Chicago Jrs is a volleyball club located in southwest suburban Chicago. Under the direction of Claire Donahue, the club originally operated out of Evergreen Park, IL and now operates out of Oak Lawn, IL. A check of the clubs former and current addresses shows both locations as single-family residences. At its core, Chicago Jrs is a home-based business. The clubs website states that the club was founded in 1989.
My daughter played for one of the Chicago Jrs teams in the 2011 season. She was on the floor nearly 100% of the time, so my extremely negative impression of this club is not based on her playing time. Rather, my comments reflect the business practices exhibited by Chicago Jrs; the poor (and sometimes dangerous) quality of coaching that was received; the failure of Chicago Jrs to deliver on all promised services; and the disregard for IHSA rules. (The IHSA is the Illinois High School Association, which is the governing body for Illinois high school athletics and activities.)
Before joining this club, parents of prospective players must understand that the club volleyball experience particularly that provided by Chicago Jrs - is a business. Using information from the Chicago Jrs 2010-2011 website and handbook, it was simple math to calculate that the club had 84 players who paid nearly $135,000 to play volleyball. Allow for slightly lower fees in previous years, then expand the revenue stream to cover the years since 1989, and Chicago Jrs has likely raked in revenue exceeding $2,000,000 (two million dollars) since its inception.
Where did all that money go? The club does pay tournament entry fees, coaches salaries (hopefully with matching payroll taxes), modest equipment fees and administrative expenses. Chicago Jrs fees do not cover registration with the volleyball governing organizations, uniforms, kneepads, equipment bags, out of state tournaments, or hotel / travel. All of those fees, which are paid directly to the club director, are extra. The extra $80 uniform fee provides 2 jerseys, spandex shorts, and knee pads. The actual cost of these items is roughly $40 at retail, so the club director is pocketing at least $40 per player on the uniform fees. Many of the players also purchase an equipment bag at a cost of $40 (actual cost around $25), so the profit to Claire Donahue on the bags is at least $15 per bag. (Please note that the retail prices quoted ($40 for uniforms and $25 for the bag) were from an online sports equipment provider. Chicago Jrs would be ordering by quantity - making the actual cost of goods lower and Claire Donahues profit higher.)
There is no problem with a business owner making a profit. However, there is a huge potential problem when an ongoing business concern fails to follow standard business practices.
Point #1: Sales tax was not charged on the goods that Chicago Jrs sold to its players. Since the items were sold at a considerable markup, the club is required to collect and forward sales taxes to local, county, and state revenue departments. In addition, the profit on the markup of goods is taxable income.
Point #2: Although it has been an ongoing business concern for more than two decades, Chicago Jrs is not registered as a corporation or LLC with the Illinois Secretary of State, or Cook County, IL. Similarly, the club is not registered with the Indiana Secretary of State. The club has no known status as a 501c Non-Profit Corporation. Therefore, it is not legally organized as a non-profit organization. It is acknowledged that a business can operate as a sole proprietorship. Given that Chicago Jrs deals with young people engaged in a rigorous sport, it would be very unwise and legally risky to operate as a sole proprietorship.
It is standard practice in most cases required by law - for ongoing business concerns to register with local, state, and federal agencies. Since Chicago Jrs is not registered with any of these agencies, it is extremely unlikely that income statement s detailing revenue and expenses have been filed. The income statement would need to include the aforementioned profit on uniforms and equipment bags. If Chicago Jrs is being operated as a sole proprietorship, then the revenue stream and club expenses should be reflected in the club directors personal income tax returns.
Given the current budget shortfalls at the county, state, and federal levels, this is information that government agencies would like to know. All that is needed is a whistleblower. The whistle has been blown. The appropriate forms and details have been forwarded to the Cook County Department of Revenue, the Illinois State Department of Revenue, and the United States Internal Revenue Service. (When combined with a few free internet searches, a cancelled check containing the clubs bank name and account number provided the necessary data requested by the government.) If everything has been accurately reported, then the club director has no worries.
It is now time to address the coaching. There is no evidence that any of the Chicago Jrs coaches possess coaching licenses. No evidence that they have taken and passed a basic first aid course. No evidence that they have had any training in the teaching of young people. The main qualification for being a Chicago Jrs coach is that at some point in your life you played the game of volleyball. It is acknowledged that some of the coaches teach the game well and provide a good experience for their players.
Unfortunately, the coaching provided to my daughter and her teammates during the 2011 season was dreadful. The coach was disinterested and often disengaged during matches. It was obvious to anyone watching that she was simply going through the motions and collecting her paycheck.
Bad coaching though completely unacceptable pales in comparison to dangerous coaching. During an early season match, a player took a particularly hard fall on the court. Moments later, the same player slammed into a wall trying to retrieve an errant pass. The result of these two incidents was a concussion. The coach, however, kept the player in the lineup for the remainder of the match and into the subsequent match, which started an hour later. Only when the player showed signs of disorientation did the coach remove her from the match. The players two hard falls, dilated pupils, and complaints of a bad headache were not enough to alert the coach that something was seriously wrong.
Maybe the coach should not be held fully responsible. It is possible that she was merely reflecting the philosophy of club director Claire Donahue. During one tournament, a player tried to play despite being injured. The player had difficulty walking, and played as long as possible before withdrawing. The onsite trainer as well as an ER doctor declared her out for the remainder of the tournament.
What was club director Claire Donahues response to this incident? According to the club director, the player should have toughed it out and had abandoned her team by not playing. This type of thinking used to be reserved for football and hockey coaches of bygone eras. Unfortunately, this Neanderthal thought process is alive and well at Chicago Jrs Volleyball Club. For the record, two Chicago Jrs players finished the tournament mentioned above in wheelchairs.
In addition, the Chicago Jrs Volleyball Club does not always provide its members with a full schedule of tournaments. In the beginning of the season, a schedule of league and tournament dates is published and provided to the teams. In 2011, at least one of the teams had multiple tournaments cancelled. The same events transpired in the previous (2010) season. Cancellations of tournaments by the club did not result in refunds to club members. Therefore, it can be assumed that the fees earmarked for tournaments remained in the clubs coffers. It is also curious that the cancelled tournaments have always occurred toward the end of the season. This could be indicative of fiscal mismanagement and cash-flow issues with this business.
Finally, the club does not abide by the rules of the IHSA. At least one player actively involved in her respective schools volleyball season attended tryouts last year. In past seasons, Chicago Jrs has fielded teams and held practices that jeopardize players high school eligibility. Chicago Jrs is either ignorant of the IHSA rules or does not care to abide by them. Possible harm to the players does not matter as long as the cash register rings.
Taking all of these issues into account does not paint a very pretty picture of the Chicago Jrs Volleyball Club. If your child still plays for this organization, it is hoped that they have a good experience. If you are considering joining Chicago Jrs as a new member, please reconsider and find another club. However, after reading this account, if you still insist on joining this organization and you / your daughter find yourselves in the midst of a long, expensive, miserable season, dont say you werent warned!