Little League® is for everyone. While registration fees and equipment needs for youth activities are a reality, finding ways to ease financial burdens can help bring more people into your local Little League program. Everyone should have the opportunity to learn life lessons through the power of youth baseball and softball, and all local Little League programs are encouraged to find ways to welcome all families in their communities into their program.

It’s outlined in the official regulations of Little League Baseball and Softball (Regulation XIII (c)) that local Little League programs may not deny a child the opportunity to register to participate in a local league due to the inability to pay a registration or participation fee. The spirit of this regulation is to encourage families who cannot afford registration fees to participate. It’s important for leagues to understand this regulation, identify how to assist families in need, and provide opportunities for all families to participate.

Here are some ways that Local Little League programs can assist families in need looking to participate in your local league.

1. Be Welcoming

There are countless reasons that a family may be unable to afford a registration fee. The first thing to remember is to be understanding and welcoming. Every family’s situation is unique, and the Little League fields are where the stresses of everyday life should be eased. Local Little League Boards of Directors should establish a process for identifying and supporting families who need to request assistance. The number of board members involved should be as limited as possible to protect the privacy of the family requesting assistance. Asking for help is difficult for many people, so providing a warm, welcoming, safe place for parents and guardians to talk about their needs is important. This may be an opportunity to get other individuals in your community, such as school guidance counselors or social workers, to volunteer for your Board to help welcome these families.

2. Establish Parameters of Support

While this is extremely sensitive, your league should establish parameters on how it will provide support and ask families requesting support to provide appropriate documentation. For example, your league can ask families to provide a letter verifying that a child has qualified for free/reduced lunch, WIC, or SNAP, or to submit the child’s foster care letter. Asking for families to provide this information, and making sure you handle it with utmost sensitivity, will help when finding ways to welcome families in need into your program. You can create a simple online form on your website where families can request or provide information on how to get assistance for registration fees.

3. Find Ways to Replace that Income for Your League

As part of your league’s budgeting process, you should be prepared that not all registrants will be able to pay a registration fee and identify ways supplement that income. Many leagues implement a player scholarship program where a certain amount of funds from each registration fee goes into a scholarship fund to offset costs for those who cannot pay or to help provide them equipment. Some leagues have an “Adopt a Player” scholarship, which allows families to pay for another child’s registration fees.

4. Offer Additional Ways to Keep the Experience Affordable

In addition to finding ways to offset income, there are additional ways that your league can keep registration fees minimal and remove financial barriers of participation for your league. Many local programs offer sibling discounts; eliminate or reduce registration fees for Tee Ball; or establish a payment program to allow for a registration fee to be paid in installments. Having a robust sponsorship program, seeking out community grants, and finding additional ways for your league to raise funds outside of registration fees.

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5. Find Opportunities to Promote Volunteerism

Every league has a need to seek volunteers to help with their operations. Working with families to have parents or guardians volunteer or provide in-kind support in exchange for a child’s participation fee can help provide much-needed services to the league

At no time should payment of any fee be a prerequisite for participation in the Little League program, and it is important for local leagues to find a way to ensure that every child has the opportunity to be a part of the program, no matter their family’s financial situation. The most important thing to remember is that the Little League experience is meant to be enjoyed by everyone within a community, and it’s on each of us to ensure that happens.