take your family for a week at the South Jersey shore.  In other words, sacrifice one comfort or luxury for another.  You just don't warrant my support.

2.  If they are not from the town, then they fail to realize that I am support them enough (and they really don't care about my town, it's just that the local organization recruited them and they are mercenaries benefitting from our taxpayer-support fields, too).    Yes, that's right.  Travel has cannibalized all local rec leagues, the poor justifications being a) that everyone else is doing it, b) that college is expensive so let's try to give our kids the advantage by perhaps getting a college scholarship (although the money is not nearly as available as people think) or c) (actually no one says this), but mom and dad don't have the most thrilling lives so this gives them something to do, something to brag about, something to have some power over or in, by being the head of some local athletic association or a coach.

But I have digressed.  Local towns will try to tell taxpayers that their "user" fees make sure that they more than break even from local "athletic" associations and that non-residents pay a lot more, so that local kids are preferred.  But they're not really telling you everything.  First, when's the last time they've asked those associations for an accounting?  Perhaps never, even though at least once a year you see a newspaper article reporting that a local treasurer of an association in the area was charged with siphoning funds to pay for European vacations, a boat or Eagles tickets.  Second, they have no clue as to the breakdown of the township kids who play and the non-township kids who play, for whatever reason (in one case where I live, both travel's cannibalism of rec leagues and the egos of the travel bosses have shrunk the matriculation in the rec leagues, and the sad irony is that the state is giving the local association, which is politically connected, a grant to build more fields -- even where they are not needed!)  Third, the "out-of-town" user fees are not a deterrent to keeping out wandering Hessians and preferring local kids; yes, they can be more, but not by a staggering sum.  (To me, charging $1,250 for a resident and $1,650 for a non-resident doesn't present a deterrent; charging $1,250 for a resident and $3,000 for a non-resident might).

All of this -- emphasis on travel, kids quitting the sport because they cannot afford travel, their parents don't have the time to commit or they are not good enough and suffer from neglect from the organizations, rec league's being left barren or just being dissed by travel families -- is in the face of the fact the the world is fatter and getting more obese and diabetic.  Too many kids are inactive, the U.S. is the second most obese country in the world (Mexico just  beat us out for first), and we're worried about fielding "elite" travel teams populated with non-residents?  Why?  Not for the good out a town's kids or for the good of the town, but for the good of the egos that have hijacked the local organization for their own purposes.  But if you're not from my town, you really don't give a rodent's rear end what town's name is on the front of the jersey so long as the team gives your kid a good chance to get to the next level.  And that means that a local kid isn't getting a chance, and that also means that my tax dollars already are supporting you.  And that means you are as equally unentitled to my donation as a township resident with a kid on the team.

And, finally, so as to show that I am not a total grump on this point:

I would contribute in the following circumstances:  show me a kid whose living in a single-parent family, who is a very good talent and kid, whose single parent works more than one job to support the family.  I'll give you a lot more than a token buck or two to help you get halfway across the country, because you deserve the help.  That said, if that kid does exist, then the other parents of kids on the team should step up and help pay for that kid, especially the ones who drove the BMW SUVs to the street corners where they were asking for money.

But, somehow, people who show up to these corners in vehicles that cost $50,000 or more aren't worth stopping for.  That doesn't mean that they aren't good or caring people.

It just means that they're making a mistake here.

Charity is for the needy.

And not for already advantaged, entitled reasonably affluent travel athletes.

Rome fell, and I would suggest that we all study why, because stuff like this suggests a significant erosion of values and priorities.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The back end of that BMW parked behind the travel team kid asking for a donation is usually covered in small white ovals: MVY, ACK and OBX. I don't resent how many vacation homes you may own or where they are, but you can't simultaneously put them on the back of your SUV and then ask me for money.

I think that sometimes the parents just want to give little Johnny or Suzy a role in the fundraising process. That's fine. I'd quietly ask the Dad standing in the background, "Give me a twenty and I'll gladly put it in your child's contribution can."

2:48 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks for your comment.

The hard part of all of this is that it's such a mixed bag and hard to paint with a broad brush. That said, the concept of their league -- emphasizing travel at the expense of all else -- puts them on the low ground, so to speak. Look, I'm not about giving everyone a trophy, either, but there has to be some balance.

Your comment hits on a point regarding fundraising, generally. At my kid's school, they have fundraisers occasionally. The participation isn't what it could be because there's a kid with an uncle who is a gazillionaire, so his big donation ($250, $500) whatever typically enables the kid to win the contest. Everyone knows it, and the kid is a smart kid, too. I don't know what that teaches anyone, either.

Back to fundraising for travel sports -- I feel badly for the kids whose parents really have to stretch to pay the freight. It can cost upwards of $5,000 a year with gas, tolls, mileage, travel, road meals, hotels. That's expensive.

7:57 AM  

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