Dishonesty, Distrust, and Damage on America’s Youth Soccer Fields
MONEY ISSUES AT YOUTH SOCCER CLUBS: Protecting the Beautiful Game.
Volunteers in youth soccer work long hours to build up America’s youth soccer clubs but sometimes things go wrong. When they do the difference between a minor issue and total disaster can be how the problem is handled.
What happens money issues come up? The soccer club suffers. Simple financial policies can prevent financial headaches in the first place.
One of the best recommendations is
MAKE IT A HARD AND FAST POLICY THAT THE CLUB PRESIDENT AND CLUB TREASURER CANNOT BE MARRIED TO EACH OTHER.
Likewise, for team managers and team treasurers.
In the world of youth soccer, money management is one of the most dangerous activities.
Few volunteers join a soccer club or team to commit fraud, but it happens. Temptation can be hard to resist when personal funds are tight and borrowing from a club or team looks like a quick, short-term fix. Yet, a momentary slip can spell disaster.
From whispered conversations about salaries to missing funds from a team’s petty cash, concerns over money can disrupt a team or club’s success. Fraud and embezzlement have ruined entire clubs and sent volunteers to jail.
POOR JUDGEMENT OFTEN LEADS TO UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES.
Years ago, I was asked to serve on the board of directors of my sons’ soccer club as the Boys’ Team Representative. The job entailed checking in on each of the boys’ teams in the club every month to see how they were doing and to identify if they needed any help.
Two months into the job, one of the boys’ teams had a problem. Over $700 was missing from the team account. The complications? The team manager and the team treasurer were married to each other. They were the only ones with signatory authority to spend money out of the team account. Could it get worse?
It was my son’s team, and the board wanted me to investigate and take care of the situation.
It was an awful idea – I was a walking conflict of interest as a board member and a parent.
This story illustrates two of the major management mistakes youth soccer clubs make
Youth Soccer Clubs – Critical Mistakes to Avoid: Lack of Financial Policies and Safeguards
No club wants to end up on the front page of the local paper with a story about financial mismanagement, theft, or embezzlement.
Yet too many clubs do not structure their financial management systems to minimize the risk of such things.
GOOD IDEA: TWO SIGNEES ON EVERY BANK ACCOUNT
One of the easiest policies to adopt is to ensure that bank accounts at both the club and team level have at least two people who can sign on the account and that these two people are not from the same household or family.
mportant Financial Policies for Youth Soccer Clubs to Develop Include:
- Maintaining separate records, if not accounts, for monies collected via player fees, fundraising events, grants, and sponsorships. The management and reporting associated with each of these revenue sources often differ.
- Refund policies for players who may leave a team or club sooner than anticipated and for how to handle excess player fees in a team account at the end of a season or playing year. Note that it is acceptable to refund player fees to player families. It can be illegal to “refund” revenue to player families from donations, fundraising, grants, or sponsorships. Know the rules in your state that apply to your organization.
- Conducting regular, independent financial audits in accordance with club bylaws and government requirements.
One of the best ways to avoid major management mistakes is to make it a habit to review and revise club financial and governing policies on an annual basis before the annual board orientation.
Ensure that your board members and club leaders, including senior coaching staff and administrators, understand their roles and the major policies that will guide their work for the year.
ORGANIZE YOUR BOARD SO IT OPERATES WELL.
Youth Soccer Clubs – Critical Mistakes to Avoid: No Annual Orientation or Training for Boards of Directors
One of the most critical mistakes youth soccer clubs make is not holding an annual orientation and training for all members of their boards of directors.
Board members are not just people who are interested in an organization. They formally serve as officers of a non-profit or a for-profit corporation. In youth soccer clubs, this is a significantly different role than that of a parent who naturally wants to advocate for their child athlete.
The primary responsibility of a board is to set the strategic direction for the organization and to manage that through financial, human resources, and program support.
Although board members are key leaders of a club, they should not be a part of day-to-day organizational operations or direct supervision of on-field coaching activities. They should take their leadership roles seriously on behalf of the entire organization, including the critical importance of incorporating the expertise and recommendations of their senior coaching staff into organizational planning and business decisions.
Annual board orientation should cover the basics of the organization mission, vision, strategic plan, and major programs. It also should cover major policies, financial issues, and roles and responsibilities. Because many board members are often parents of players, it is imperative that board orientation and training include:
- Clarification of the roles of board members, especially as they are different from coach, administrative staff, parent, or other volunteer roles in the club,
- When board members must recuse themselves from board-level and club issues directly involving teams on which their children play,
- The process by which board members can constructively address personal issues with their child athlete, coach, or team that does not involve their power or responsibilities as a board member (preferably the regular process by which any club parent addresses such issues), and
- How the board and the club enforce its standards and expectations for board members that separate their roles as members of the board from their roles as parents of individual players.
Nicholson is also the co-creator of the 2019 GO! Chase Excellence Think Tank to Improve Youth Sports which engaged nearly 200 people from two dozen sports. The online event offered more than 80 solution-focused sessions and 61 speakers from five continents. An internationally-certified professional facilitator, mediator, and organizational alchemist, Ruth was a national finalist for the 2018 Hudl Innovator of the Year award for youth soccer. She specializes in helping clubs design board processes and club operations to provide more effective support to coaches, teams, and players.
Ruth Nicholson is the founder of GO!, a resource and training platform offering youth sports organizations proven governance, leadership, and administrative tools. Since its launch in mid-2017, Ruth has fielded inquiries and worked with coaches, clubs, state associations, and leagues in 19 North American states and provinces, as well as others in Europe, South America, Australia, and Africa.