And people thought day care in high schools was controversial. What about services that allow pro sports moms to take their children on the road when they’re competing in cities across the U.S.? Can they be adapted for travel sports events to allow parents to enjoy – or even compete in events – in order to increase the events’ appeal and provide an extra revenue stream?
The concept originated a total of 25 years ago when the LPGA Child Development Center was the first traveling childcare center in pro sports. Now, says Golfweek, it travels to nearly two dozen LPGA tournaments, with a van packed full of toddler beds and highchairs and picture books.
Also significant: the LPGA also updated its maternity leave policy to allow more flexibility to its working moms, both in time off, and when that time off can be taken while retaining tour eligibility. But what is most impressive, say insiders, is that the LPGA decided to support its players and families a generation ago, allowing the sport to grow into a competitive field of young, up-and-coming athletes to face the established veterans who still want to work in to motherhood.
The next question, of course, is what other sports are doing.
The answer, unfortunately, is this: not much. Cities are rapidly becoming ‘childcare deserts’ as the cost of living and the minimum wage both rise – and regular wages are outpaced by the cost of daycare. As a result, at least one parent is often required to stay home with the children in order to keep the family from going in the red.
And with the exception of golf, it doesn’t look like other sports are stepping up to help moms.
The next question, of course, is what event planners can do to help. Obviously, outfitting a van with childcare supplies is out of the question for most tournament owners but it’s not unrealistic to present parents with options for childcare when they enter new cities for a sports event. And whether they’re adults traveling to compete in their own sports events, such as marathons, tennis tournaments or soccer competitions – or whether they’re parents of athletes with younger siblings in tow, it stands to reason that childcare services are an excellent marketing point.
Working with sports commissions and convention and visitors’ bureaus and others may yield leads for vendors in childcare. Another strong option might be day camps and site-specific programs offered by hotels. Licensed and bonded drop-in childcare organizations also have been received well by working parents, so this may be one option for planners to investigate prior to moving into a city with an event. Hotel concierge services may also be able to provide excellent ideas. Host venues may also have their own programs and may be an excellent option, particularly if planners can work out a deal for participants in tournaments to use those services.
Obviously, if any services are to be offered in conjunction with a tournament or other event, owners and rights holders should contact their insurance provider and legal counsel to make sure all necessary coverage and safety checks are in place and that parents are fully aware of all rules and safeguards. (The LPGA Tour, as an example, has three full-time credentialed child development staffers and those three will be on tour all year. There’s also a police officer for security.)
According to Lorena Hatfield of K&K Insurance, event owners should seek out the strongest possible provider -- and make sure they're covered.
"From a liability standpoint the event organizer would be far better off contracting with a licensed daycare provider rather than hiring providers themselves," she notes. "Either way it could open the organizer up to a claim should anything happen to a child while in daycare so it would be important even when hiring a licensed third party to have a well-written contract in place to spell out specific responsibilities. The organizer should also require the daycare provider to have insurance and ask to be named on their policy as an additional insured to protect against potential claims."