Youth sports leagues are ubiquitous year-round, offering athletic opportunities outside of school teams. They can lead to opportunities on elite, competitive teams, including those that travel to various tournaments, which have multiplied in recent years.
Better Business Bureau reminds parents to do their homework, as with any opportunity offered to their child, before enrolling in a travel team or sports league.
Nationally, BBB processed about 240 complaints in 2018 about sports and recreation businesses. Common issues included programs not held as scheduled, refund issues, and concerns about coaching quality. BBB St. Louis issued a warning in June 2019 on an Illinois coach who reportedly took parents’ money for travel teams that never got off the ground, and camps that were never held. According to the coach’s federal bankruptcy court filings, he collected just over $75,000 from young athletes and their parents.
When dealing with a youth sports program, ask for references and contact them. Most organizations - from youth sports teams to dance studios - have an online presence that can help you seek out parents who have experience with them. Ask what, specifically, your money is paying for. An organization should be able to detail all of its expenses for the team. Find out what a uniform entails, but remember that sports equipment costs can vary.
Make sure you, the coach, and the player have clear expectations of how often they will play. Find out the program’s refund policy, and what would happen if your child is injured or wants to quit. The refund policy should be clearly spelled out by the organization and explained to parents before the season begins. And, as always, research any business and its owners carefully before paying any money.