By Sam Wilkinson

The “pay as you play” training model is a common one in youth sport.  It basically consists of players/parents paying a fee to receive a higher level of expert coaching in their chosen sport.  This model has enabled organisations to generate income from coaching programmes which has in turn allowed them to reimburse coaches for their time and expertise.

This concept has had mixed results in the youth football industry in New Zealand.  It has created additional coaching positions and made full time roles in youth development a viable career option for many people, it his raised the standards of many coaching programmes and has also enabled volunteer or part time coaches to complete qualifications that in the past they would have had to self-fund.

However, on the flip-side the new-found revenue streams available through coaching has also sparked a feeding frenzy in the youth development industry.  Academies have popped up all over the place – many are an Academy in name but not in practice! Loving parents up and down the country are being lured in by coaches and programmes promising to make their child the next big star in exchange for weekly or monthly coaching fees.  For every genuine programme offering an advanced or elite level of coaching there is another one that is merely selling false promises and mediocre coaching in order to cash in on a now lucrative industry.

Our very own Academy programme at Melville falls under this “pay as you play” model.  While we whole heartedly believe our programme lives up to everything it promises to be and provides fantastic value for money, there are some people in this region who may believe otherwise.  We regular hear whispers that our Academy players pay “over $2000” a season to be part of the programme or that “the coaches at Melville are absolutely raking it in from that Academy” etc. etc.

While you learn to have thick skin when working in the football industry, one thing Michael, Seamus and I have wanted to do since returning to the Waikato was help raise standards in the game throughout the region.  With this in mind, we have decided to give a fully transparent break down of our Academy fees and where they are spent.  This is not try and take a moral high ground or to position ourselves as martyrs, but instead to try examine and challenge the current “pay as you play” model.

So, what do our players pay?

Our U11 Academy players pay a yearly fee of $875.00.

Our U12-U16 player pay a yearly fee of $1075.00.

What do they receive for this amount?

  • A training kit consisting of socks, shorts, shirt and rain jacket.
  • A playing kit consisting of socks, shorts and shirt.
  • 1 x 3 day training camp in January attended by WBA Academy coach Ash Malcolm.
  • 3 x 2 day training camps in the mid-year school holidays.
  • Entry into the Waibop Youth competition (Waikato competition for the U11’s).
  • Additional games days and fixtures (we aim for around 10 additional fixtures a year)
  • Training sessions over the course of the year (excluding camps):
  • U11 – 85
  • U12 – 95.
  • U13-U16 – 105.

**Some training sessions are lost due to pitch closures or bad weather.

How are the Academy fees spent?

The $1075.00 U12-U16 Academy fees are broken down into the following:

  • GST = $160.00
  • Training and playing kit = $340.00
  • Equipment – balls, bibs, cones, mini goals, tactics boards = $150.00
  • Entry into Waibop Youth League = $15.00
  • Coaching wages ($40.00 per session lead coach/$25.00 per session asst. coach) = $250.00
  • Misc costs – van hire, coaching qualification fees, field hire, admin costs = $80.00

On top of this income, we have also had support from some wonderful sponsors and programme supporters.  This amount totalled $6,800.00.  This money was used to cover and discount the Academy fees for the players that are not in a position pay this amount.  We have enabled 9 players to attend the programme this year at no cost or a heavily reduced cost thanks to this support.

When the cost of the tangible and non-negotiable items are deducted from the Academy fees – kit, equipment, entry fees and miscellaneous costs there is around $300.00 left over.  Divide this amount by the number of sessions alone that we offer on the Academy – let’s say 80 which is a conservative amount that factors in cancellations.  You are left with a sessional rate of around $3.00!

While we are not perfect as a programme, for an Academy that includes three coaches that have worked at professional clubs, three that have worked Internationally, three that hold A Licence qualifications, one that holds a B Licence and one that is a former National Technical Director we feel that sessional rate represents good value for money.

While we appreciate that there are many fantastic volunteer coaches around the country working for free, we believe it is right to reimburse coaches financially for their time and knowledge.  None of our coaches are making silly money working for us – in fact when you take into consideration the time they spend travelling, planning, delivering and reviewing sessions and games, they are all earning well below the minimum wage! Our coaches work on our programme because they are passionate about coaching and developing players. Many of our coaches and support staff also give up countless volunteer hours outside of the Academy programme to help grow the club.

That is an honest and transparent break down of our fees and where they go. As you can see, no one is getting rich anytime soon! From day one our Academy programme has always had the aim of trying to help talented local footballers reach their potential…….it has never been a money making scheme. At present our Academy programme requires a yearly fee from parents/players in order to survive, however we are looking to improve and challenge this “pay as you play” model and our aim for 2019 is to try and remove or heavily reduce this fee (we have already dropped it by $200.00 from our 2017 programme).

As we speak, we are exploring additional funding and revenue options to cover coaching wages, equipment and other costs.

We welcome feedback and support from the football community on how we might be able to achieve this.  Over the next 2 years we want our programme to be free of charge to players with the only criteria for entry being skill level, attitude and commitment!

Hopefully this provides some clarity on our Academy programme and challenges other programmes to examine their own “pay as you play” model.  While a “pay as you play” model might be necessary, the focus of any such programme must be the development of players.

If you have any thought or ideas around the building of and elite yet sustainable Academy programme at our club, please get in touch with us –

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