Why I Started Swing4All.org
About a year ago, when we first moved to Tampa, my son and I didn't know many people outside of baseball. One weekend when his travel team wasn't playing, my son was a guest-player on another local team. We were super excited, we had no plans, so playing baseball was more than welcome! Little did I know this game was going to be a life changing experience - for me.
The scene at the field was nothing new. Our players, my son included, strolled in wheeling large, top of the line bat bags, each containing at least 2 bats, 2 gloves (for catchers and first basemen), batting helmet, batting gloves, and water bottles. They were all dressed "baseball ready," i.e., clean jerseys, baseball pants, belts, cleats, matching hats, etc.
In contrast, several of the players on the team we played against had their pants held up with duct tape. Most wore regular sweat pants, not baseball pants, and it was well over 90-degrees outside. Some players wore two different cleats, if they had on cleats at all. The team shared one, maybe two, bats, and batting helmets were shared as well. Not one of those kids used batting gloves, and their mitts were either too big or too small. No exaggeration.
However, those kids went out on that field and played their hearts out, just like our kids did, and sure gave our team a run for their money. It was that team, those kids with their pants duct-taped around their waists, who inspired me to start Swing4All.
Rising Costs are Pricing out Families
For families of competitive athletes, the rising cost of playing youth sports has become a burden for many. As a former elite athlete, and a swing sport player (tennis, ice hockey, lacrosse), it truly pains me that the sports I loved as a kid are now increasingly inaccessible to the average family.
For example, in youth travel baseball, uniform costs are as much as $400 per season, a mandatory purchase, plus another $200 or more per month for tournament and field fees. Baseball and fastpitch both require extra practice and coaching outside of team practices, just to stay competitive and keep your spot on the team, so add on another $200 per month for "mechanics" and performance fitness on top of that. If you have to travel for a tournament, add on the cost of hotel and food.
You can do the math - we're talking thousands of dollars per year, which can take up as much as 10 percent or more of family household incomes.
And that's just one sport. Tennis, Golf, Lacrosse, Ice Hockey -- none of these are any less expensive.
High Operational Expenses Means Higher Team Expenses
To be fair, parents aren't the only ones who face rising expenses. Facilities and teams have their bills too: maintenance expenses, operational expenses, leases, etc. Here in Florida, where the climate is primarily hot and humid year-round, the air conditioning is on all day everyday. It costs about $150 per month to cool a 1500-square foot townhouse, so imagine the size of the electric bill for a 10,000-square foot baseball performance facility?
Teams have to also pay for administrative employees, trainers, and coaches. At the end of the day, facilities and teams are businesses, so they are passing these expenses down to the parents of team players.
Swing4All Levels the Playing Field
Our mission is simple: help offset the cost of participating in youth swing sports to needy families.
We have large-scale projects in the works to raise funds, as well as smaller events and fundraisers, auctions to resell used gear and equipment, and more to continually add to our pool of available scholarship funds.
For scholarship recipients, there is an application process; we aim to make the best decisions we can regarding awarding scholarship funds, donating gear and clothing. Funds are provided directly to the team or facility on behalf of the player, gear and equipment are sent directly to the family.
I am thrilled with the progress we are making everyday. If you would like to participate, please donate gently used clothing and gear at a SwingFitt™ workout, or go to swing4all.org/donate to make a financial donation. Local folks can also help by just attending a SwingFitt™ workout; 10% of SwingFitt™ proceeds go directly to us at Swing4All.org. We plan to begin offering scholarships for the Spring 2018 season, so any participation is welcome!
Melissa Pranzo is the Founder of Swing4All.org and SwingFitt™, RMT® & Performance Fitness. She is a professionally licensed RMT® Fitness Trainer, a life-long, record-breaking elite athlete, entrepreneur, and lover of sports. Melissa and her son live in Tampa Bay, where our two organizations are based.