The November 2020 edition of Your Court, USA Volleyball’s digital magazine, introduced three clubs from the Kansas City area (Heart of America Region) dedicated to engaging Black youth throughout their community. One way these clubs – KC Blue Devils, KC Lady Jaguars and Metro Heat – reach this goal is by keeping their club fees low. Here’s how these clubs offer a premier club volleyball experience at a lower price point.
- KC Blue Devils: Under $700
- KC Lady Jaguars: $750 (11U) to $1150 (17/18U)
- Metro Heat: ranges from $500 (13U) to $800 (18U)
Fundraising and Donations
Fundraising is big at all three of these clubs. Both Lady Jags and Metro Heat hold an annual Trash Bag fundraiser where athletes sell rolls of rolls of garbage bags to the community. Rolls are sold for $10 apiece, $4 of which is applied to an athlete’s fees. Metro Heat has also held car washes, candy bar sales and others, enough to where some parents have paid for their child’s entire fee through fundraising. Lady Jags has held off on selling candy bars, according to club director Regina Webb, but participate in other fundraisers, including a 3-on-3 summer league and summer skills camp.
It’s not just the athletes and their families working to gain funds, but the coaching staffs at all three clubs do, too. Blue Devils director Petrina Parker approaches just about everyone regarding donations for her young athletes.
“I'm calling people that I know, ‘Hey listen, I got a girl and she she's got great potential and she wants to play. Can you donate such and such to sponsor her?’ she said. “I'm writing letters right now … People who know me know I've been beating this drum for years.”
And her passion has worked. So far, she’s supplemented fees for five girls and fully sponsored two because, as she puts it, “we have a village of people who support our mission.”
Working with local organizations to get donations of services or equipment is another way they help their players. The Blue Devils have received equipment from a local sporting goods store and a local college, and the Lady Jags work with a boxing academy to give their athletes access to a strength training facility. The club is also applying for a grant toward computers; Lady Jags offers a coding course for its athletes, too.
All three clubs see savings with their uniforms. Metro Heat director Ashley Williamson looks for quality, not brand, when it comes to apparel companies and has a strong deal with St. Louis-based All Volleyball.
“Because I go to them every year, they guarantee our gear is in stock until it’s a change of design,” Williamson said. “For three years, we have the same stuff. We’re just able to re-order it, and we get it for the same price whether I order one or 100.”
Like Metro Heat, Parker at KC Blue Devils strives to get multiple years out of her uniform designs. In the 2019-20 season, she saved her athletes $90 by forgoing the special uniforms of 2018-19.
The Lady Jags have a deal with Smack Sportswear out of Redondo Beach, California, for low-cost sublimated jerseys and custom backpacks. Athletes keep their jerseys at least two years, cutting costs for returners.
Negating facility costs may be the most difficult thing for these clubs. At KC Blue Devils, Parker is currently attempting to negotiate with a local church. The church has a big space in back that’s going unused, and Parker sees its potential as a low-cost practice venue.
The Lady Jags already practice at a church, paying rent. “Gym rental is the high-dollar reason our cost has gone up,” Webb said. “If we could get gym time donated, that would reduce our fees tremendously.” The church does allow the club access to a computer center and classrooms for tutoring and off-court sessions, however.
Metro Heat rents, too, and the pandemic has forced the club to pay significantly more than expected since their previous space was unavailable. The new location does come with a silver lining, though: “We’re currently practicing at Homefield Kansas City, a multi-sport complex. It’s new to K.C. and it’s amazing, we really love it. We hope once things get back to somewhat normal, we can host a tourney,” Williamson said.
Now for possibly the biggest ways these clubs keep costs low: their coaches do not take payment.
“I would love to [pay] my coaches, but we’re not doing it for the money, we’re doing it for the girls,” said Williamson about Metro Heat’s philosophy behind that decision.
It hasn’t hampered the Lady Jags’ ability to draw coaches, either. Williamson, a former collegiate player, actually coached for Webb at KC Lady Jags before starting her own club, and Webb’s still been able to attract other experienced people to teach her athletes.
“A lot of my coaches have coached in high school or just played competitively,” Webb said about her coaching staff. “We take the love of the game and our desire to want to teach the girls who want to come in.”
Parker, who also coaches with the Blue Devils, is happy to donate her time to the club.
“Because my mission is to get more minorities playing the sport, I don’t mind doing that,” she said. “I know I’m not going to get rich coaching club volleyball. My mission is to get more girls involved in playing the sport of volleyball, because I love it.”
That same mission has drawn former players who also want to give back to their community. According to Parker, her coaches are inspired to help a team that’s comprised of Black athletes.
There are other ways these women manage their clubs despite low club fees, and one way, admittedly, is self-funding – “My husband would divorce me if he knew how much money I pay in, but my family has always paid in to help offset the fees,” Webb laughed. But manage they do, bringing volleyball to those who otherwise wouldn’t play. Hopefully, these strategies can help you do the same at your club.