Yesterday we talked about why I would never charge an athlete (or her family) an exit fee if they had a season ending injury. If you missed that, click here to read part 1. But not charging an exit fee when someone has a season-ending injury might be obvious to you. Is not charging an exit fee at all? Here’s my take on it.

Exit fees actually aren’t necessary at all. While we’re at it, I’ll take this as an opportunity to say, exit fees altogether don’t make a lot of sense to me. If you have an athlete who no longer wants to be on the team, do you think a $250 or $500 fee will fix how they feel? No! It might keep them on the team a few more months, but it won’t fix the lack of desire to be there. In fact, it’s more likely you’ll see that mentality spread throughout your team. I want athletes who are ready to give 100% of their effort and be part of the team. I want parents who are supporting their decision to be part of the team as well. At the end of the day, who does the exit fee affect? The parents. Typically the athlete isn’t pulling from her allowance to pay your fees, so you’re creating a sour experience for the parents. Now…I understand it’s sometimes the parents pushing for their child to quit. If that’s the case, you have two choices:

If the parents are pushing the athlete to quit and she doesn’t really seem to want to, get to the bottom of the problem. Work together with the parents to find out what the issues are and how you can solve them together. When this has happened in the past in my gym, it’s usually what the industry would call a “drama mama”. She once was a great mom in the gym who seems to always be frustrated and annoyed now. She’s snippy and no longer supports your program. Where do most drama mamas originate? They were all usually once a supportive mom who got frustrated and held their feelings in. (For more on this, see this past week’s Fireside Chat!)

If both the parent and the athlete want her to quit, that’s most likely what needs to happen. There have been a few times over the years that this is the case, and we can talk them through their feelings. In fact, it happened to me earlier this year on my Youth 2 team. I had an athlete who drove an hour for practice from Kansas City. When I finally got to the bottom of it, she told me she was sad because her practice always took place on the same night as her church youth group. All her closest friends were at the youth group and she had a serious case of FOMO every year. She was newly in middle school, which made it even harder because the next day the kids would come in and talk about the funny things that happened the night before and she felt left out. Her mom, while not crazy about her daughter quitting the team, ultimately supported her daughter through the decision. She had five small kids at home and the hour drive was a challenge in the first place. I wasn’t quite sure how this one was going to turn out. After about 30 minutes of really talking to the mom and the athlete and asking a lot of questions, it turned out the athlete didn’t actually want to quit. She just wanted to be able to do both. I could totally understand that. We agreed to print her out a calendar so she could see when Thanksgiving break, winter break, and spring break would be so she knew exactly when we didn’t have practices and could plan to go to youth group. We also encouraged her to attend their extra events on non-practice nights. The first week we were back to practice after Thanksgiving, I asked her if she had gone to youth group and how it was. She spent at least five full minutes telling me everything that happened and we laughed together. Instead of fighting against her, we worked together and developed a bond over two things she loved. The next week when we had a special open gym night, I gave her a free pass so she could bring one of her friends from youth group. At the end of the day, it cost me $10, and she was able to marry the two things she loved. Not every situation will turn out like this. Other times, an athlete truly can’t handle the FOMO. Or, maybe you have a situation that has become toxic and it’s past the point of repair. Again, refer to Fireside Chat to learn more about the indicators of an unhappy parent so it doesn’t get to this point. When that happens, do you want an athlete at your practices and competitions who is truly unhappy and spreading that negativity to her teammates? I really don’t. I’d rather have a team full of kids who are willing to give their best effort in every situation.

Guys, good coaches can adjust re-choreography. We had a girl break her finger the week before All Star Worlds on my Senior 3 team last year. I really didn’t have any perfect options for re-choreography, but we made it work. This is life! I had about 48 hours of texting with my choreographer to get some advice about our pyramid, but at the end of the day, I had to rely on my own skills to readjust the routine. You are capable of it too! Go to a choreography clinic with Forte Spirit Solutions so you know how to make these adjustments when the inevitable happens! You don’t need to fly a choreographer out to your gym. You’re capable of making adjustments yourself. That’s what good coaches do. So, if someone wants to quit and that’s the best option for them, let them go. Allow them to move on to something they will love more. Do your job and readjust the routine and keep your athletes moving forward toward their goal. Will it take your valuable practice time? Yes, but it’s the nature of our sport. At most of our gyms, we don’t have kids waiting on the bench ready to fill in, so it’s definitely a challenge, but it’s not worth killing the morale and culture of your gym to keep someone there who doesn’t want to be there.

Exit fees are often designed to be a deterrent for parents and athletes from quitting a team mid-season. Instead of using this deterrent, create an amazing culture in your gym that makes people want to stay. Have fun at your practices and celebrate your teams’ successes so that quitting the team mid-season gives people FOMO in itself. When I read “exit fee” in an all star packet, it makes me assume you likely have people who want to quit mid-season on a regular basis. That’s probably not the case in most gyms, so don’t let that be the perception either.

Note: FOMO = Fear of Missing Out for those who aren’t up with the lingo 😉