Craig Cress is used to spending time in the spring gauging which way the wind is blowing. When your career is softball and your home is Oklahoma, paying attention to the weather this time of year is crucial. You have to be mindful of patterns and predictions during the storm season. Cress is still nursing forecasts, but they have nobody to do with rain or fast.
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Now, the executive director of USA Softball, headquartered in Oklahoma City, is viewing for trends in registering. Are sides signing up for events? Are people reintroducing their memberships? He is annoying to figure out how his organization is going to weather the financial storm caused by coronavirus shutdown.
“I see a lot of people are eager and looking forward to having the chance of playing, just getting out and doing a team-type game,” Cress supposed.
But even recent trends are no guarantee of what the coming year could bring for USA Softball or any of the country’s national governing bodies for Olympic sports. While the postponement of the 2020 Olympics is part of the equation — tens of millions of dollars in media rights money shared by the groups won’t be available this year — it isn’t the only issue.
All of the national governing bodies are nonprofits. Even though they prepare elite athletes to represent the United States in the Olympics, they receive no funding from the federal government. Their dollars come through membership dues, event proceeds, corporate sponsorships, and private donations. Those revenue streams have largely dried up in the past few months.
“I think a lot of the NGBs are in the same situation we are that have large grassroots programs,” Cress said. “A lot of their money that they’re able to put towards their national team programs comes from the grassroots development programs that we have. So we’re all being affected by it.”
USA Softball even applied for the Payroll Protection Program and received a little over $400,000 to be used for staff salaries and benefits as well as utilities at USA Softball headquarters. It wasn’t the only national governing body to seek such relief; an Associated Press survey revealed that at least 32 applied for PPP assistance.
Cress isn’t sure what the rest of the year will bring for USA Softball. Even as he sees an uptick in registrations around the country, he knows some events will see downturns. Even though people want to play, they want to stay close to home, so national tournaments could take a big hit. The storm isn’t over, and even though Craig Cress has seen a lot of ominous skies, this one is different. There’s no forecast for how bad it will be or how long it will last.
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