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A personal rant on costs

March 22, 2009

When I joined my school’s fencing club last school year, I wasn’t all that serious in it. Fencing was just something I had done for about a year in high school (but it wasn’t very serious: our coach had to serve a tour in Afghanistan eventually, beheading the club) so I thought it would be cool to get into it again.

Fortunately, I was able to attend collegiate club nationals (pay attention though: this is club nationals, which is entirely different from super awesome fencing nationals. We’re not going to the Olympics anytime soon, or causing international affair scandals.)

As just a member, I saw a glimpse of how expense things were. It seemed like every week, we were talking about some fundraiser that we had to do. One such recurring fundraiser was a mask fill, where we would go out before home football games (big attractions at Texas A&M) with our masks and request (read: beg) for money. See: 1) hold out mask. 2) fill mask. 3)??? 4)Profit!

I hated these mask fills with a passion. It felt so wrong to be begging when we could be doing something…anything…to provide value for people. Not to mention I’m not too comfortable with just asking strangers for money. I had to get myself psyched out…and it would take me half of the fundraiser to muster the courage to even begin.

But…you know…when I got into it, I wasn’t that bad. I had a sense of what things to say to make people more sympathetic to the cause…there is a way of looking someone straight in the eye that makes them just a little less able to refuse you. Every penny counts.

That sounds terrible.

So, anyway, back to a story of triumph and glory.

We went to nationals in Massachusetts, and it was a lot of fun. And our coach said something that had an impact on me. This is just paraphrasing, but I hope I got the triumph just right

When you have a hobby, you have to realize that whatever it is will be expensive. If it’s video games, you have to pay for consoles, games, accessories, monthly fees. And most sports — not just fencing — have setup fees. And not only that, but beyond the monetary cost, you have time commitments. This isn’t just something you do once in a while and then are incredible at.

So if fencing is going to be your thing, why not make something out of it.

I got to thinking about these things, and I then became embarrassed and ashamed of everything I had done up until that point. I wasn’t very serious; I didn’t go to many practices, and I went to less tournaments (which is terrible: tournaments are the best way to become better.) I resolved that I would buy a set of equipment that would be my own, and this would be the start of an investment into things. After all, once you’ve put a little bit of your own money down, things get personal.

And so this year, I became the club’s treasurer. I did realize that such an arrangement would be advantageous for my resume…but I also wanted to give more back to the fencing club.

…unfortunately for me, I didn’t anticipate that the person in charge of all those fundraisers was none other than the treasurer. -_-

When you realize how expensive things are and how lucrative some activities are, your perspective changes incredibly. Within a semester, I’ve grown this amazing appreciation for mask fills. Do I love them? No. But do I recognize they work? Yes.

I was hanging out around my school’s student organization finance center, watching a new club (the Quidditch club…yeah, what is that; I don’t even) learn the ropes of maintaining finances. One of the people explaining things to the new treasurer noted that few clubs dealt with amounts over a certain number (in the thousands), so some of the things she was telling the new treasurer (about getting more signatures for certain requests or whatever) wouldn’t apply to a tiny club like the Quidditch club.

And then I realized that in one day, I had requested checks *much* over the amount she was talking about. And indeed, I had to get another signature authorizing the amount.

And it was all for one thing. Airfare for club nationals this year.

Earlier this year, I rejoiced because we had quite a bit of money in our account. And I thought, “Think of the equipment we could buy with this!” But the other officers reminded me we had no money to buy equipment. And I didn’t realize it until I saw the account zero back out *just* for plane tickets. And that’s not including hotels, travel expenses, food, or any of that!

I guess when you have a hobby, you have to realize that whatever it is will be expensive.

But is this worth it? Don’t fret; I’m not asking if fencing is worth it. No, I’m asking if one tournament is worth it. This one tournament, that not even everyone in the club can go to. This one tournament, that we slave an entire year to raise money for. This one tournament, which costs the amount of getting enough gear to outfit everyone and send them all to the many local tournaments where they might get USFA ratings or experience or something. This one tournament.

[I hope this blog doesn’t dooce me. (Whatever she says the word really means, we all know what it means).]

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4 Comments
  1. Erin permalink

    Andrew, I have thought the same thing about Nationals. Why spend the money when not everyone can go? Don’t we have more useful things to spend the money on?

    I guess it boils down to really getting A&M Fencing out there, out of state. People will join the club because the thought of attending a National competition appeals to them–it sounds more prestigious. It feels like a tiny step down the path towards bringing NCAA fencing to TX, even if the two arenas aren’t directly related.

    Too bad we don’t have enough money to go to Nationals AND buy new gear/equipment. Money, please? :p

  2. Then again, I mean, if only we could have people talk to the classes taking fencing, then we could have potential members willing to sign up anyway!

    I wonder…is the hope of nationals what gets the greatest amount of people to join?

  3. Bradley permalink

    I think this is a question that more and more programs around the country have been asking recently.

    Are National tournaments worth it? What are the actual total costs of going? What else could be done with that amount of money (i.e. what’s the opportunity cost)?

    Then again, would the club be able to raise the same amount of money without Nationals as the draw?

    It’s very plausible that it’s considerably easier to fundraise (both in terms of getting money out of other people and in getting members to spend time/energy raising the money) with that big target everyone can point to. HERE is where the money we raise will go. We need to get more of it. Do a few extra masks provide that same pull?

    The same questions come up for individuals. Is it worth $7-800 for a NAC? For a round of pools and an average of 2 DE bouts? How much is that per touch? (hint: Don’t do these calculations, you won’t like the answers) At some point you hit a stage where NACs are really the only game, but are they EVER worth it?

    -B

  4. I guess I can see how nationals would be a good pull factor to bring money (and members) to the club, but at the same time, I think people also realize that not everyone will get to go anyway, whereas if the money were spent elsewhere, that could be used with more people. (I mean, obviously, with tournaments that have qualification issues, then things get to be a little different, but when a tournament advertises that “we just want people to fence,” and then there are limits on how many teams can be brought, etc., and it still costs so much…I dunno).

    Interestingly enough, many members here join the club but do not have the interest to go to club nationals. However, they would still like to go to region tournaments or intercollegiate tournaments.

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