If you’ve read my volleyball coaching log entries for this year you’ll know one of the things I’ve been working on at Midwestern State University (MSU) is a volleyball team trip to Argentina. Specifically, we are planning to go to Buenos Aires in August.
This is a trip I thought about almost from the start of my time here. MSU Volleyball has never done a foreign trip. It’s a big thing to propose, particularly because of the cost. For that reason, I put forward the idea to use my contacts rather than to do a traditional “tour”.
Not the usual foreign tour
Actually, there were a couple of reasons not to go the normal route of working with a company. Expected cost savings was one of them. Importantly, though, we also did not want to follow the standard structure of many tours. Most tours involve a lot of traveling around – moving from city to city. Volleyball sometimes only seems to be a minor consideration. This is because you mainly hear about NCAA Division I teams going on tour, and that means doing it in the off-season. For example, they go during Spring Break.
At MSU we’re in Division II where the rules are a bit different. In Division I they are not allowed to do a foreign tour within I believe 30 days prior to the start of preseason. This is not the case in Division II. As a result, we can do our trip in August. The timing, though, has to fit in with Summer school because some of our players will take classes. The second Summer term ends August 10th, so we’ve planned to leave on the trip August 12th. That actually means doing the trip during part of our preseason, which officially starts on about August 15th.
It may sound a bit strange to do a foreign trip during preseason, but stay with me.
The NCAA rules allow a team 10 days of training prior to going on a foreign trip. That means we can actually start our preseason preparations on about August 1st. Seeing the method to our madness here?
With another team – say one with a lot of experienced players – this might not be something we’d want to do. In our case, however, we have a bunch of new players coming in to the team for the Fall – 5 freshmen and a transfer. Some of them are candidates to make the starting team. We are also in the process of building a strong team culture. The extra time together this trip creates gives us a chance to really integrate all these players, both into the program and into playing together.
This scheduling of our trip overlapping preseason mandates another consideration. I mentioned that most tours seem to do a lot of traveling. We don’t want that for our own trip. We basically want a training camp – trip where volleyball will feature heavily. Obviously, we want to do lots of cultural stuff as well, but practice and competition needs to take a lead role.
Why Buenos Aires
All of this leads to a decision to make a trip where we can stay in one place – not travel all the time. There is also the question of time zone changes as well as there being opportunities to play decent competition. Buenos Aires ticks all the boxes. While the travel length is similar as a trip to Europe, it’s only three time zones. It’s a big city, with plenty to do. There’s lots of volleyball, and they will not be in Summer holiday while we’re there like many European clubs would be in August. It will be winter there, which while not particularly cold will be a nice break from the Texas heat. Plus, I have contacts from there.
Getting it done
So at this point we’re in the planning phase. That means a couple of things.
First of all, we’ve already made arrangements for group travel. That process was basically the commitment to doing the trip as we needed to put down a 10% deposit. Travel, as you might expect, is a big part of the cost of the trip. It will probably turn out to be about 60% when all is said and done.
Second, thanks to one of my coaching connects we have someone on the ground in Buenos Aires working on the details for us. He’s heavily connected in the volleyball world down there, but he’s also helping to arrange transportation and a place to stay. I’ve been having exchanges with him about our needs and expectations, which aren’t too major.
Third, and probably most important, is the fund raising. We figured on a total cost of $65,000 for the trip, which is a big chunk of money. Our final costs will probably come in a bit under that because we budgeted for a slightly larger travel party than we expect to take. Still, the price tag will be substantial.
We already have some money raised. We hosted a bunch of high school matches in our facility at the start of last season, which brought in a decent amount of money. That is something we already plan to repeat – potentially even bigger. Unfortunately, that happens right before our trip, making budgeting a little trickier. We’re also running a series of clinics for young kids in May which will bring in another chunk of money, and there are some other things in the works.
The trouble is while these fund raising events do bring in money, the amounts won’t be anywhere near enough to cover the trip. We need donations, or potentially sponsorships for the bulk of the funding. We’ve set up a page on the university’s Development site (look for MSU Volleyball – Buenos Aires Trip in the list).
Not going with GoFundMe
We considered something like GoFundMe, but went this route for a couple of reasons. First, GoFundMe charges 5% plus the credit card processing fee. The university doesn’t charge us anything. Second, money donated through the Development website gets credited to our account directly without us having to do anything.
Third, and most meaningfully, there’s the potential for donation matching. We were told of a pot of money available to match contributions from people who are not prior donors. There isn’t a ton left, and it’s not just dedicated to us, but any amount we can get helps us move in the direction of our goal. Needless to say, as soon as our page was ready on the site we started encouraging donations to get that matching going in our favor.
Going after bigger fish
Alongside the individual donation side of things, we’re exploring bigger potential sources. This includes the likes of local businesses, and perhaps the university itself. We met with someone the other day who suggested we really pitch the trip from the perspective of spreading the university brand overseas. He saw that as a way to motivate some internal funding. I will also possibly meet with members of the local Lion’s club to talk about what we’re doing. Our Athletic Director indicated his willingness to set up a sponsorship arrangement with businesses who contribute to the trip, which could be useful.
Onward and upward!
Thoughts, suggestions, etc.?
If you have any recommendations for me, I’m happy to hear them. They could be to do with managing the trip, or about fund raising. If you have organized a trip, or managed a large fund raising campaign, your thoughts and experience are very welcome. Just leave a comment below or contact me directly.