Athletic Travel Budget Expenses Coaches Should Consider

Articles | Online Master of Coaching Education

All athletic coaches fulfill many roles such as: team leader, strategist, role model, trainer, and manager. Interscholastic sport coaches, in particular, manage external concerns that collegiate and professional coaches aren’t burdened by. They consider academic progress within their athletic schedule, assist players to build fundamental skills and basic strength training, and work out travel logistics. Recently, the coach’s role in team travel coordination has been complicated by rising costs of athletic participation in general.

The amount provided to each sport depends on the athletic administration’s budget. Coaches consider all aspects of their team’s travel costs so they know how much is needed. Without a detailed understanding of their annual travel expenses, they won’t know how much additional funding they may need after funds are released. Parents already spend up to $200 on registration and participation fees alone, then there are the additional equipment costs. After all costs are added up and paid, extra costs associated with travel can stress both parents’ and coaches’ budgets.

Participation Costs

Parents spend an average of $671 per athlete per year to cover uniforms and registration. Each interscholastic sport belongs to a state and national association like the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) which helps organize competition and uphold official rules. To participate – which is necessary for athletic programs serious about competition – these associations require registration fees that can cost up to $200 an athlete.

Along with fees are equipment costs, coaches account for equipment costs and communicate what athletes are personally responsible for. For example, playable basketball shoes cost $50 to $75 a pair, a football helmet costs between $200 to $350, and a decent baseball bat costs roughly $230. These costs are overlooked when athletes become interested in a certain sport, but coaches are responsible for providing costs and fees upfront so they determine if it’s within the parents’ budget. To relieve financial stresses, coaches use a few fundraising methods that will be further explained shortly.

Gas Prices

From 2008 to 2014, gas prices were volatile and increasing. Coaches had to accommodate the rapidly rising prices within their travel expenses which had not been a major issue prior. Many athletic programs had to cut tournaments out and minimize schedules to home games or physically closer schools. These restrictions naturally affected the athletes most, so coaches wrestled to find new strategies for travel.

According to the American School Bus Council (ASBC), school buses get an average of 7 MPG and vans get 12to 16 MPG. Poor efficiency coupled with gas prices as high as $3.85 per gallon as seen in 2011 burdened coaches’ already tight budgets. Although gas prices have decreased to $2.60 per gallon in 2017, the gas price hike revealed the importance of detailed travel planning. It led to schools re-organizing their travel schedules and compromising on neutral arenas that minimize travel between competitors.

Hotel Costs

Hotel indexes in 2016 show that an average one-night hotel stay ranges from $137 to $164. One hotel room can sleep three to four people, but most athletic teams are comprised of more than ten athletes and coaches. That’s at least three rooms, tripling hotel costs just for one night. Coaches try to use accommodations that offer group rates, decreasing the room prices by up to 24 percent. Even with the discount, hotel costs are a major consideration in travel expenses.

Similar to fuel consumption solutions, coaches have worked with one another, their athletic administrations, and associations to schedule competitions with teams that are physically closer or at neutral locations equidistant to all schools. Another solution for hotel and gas prices is to rotate competition locations so every few years a school hosts the tournament and is saved the travel costs.


An often-overlooked travel expense is time. Coaches spend hours poring over travel costs and budgets to create appropriate travel schedules, and the travel itself takes time. Because academics is a main priority for coaches and athletes, they can’t organize athletic travel in a way that consumes time dedicated to school and studying. The cumulative time it takes coaches to communicate with other coaches and prepare a travel schedule is substantial, so they have to make appropriate time in their already hectic schedules.

Expense-Relief Strategies

Coaches organize fundraisers to relieve financial burdens placed on athletes and their families. Events like car washes and spaghetti dinners can provide additional funding that can decrease the cumulative expenses linked to travel. Fundraisers generally work the same: people donate time, money, and essentials and others participate and pay towards a cause.

In the case of car washes, parents and coaches donate washing supplies and work with a local proprietor that will offer complimentary use of their location. People pull up and pay or donate to have their car washed, and all proceeds go towards a travel goal. For spaghetti dinners, parents, athletes, and coaches donate and prepare a meal that is sold per plate. Once again, proceeds are dedicated to travel-alleviating goals. Fundraisers offer benefits beyond financial support as well. Coaches use fundraisers to bring their teams closer together and improve chemistry, which may not relate to travel but is equally important.

Today, high school coaches need to have competent mathematical and organizational skills to manage their responsibilities off the field. Since the gas hike occurred and the general price increase of sport participation, coaches closely consider all travel expenses and trim superfluous costs. Being a successful coach requires people who are capable of athletic training, leading, and planning.

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