Let’s face it. If we all had a choice, we’d let the kids play for free. When you think about how much parents pay for sign-ups, uniforms and equipment fees (not counting travel), and how fast those fees have risen in recent years, you start to realize that the high cost of participating keep some families out of the game.

From top to bottom, from league board to coach, everyone has a role in keeping costs down. If you didn’t have to worry about being a money expert before, the time has come for you to bust out some math textbooks and start learning what it takes to really handle a budget. 

Plan Your Initial Budget

Some expenses are unavoidable or scheduled, like your uniform bill.  But having an equipment shed broken into is a random expenditure. Both types need to be accounted for, in determining the cost passed on to parents, or the need to fundraise to make up for a shortfall.

Before the season starts, plan out an airtight budget, and round down. Don’t give yourself a lot of leeway. It’s like setting the clocks in your house back so you know your work alarm is actually earlier than it needs to be – when you set yourself up to have breathing room, you already have an edge.

Being thrifty without cutting corners is an art. Analyze prior budgets and actual results to forecast upcoming expenses and revenues. Consult with all of your sports, and all levels, to make sure you are prepared for changes that need to be made (equipment replacement or new technology for example). Review all expenses and contracts to see if some can be eliminated or reduced.

Keep Track of Everything Religiously

A league is a business. Expenses must be transparent to your board – and if you’re a non-profit, to the public. No matter what position you’re playing in the league, it’s your responsibility to keep detailed cost records. Anytime money goes out, you should have a receipt going in.

Think about this especially when you handle cash situations such as concessions and cash registrations, where mistakes – and issues – most often occur. If that’s something you manage, make sure you take inventory and get receipts for transactions. Note the starting and ending sums. The Treasurer or an Officer should be available to retrieve and count larger sums at hand several times a day if the situation warrants. Cash registrations – if at all necessary – must be met with a receipt to the parent and a duplicate for the league. 

Know How to Stay On Track

Your financial situation shouldn’t be consulted once a month just before the Board meeting. You should be keeping track of your budget on a weekly basis to make sure everything looks good and you aren’t falling off the rails anywhere. Ideally, identify several people responsible for overseeing your expenses. Recruit parents with accounting skills to help. Set a spending limit, over which approval must be secured prior to purchase.

But sometimes a budget just doesn’t work out the way it’s planned. If you somehow end up in the red as you go through your budgeting, it’s important that you know how to handle the situation. Rebalance another area, make some cutbacks if possible, and dip into your emergency fund (to be replenished before the next season!). If necessary, reach out to your community for sponsors and fundraising.