Youth sports

Youth sports leagues are ubiquitous year-round, offering athletic opportunities outside of school teams. They can lead to opportunities on elite, competitive teams, including teams that travel to various tournaments, which have proliferated in recent years. Better Business Bureau (BBB) 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 reported to BBB include 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.

“It’s important that parents screen these programs before their children sign up,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB St. Louis president and CEO. “As with anything, there are honest coaches looking to foster youth’s growth and leave them with great athletic memories, and there are businesses whose dishonest practices will leave families with nothing but a lighter wallet.”

BBB offers the following tips for dealing with youth sports programs.

Research any business and its owners carefully before paying any money. Check the company’s BBB Business Profile at bbb.org or by calling 888-996-3887.

Ask for references and contact them. Talk to others who have participated with the program. Most organizations – from youth sports teams to dance studios – have an online presence that can help seek out parents who have experience with the organization.

Ask for what your money is paying. An organization should be able to detail all of its expenses for the team. The most common fees are for court/field rental, uniforms and tournament or league fees. A reputable organization will give its members an itemized list of those fees.

Find out what a uniform entails. Costs and equipment for sports varies. Are helmets and pads included for football, hockey and lacrosse, or are players expected to purchase or rent these items for a fee? Does the program provide bats and gloves in baseball and softball? Is loaner equipment available in good condition and suitable for your child’s size, age and ability?

Know how much your child will play. The parents, player and coach should have clear expectations for how often the child will play. Unlike recreational leagues where everyone plays equal time, most competitive travel teams do not use the same philosophy. Research a program’s philosophy with respect to playing time before agreeing to join the organization.

Find out the program’s refund policy. What happens if your child wants to quit or is injured? The refund policy should be clearly spelled out by the organization and explained to the parents and players before the seasons begins.

BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. BBB services to consumers are free of charge. Visit bbb.org for more information.

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