Now that club season has arrived, most club directors know that they’ll be facing some issues with the timely collection of club dues, travel fees, camp fees, etc. during some course of the season. There are no easy solutions and most of us want to avoid a formal collection using the court system.
Keep in mind that clubs differ from each other in how fees are collected.
Some collect their base fees up front and travel fees at a later date. Other clubs offer payment plans over the course of the entire season, and some clubs break payments into two or three amounts or more. You might accept cash payment, payment by check or money order and/or payments via credit card whether online or in-person card processing. No matter what methods we use for accepting payment, there’s typically that family or two (maybe more depending on the size of your club) that doesn’t follow through on making payment.
Let’s face it – the parents don’t typically tell you that they can’t pay their fees at the time a player accepts an offer. If we’re lucky though, they might actually approach us at fee collection time and honestly ask for alternative options.
When this occurs, I offer these options first:
Private Payment Arrangement
If you are a club that needs to collect your base fees up front, you most likely have a little wiggle room in your budget that would allow you to have a small percentage of your parents enter into a “private” payment arrangement. This might include breaking the fees into two or three payments or even monthly payments. I use an estimate of 5 to 10 percent of my club membership that can fall into this category.
But maybe you’re a very large club and can easily offer an alternative payment arrangement without blinking an eye.
Pay Off Balance Through Work Hours
What happens when you ascertain that a parent/guardian lost their job or might be going through financial difficulty due to divorce or a death in the family? While we don’t want this to happen to any of our club members, it does! None of us wants to stop a junior athlete from participating in these circumstances so we need to get constructive.
There are ways a parent can put in some work hours to receive a credit of their fees:
- Assistance with uniform organization and delivery to teams.
- Working the concession stand if you host a tournament.
- Fund raising ifor parents or teams to work off some of their fees.
- Or training camps or instructional sessions that players can assist at to work off some of their fees.
The list and ideas can be endless, but remember that what you offer to one should/can be offered to all in these types of circumstances.
What’s next when you offered all of the above and still the parent(s) or guardians don’t pay? This is where you have to take off the white gloves and get serious!
Here’s the methods I use for collecting:
- I usually contact the parents, the player and the coach to inform them that a payment must be made on or before a specific date or the player will not be allowed to practice or participate in any tournaments until they have paid. I can tell you that 95% of the time, this takes care of the collection issue. What happens if they still don’t pay? Do what you promised – notify the coach, the parent and the player that the player is not eligible to continue!
- I have offered, depending on the circumstances, a reduced rate to allow the athlete to continue. I have only done this on an occasion or two over my entire club director tenure. But be careful, as there can be consequences for the high school athlete through their state athletic association’s rules and guidelines!
In Wisconsin, as an example, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) advises that no scholarships can be provided to players and that everyone must pay the same amount for the same services. (This is being paraphrased and is not direct language from the WIAA.) High school athletes can lose their eligibility to play for their high school team if their fees remain unpaid as this can translate into the athlete having received a “scholarship” to play in club volleyball. If you’re not sure if this would apply, please review your state’s athletic association rules and regulations or contact them directly. I just recently found myself using this tactic to collect past due fees.
- In my region, the association has allowed clubs in the past to provide players’ names who are in default to be added to a non-payment listing. In order to obtain a membership for the next season and play for another club, the player would have to settle their fees with their previous club. This is fantastic when it comes to players who may try to hop from club to club without paying fees and would be another easy method of attempting collection (except if the player is already 18). [Note that many regions do not have this policy in place and, in fact, my own region has recently revisited this issue and may no longer offer club directors this option.]
- How about filing a small claims collection action. This procedure involves obtaining and completing a small claims court form, paying a filing fee with the court, and also paying to have the documents served on each party (via private service company or the Sheriff’s Department). In Wisconsin, counties charge anywhere from $90 to $100 or more to file a small claims action. You would need to make sure to confirm your specific county’s civil court filing fees and to confirm their procedures as they ARE different from county to county and state to state.
You, your attorney, or a representative of your organization should appear in court as scheduled to obtain judgment. Some counties, like Dane County in Wisconsin (as an example), do not require an appearance by the petitioner (you) for judgment to be granted. Again, you need to make sure to confirm your specific state and county’s requirements and procedures.
The majority of people do not want a judgment on their record and will appear in court and make arrangements to pay within a reasonable amount of time as agreed to between the parties. If they don’t, judgment may automatically be granted. If judgment is granted, it’s important to “docket” the judgment. There is a very nominal fee for this as well. You will then face the difficult task of trying to collect. Garnishment of wages also costs money to file in court and enforce. Liens can be filed. Or you can choose to allow the judgment to remain outstanding and this will appear on a person’s public record and credit report. In Wisconsin, a judgment remains public record for twenty (20) years and on their credit report for seven (7) years.
The cost of filing an action in court may not be worth the total cost, time and effort you need to put into collecting, especially if it’s a small amount that is owed. In any event, I strongly suggest that you contact legal counsel and review your state’s requirements if you are thinking of pursuing a formal collection.
- Finally, if you decide not to file a formal collection action and nothing else has worked, then the decision lies in your hands to merely write it off as “bad debt” and never allow the particular family the opportunity to play for your club again.
I’m sure there are other methods that club directors are using to collect. I’m also certain that some club directors simply remove the player immediately once the first payment is not received. Personally, I feel that the most important consideration is to find a way to allow the athlete to continue and play club volleyball.
Related Reading: 3 Solutions to Uncollected Funds. JVA Partner PaidUp, a company entirely focused on managing payments and cashflow for youth sports organizations is a great resource for JVA member clubs. For more information on PaidUp click here or follow PaidUp on social media at @GetPaidUpNow
For more business education for Club Directors click here.
About the Author
Sharon Galonski is the Club Director of Next Level Volleyball Club in Franklin, Wisconsin and a member of the JVA Education Committee. Next Level VBC is entering it’s 15th season as member of the Badger Region of USAV, JVA (in association with AVCA) and AAU.