Sunday, June 21, 2015

Develop a Business Plan and Be Ready to Change It

By Steve Lenderman, Delaware Juniors Club Director

When I restarted Delaware Juniors Volleyball Club in 2006 we had a Five Year Plan in place to help guide us. One of these goals was to open our own facility in year 5. To accomplish this we set up yearly goals listed below. During the 2007- 2008 season we began to write our business plan, in 2008 – 2009 we began our capital funding and started working on the design of the facility, in 2009 -2010 we were to start construction and in 2010 – 2011 to open the facility.  The business plan was our first challenge, I can’t tell you how many revisions and amendments we made and continue to make today. The business plan is a living document that most importantly steers the business. Our business plan was good but not great, and it has a daily impact on the business.

My advice is to find another small business owner and seek his/her guidance in business plan writing. It is very difficult if not impossible to do it yourself. Once the business plan was created we were to move on to our capital funding in 2008-2009. This was delayed mostly because our club experienced a huge growth surge and doubled in size to 24 teams. While this growth was great, it devoured much of the time we should have been devoting to raising money for a facility. Finally in 2010 we found a location and began the next steps. Location for us was critical; many of the warehouses that were available were located in industrial parks, which are not always the most parent/player friendly. The ones we could afford were not in clean, safe looking areas and location was less than ideal. It took us over a year to find our current location. Location is everything in real estate. We were following the “3 Turn Rule” common in commercial real estate. It should take no more than 3 turns off a major highway to get to your place. If you can’t get customers to your facility you are doomed.

Construction started in the summer of 2011. Two rules for construction: it is never finished on time and it will cost twice what you are told so plan accordingly. We opened 7 weeks late and $100,000 over budget. These are tremendous hurdles to overcome with any new business. We opened in November 2011 just in time for tryouts, but missed the entire Fall and about $30,000 in potential revenue. Once open, it was all a blur.  Another piece of advice is be prepared to be there all of the time. If you are not open you are not making money while the bills still keep coming. To manage the finances we use QuickBooks online. We went this route because I, the owner and any of the other staff can access the books from anywhere instead of on one computer. It really is a huge help. We also made some initial mistakes on our website. We tried to save some money and wanted a fancy website for as cheap as possible, when we got the finished product it was not what we wanted and provided little functionality. So we are now using EZ Facility, another online software package that is designed to manage sports facilities, which I highly recommend.

Our overall business model is a little different. We knew that volleyball was not going to be big enough to support the entire facility; we need other sports and programs to help. We went out in search of partner groups that would also benefit from the facility. We found field hockey, lacrosse, basketball and even roller derby groups to partner with. These groups not only bought into the facility as investors, but also guaranteed us rental revenue and allow the groups to have a home and competitive advantage over other groups. It is a mutually beneficial situation for all. We also decided to not hire program experts. We wanted to run the facility with very limited staff, allowing the rental groups to run their own programs; we just rent them the space. While we may miss out on some revenue we also save on staffing and all other program costs. We don’t have to worry about all of the headaches associated with running a program. We just collect the rental fee.

Our facility also has three other sub tenants. We have a 3,000 square foot ATI Physical Therapy office in the Delaware Sportsplex that treats only athletes and gives our partner groups access to athletic trainers, PT and training equipment. In addition to ATI, a Velocity Speed Agility franchise will open in late summer. Having two well-known sports names in our facility only adds value to our customers and helps bring in potential customers, while basically covering half of our rent to the owner. The 3rd tenant is a local restaurant that runs our snack bar. Our first thoughts were to let somebody who is in the business handle this; one less thing to worry about. We would just get a cut of their profits.  However we quickly found out that running a restaurant and snack bar are not the same. We have struggled to make any money with this and are now looking for a way to terminate our agreement.  Snack bars make money, if you treat them like a snack bar. My advice here is don’t give up the snack bar to anybody and make sure you don't allow outside food into the building to help your sales.

We are now in month eight of business and the summer is the toughest time for any indoor sports facility. We did not have the cash reserves we would have liked to have had are now trying to create new revenue streams to compensate. Plan accordingly, put cash away. You never know when you will need it.

Well back to running the business, it has certainly been a huge learning experience and a fun ride so far!

Email us your experience at briana.schunzel@jvavolleyball.org

Want to learn more about the JVA?  Click here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Stay Focused on the People

By Emily Hawthorne, Executive Director, The Academy Volleyball Club

On September 22, 2014, the doors of The Academy Volleyball Club opened to the public for the first time. Hundreds of coaches, officials, friends, families, and players joined us for that very first open house and it hasn’t slowed down since! At that point in time we had nothing more than an empty 50,000 sq ft warehouse, with a few pallets of sport court stacked in the corner.

Today, only nine months later, we have seven courts, a concession stand, ProShop, and players’ lounge. Our first club season included 36 girls teams, 5 boys teams, more than a thousand clinic participants, and over 700 teams competing in the club tournaments we hosted. This summer we are hosting a Gold Medal Squared Clinic, featuring Hugh McCutcheon, Carl McGown, an Jim McLaughlin, among others. In August, less than one year after opening, we will be expanding… adding 20,000 sq ft and an additional four courts.

It is always fun to watch players, coaches and parents walk into our facility for the first time. Their comments and the reaction on their faces never get old. As one of the largest facilities in the Midwest, the space can be overwhelming at first glance. The decision to line the courts with chairs, instead of filling the facility with bleachers, gives the courts a uniform and clean look. We are also fortunate to have a full 5,000 sq ft for each court, allowing ample space to play, coach, and view matches. It is important to us to have a facility that is comfortable and provides a good experience, not only for the players, but the coaches and spectators as well. We know that many people spend a lot of time in our facility, so we try to make it feel like their home away from home.

As you can imagine, a facility like ours comes with major expenses. It is a good thing we love volleyball, because it takes a lot of it to pay for this amazing space! In addition to the standard girls club teams and tournaments, our boys program has helped bring in teams, events, and training during “off-peak” times. This has kept our facility hopping from September – June.

We are excited to add Sand Volleyball to our program offerings this summer, and while we don’t have sand courts at our facility, we have partnered with two local sand venues, so we can offer sand training and tournaments to area players. Located on opposite sides of Indianapolis, these two locations allow us to expand our reach and provide quality sand training to over 80 middle school and high school athletes.

At The Academy, we have a strong focus on youth volleyball.  We have incorporated a Little Spikers program into our clinic series, as well as a Fall Youth League in August and September. Adult leagues and tournaments, sports performance training, corporate rentals, and facility sponsorships keep us busy and funded year-round.

One thing I’ve learned this year is that running a business, facility and club is challenging… and not always in the ways that you think!  We had to adapt very quickly to having such a large turnout of club players and teams at our events. It was definitely a challenge to hire and train a staff of 70 coaches in less than eight weeks, especially when a positive atmosphere and first impression is so important. 

We wanted more than just warm bodies working with our athletes. Each one had to be a good fit for our club, bringing experience, knowledge, professionalism and positivity to their coaching. Gym space also immediately became an issue. With 41 teams and seven courts we implemented some very creative scheduling! Clinics and private lessons had to be put on hold or offered at off-peak times to make all of the club practices fit.

Funding can also be hard to come by, especially through banks, SBA loans or other traditional methods of lending. Many places are hesitant to work with a “start-up” or a business that is less than 2 years old. Leaning on family, friends, and other volleyball enthusiasts for funding is a good option, especially if you have a strong vision and business plan. 

And, while a detailed business plan is imperative, be prepared for the fact that it will be blown up, changed around, and barely resemble itself by the end of the first year. In the beginning, unexpected expenses popped up daily.  We needed light covers over all of the courts, a lift to hang the light covers, all of our doors re-keyed, and a mop-sink installed in order to meet code... the list was endless!  

We learned very quickly the difference between what we needed now, and what we wanted eventually. Working with local companies to trade services (apparel vendors, photography, electrical work) for sponsorships helped offset our expenses as well. Throughout all of the ups and down, expenses and revenue, I try to stay true to who we are and what is important. We have a beautiful facility, but our people are our biggest asset. The families we serve and the coaches we employ will make or break us as a club, so it makes sense that our resources, efforts and energy stay focused on people.

While it’s been a crazy first year, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. For those who are thinking about opening a facility or starting a club, I can tell you that it is absolutely possible. Surround yourself with good people, who believe in your vision. Expect challenges and obstacles, work harder than you’ve ever worked before, and be sure to enjoy the journey.

 The Academy Volleyball Club, located in Indianapolis, is a member of the JVA. For more information on the JVA click here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

PickleBall: How it Can Benefit Your Facility

PickleBall – this rapidly growing game with the funny name may help you fill daytime hours in your facility.  

PickleBall is a paddle ball game played with a whiffle ball.  The court is 20’ x 44’ divided by a net, 36” high.  Retirees were the first wave of devotees and make up a large group of players.  The average age of players is about 50 yrs.  However, the game is catching on with all ages and people are joining in rapidly increasing numbers.  
I recently interviewed Phil Larson, one of the District Ambassadors for Wisconsin.  In Wisconsin alone, they are seeing about 30 new players each month.  The numbers are impressive.  Many players have a net and court tape in their car so they are able to play wherever they find space.  

Players are drawn to the game due to the fast pace of the game and low impact on joints.  Many of the players are former tennis, volleyball, and basketball players.  Phil reported that these former athletes, with great hand-eye coordinator and ball skills, pick up the game very quickly.  Players are also drawn to meeting new people and the camaraderie of their peers.

Currently the majorities of PickleBall players are retired and look for games in their area.  Once a site is found, word travels very quickly.  Most play is in the form of open gym or drop-in games, generally doubles.   The players, play by an unwritten code where, if only one court is available, players will balance the challenge teams to make it competitive for everyone.  They will announce whether the play is “friendly” or “competitive”.  

In the friendly phase, more experienced players will try to keep the rally going, rather than smashing the ball to end the rally quickly.  In this way, new players don’t become discouraged and have an opportunity to learn and improve their skills.  For the last 30 minutes or so of the session, it may be announced that the format will change to competitive.  In this phase the goal is to win the round and hold the court.

If there is more than one court available, players may choose to self-select the court of their ability and the format is more competitive.  

PickleBall can be played indoors or outdoors.  The low cost of PickleBall is also attractive.  Due to the lack of facilities and courts to play on, many avid players carry their own net with them.   A portable net is less than $150 and can be set up in a few minutes.  Paddles average $50-$80 and balls are only 3 for $10.00.  Membership in the USAPA is only $25 per year or $60 for a family.  Membership is not required in local play.  

I talked to Phil about the opportunities for facility owners.  He said that more places are needed to play.  Players currently rely on YMCA’s, Park and Rec departments, and civic recreation programs.  The average fee for a session of PickleBall in his area is $3.  The session will last about 3 hours.  Most play is doubles, preferred by about 90% of the participants, but singles is also played.  Players do not need to be members of USAPA.

I asked if there were PickleBall Clubs, similar to our volleyball clubs.  He said there are a few clubs but associated with a single facility.  Local organizations are beginning to form as they help draw area players together and provide information on play sessions and tournaments.  

Tournaments are becoming popular.  The USAPA hosts a national championship and this year, PickleBall will make its debut at the National Senior Games to be held in Minnesota.  A small tournament would have no less than 4 courts.  Larger tournaments have 10-16 courts.  Arizona hosted last year’s National Championships.  They used 28 courts, had 600 participants and almost 1,700 matches were played.

For more information on the United States Pickle Ball Assoc. (USAPA) click here.  This site has links to the rules, tournament guidebook, and regional associations.

Phil suggested that the best way to get the word out if you want to get involved is to form a relationship with your area’s local USAPA Ambassador.  Each state has a number of Ambassadors.  Wisconsin has 23.  Most local areas have websites to list play areas.

This article was written by Jenny Hahn, Executive Director of the JVA, and is among many JVA resources for Club Directors on running a volleyball facility. For more information about the JVA click here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Evolution of a Volleyball Facility

By Alex Sing, Club Director, Grand Strand Juniors

In an earlier article I wrote about the space within a converted warehouse that we were able to use for a practice facility. We had our “own space”, but the warehouse was shared by other groups from basketball to an air soft combat zone. The space had served us well, but it was always in the back of our minds that we would someday “own” a facility. 

Just a few weeks ago the dream of having a designated volleyball facility for the club became a reality. We purchased a 21,000 sq. ft. building that was at one time a skating rink. The site also included 5 acres of land that could be used for expansion and adding sand courts.

On the surface our situation in the shared warehouse looked ideal. It was in a great location. We had unlimited access from 8am to 11pm 7 days a week. The facility provided signage, clean up of common areas including bathrooms, and electric was included, all for about $3.00 per square foot. Not bad at all.

Here is the "but": The warehouse owner was running a business and offered space to those willing to pay. He had 100,000 square feet to try and fill. At such a low price he attracted quite a range of tenants. Our neighbors included pole fitness (not exactly what you want beside your young volleyball players), and a batting cage that had a wooden wall that provided quite a scare when a ball went foul and hit it. Plus with gymnastics and a dance studio close by, you could hear 3 different songs playing at any given moment. Not exactly “our” space after all. The space was not climate controlled either.

The Jump
One huge advantage to the shared warehouse was its location. Right in the middle of town and central for many of our players. The building and property we were considering to purchase was 30 minutes away and according to some it was "in the middle of nowhere." Those who were close by our current location complained immediately. For others the new location would be closer to home.

So while some families were excited, others were not. We had to see if moving our club was going to fly.  I remember reading what John Brannon from CUVC mentioned his post about searching for a facility. It was something like, “Perfect is the enemy of very good”. We had found a great building with climate control and a price we could afford, but the location was not perfect. Still it was within a reasonable driving distance and an opportunity that we decided to pursue.

Middle Ground
Rather than disrupt everyone’s schedule mid season we decided to take one step at a time in our transition. We asked our landlord at the shared facility for a reduced rent for a smaller space. He agreed. At our shared location we had 4 courts so we moved 2 courts over to our new facility (and added a third) and kept 2 courts at the shared warehouse. We made a schedule where teams would alternate practices between the two locations so no one was driving out each practice. This has added cost to the club by paying for two locations, but we felt it was worth it to let teams finish this season. I felt compromise was the best policy for those making noise about a move in season. I was betting once the new place was up and running they would see it was worth a drive.

We have been practicing at our new facility for 3 weeks now. We had a few teams vote to practice at odd times at our old place just so they would not drive out an extra 30 minutes to the new place. Unfortunately they did not even give it a chance. “I know we are spoiled here in the south.”

Just seeing the attitude of our players and families at our new facility has been worth the move. The vibe is so much better and practices have a different attitude. Players can come in early to do homework and enjoy “their place”. In every aspect the facility is better and a step up for the club.

Next season we will have all our practices at the new facility. We expect some players will fallout and not make the drive. But if you are building a club on convenience, don’t expect to be very competitive. We believe other players will make that drive to us because they know we are training athletes to be the best they can be in an environment that we control.

We were not desperate to move but it felt right and I believed was in the best interest for the club as a whole. A climate controlled facility allows us to do more. We’ve already started scheduling camps, clinics, and a high school summer league. Plans are for a kid’s fair to introduce ourselves to the new community and preview a volley tots program. 

Grand Strand Juniors is a member of the Junior Volleyball Association. Established 2007. 
Serving Myrtle Beach and the surrounding areas of South Carolina. For more information about the JVA click here.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Happy Marriage for Volleyball and Futsal

By John Sample, Club Director, Texas Advantage Volleyball

Texas Advantage Volleyball (TAV) is celebrating 30 years of volleyball this year in our new headquarters building.  Three years ago we embarked on a mission to build a new building for our volleyball club.  We designed, planned and executed a facility designed to support our growth into the future.  Fortunately for us, at the last minute, a facility became available that was very close to our required design that had 12 wood floor volleyball courts, a 20,000 square foot performance training area, locker rooms, snack bar, mezzanine viewing area, conference and meeting facilities as well as office area.  

We elected to move to the existing building because of existing non volleyball activity that was already in place and would move our marketing program ahead by almost 2 years.  Since we were still in our existing building until December 1, 2014 we took over operation of the facility early 2014 and began adapting the building to our needs while learning the other non volleyball requirements.  We moved our whole corporate operation into the new facility on August 1, 2014 with enlarged men’s and women’s restrooms, refinished courts, more performance and weight equipment and 3 additional volleyball courts that are top of the line Sport Court.

We now house an indoor soccer program “Futsal” (which is one of the top Futsal programs in the country), Charter school and Home School programs, a full time Health and Fitness center complete with a Chiropractor, Professional Trainers,  Yoga Classes, Spin classes, and Basketball practices.  The Futsal program is a 24/7 52 weeks a year program and we are now booked for 46 weekends a year hosting Volleyball Tournaments, Futsal Tournaments, Basketball Tournaments, High School Tournaments, Professional Events and Special Events.  Our TAV athletes now have a state of the art facility to manage wellness training, dietary scheduling, workout programs, off season programs as well as practice and play opportunities.

Our goal has always been the success and growth of each of our athletes and now we have the opportunity to see where we can achieve even more positive results using every resource at our disposal.  Our coaching staff is one of the best in the country, we have employed some of the best fitness and training professionals we can find and are providing injury prevention screening to assist the trainers in their work with our athletes.

In addition to our headquarters we have club locations in Aledo, Texas; Duncanville, Texas; and Amarillo, Texas.  We are determined to continually improve and work hard to make the youth volleyball experience a great one for coaches, athletes and parents.

TAV is a member of the Junior Volleyball Association, and has been for many years. The Junior Volleyball Association is a non-profit organization of junior volleyball clubs around the country. The JVA's mission is to promote the growth of youth and junior volleyball for all junior clubs through program and resource development, education and events. For more information about the JVA click here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Bigger than the Building: The Upward Star Center Aims To Play With Purpose

As Upward Stars enters our third year partnering with Junior Volleyball Association, it has become evident that the organization's expertise is crucial in reaching young athletes across the country. They continue to show a strong commitment to working with Upward Stars club directors nationwide and truly trust the vision of each club director to help benefit and grow the sport at the local level.

On Saturday, Sept. 27 the Upward Star Center opened its doors to the local community.  The multi-sport, indoor-outdoor complex sits on 60 acres in Spartanburg, SC.  On the outside lie two state-of-the-art turf fields, four natural grass fields, and four lighted sand volleyball courts.  

The 120,000 square foot indoor facility houses six full-sized basketball courts (that can be transformed into 12 short courts), 12 regulation indoor volleyball courts, six meeting rooms, four pro-style batting cages, a running track, rock wall, café, strength and conditioning area with trainers, a retail shop as well as a full-sized orthopedic and rehabilitation center.

We often get asked, “What’s the need for such a facility?”

In today’s sports culture, a lot of organizations sacrifice the long-term benefit of athletes in exchange for short-term gain.  The result of such neglect is 70% of young athletes quitting sports by the age of 13.  We want to stop this trend and help reclaim the landscape of youth sports for the benefit of our young athletes.

The Upward Star Center was built to serve these three purposes:
  1. Train New and Existing Leaders – Invest and develop mission-aligned leaders and coaches with and athlete-focused philosophy. 
  2. Use as a “Living Laboratory” – Develop and improve new sports offerings that focus on an athlete’s long-term development. 
  3. Support Upward Sports’ Exclusive 360 Progression Program – Offer recreation, developmental, and performance programs as well as tournaments with the primary goal of developing the total athlete.
Playing With Purpose – Upward Sports’ 360 Progression™

The Upward Star Center is one of the premier sports destinations in the southeast.  As proud as this fact makes us, the real mission and excitement is being able to help build total athletes. The term “total athletes” is used to describe our exclusive 360 Progression program which is the blueprint to help young athletes grow in four key areas – Mentally, Athletically, Spiritually, and Socially.

Upward Stars has dedicated coaches, staff, and community members who share in the mission to guide players through the stages of game discovery, skill development, and peak performance while fostering the growth of personal character through the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Now, one of the critical issues that arose recently is that players are leaving leagues, a lot of times even quitting sports entirely by the age of 13 which decreases the time they can be impacted through the 360 Progression. There is clear evidence that if young athletes aren’t around qualified coaches and in a competitive atmosphere, parents are willing to move their child out of athletic programs.

While the Upward Star Center is a new and crucial piece in reaching these athletes, Upward Sports also has an existing Volleyball Center ten miles away which houses seven additional volleyball courts and has an expansion in the works.  As it stands, the 19 courts these two facilities have combined make them one of the largest volleyball complexes in the country! The ability to have access to such venues ensures athletes and their families have a place that can provide the competitive environment they wish to be a part of. 

Following the vision of creating a higher-level sports environment, volleyball was instituted as an Upward Stars program. Upward Stars differentiates itself by allowing players to be a part of a “club” atmosphere.  It is here that they are led by certified coaches, receive individual instruction, and play against high-level competition to ensure they are reaching their full potential.
Upward Stars already has terrific clubs and young athletes within its programs who are seeing results.  Under the guidance of Corey Helle, the Upward Stars Volleyball Club Upstate was recently ranked the #1 club in the state of South Carolina.  Helle, who spent 17 years as a college coach including the last 11 as the head coach at Wofford College, retired from the college ranks to be the full-time club director in 2012.  This year the club anticipates having 40 travel teams and another 200 players go through their developmental academies.

There are many experienced and passionate coaches within the Upward Stars programs like Helle.  The knowledge gained from working or playing at the top levels lends them to be excellent teachers of their sport and help their young athletes perform at a high level.

The Future of the Upward Star Center

Since introducing volleyball in 2012, participation numbers have continued to rise, and the ability to impact young athletes’ lives has grown along with them:
  • In 2013 – 600 club athletes participated in Upward Stars programs along with six additional tournaments that when combined, totaled 1,705 players for the year.
  • In 2014 – 750 club athletes participated in Upward Stars programs along with ten tournaments that when combined, totaled 3,442 players reached for the year.
  • In 2015 – Over 14,000 participants will be reached by Upward Stars Programs and events, including:
o   Hosting 8 SAVL tournaments, local high school and middle school tournaments, 13 indoor and outdoor events including sand, grass, and developmental tournaments, a national recruiting showcase for aspiring college players, and numerous coaching clinics.
o   The Upward Star Center being the site of a division 1 Men’s volleyball match where North Greenville faces off against perennial division 1 power Pepperdine and their leader, former national USA volleyball coach, Marv Dunphy on January 3, 2015.
o   Co-hosting 1 AAU Winter Bump tournament in January, 1 AAU Super Regional and 1 JVA Challenge Tournament in March, and 1 SAVL Club Championship in April.

“We are excited for the 2015 volleyball club season for many reasons, one of the main ones being able to have our teams play in one of the premier sports facilities in the country,” said Helle, who also coaches the 181 team.

Also, beyond the Upward Star Center only being used for sporting events, there are plans to utilize it as a place for conventions, concerts, community events, and parties to expand on the ways we can minister to our community.

Partnering With JVA

As we enter our third year partnering with JVA, it has become evident that their expertise is crucial in reaching young athletes across the country. They continue to show a strong commitment to working with Upward Stars club directors nationwide and truly trust the vision of each club director to help benefit and grow the sport at the local level.

JVA is just one participant that is utilizing the Upward Star Center for their events and tournaments. We invite you and your club to come visit the facility if you haven’t yet, and keep checking www.upward.org for upcoming events and Upward Star Center information.

Upward Star Center – Play With Purpose

For more information about the Junior Volleyball Association (JVA) click here.