As leagues gear up for the Fall season, discussions are underway across the country on which teams will be placed into which brackets and which teams will play each other. Now a new discussion is taking place – how much will it cost to play those matches. A while back we talked about the impact of gas prices on youth sports and wondered if they really would have an effect. At least for our area, it has.
At last night’s meeting to discuss how our regional Challenge divisions would be organized, it was the clear preference of member leagues to help people save money on travel. In divisions where there were enough teams to make two or more groups, they would be organized by geography. Being on the eastern edge of our region, that means we’ll likely play teams in the eastern part of our region and not travel to the western side (which can be about 90 minutes max) Even if there was only one division, geography would be taken into account when matches were setup. In the Spring, the divisions/matchups will be based on the Fall results, which makes sense so you get competitive matches more often. But it’s nice to see the rising cost of gasoline being taken into account so quickly.
This is just a regional scheduling league, where maximum travel is 90 miles or less. Travel costs are even worse for our top level – Classic. Teams might travel 3+ hours to some away matches as there were only East and West divisions. Now there are more and more ‘Piedmont’ divisions, allowing teams from central North Carolina to stay local more often, instead of having to travel to the mountains (west) or the coast (east).
Are you all seeing this type of effect in your Fall brackets/divisions? How are your scheduling leagues/coordinators handling things? Are coaches/teams/leagues more willing to reduce travel, even if it means a less competitive schedule? Where do you draw the line?