Do you want to join a private sports club for networking and entertainment? I had this dilemma back in 2010. Today, I'm glad I did because I've made a lot of friends in the process.
Despite having to pay a $10,000 initiation fee, I decided to join a private sports club in San Francisco. It has been one of my best decisions of my life.
Let me share with you the thought process I had with regards to joining a private club back in 2010. I'll then share what it's been like over the past 10 years.
Wondering Whether To Join A Private Sports Club
One of my friends who so happens to be a client, but who really is just a great friend who so happens to be a very large client, invited me to play tennis at his posh tennis club the other day.
After we hit around for an hour, he mentioned I should join and he could be my primary sponsor. I told him I'd think about it over the weekend and let him know.
I did some digging with the Membership representative afterwards. The first hint that told me I was in for a big dilemma was when she said there were no brochures as everything is “exclusive and private.”
“We don't advertise our club Sam.” she said. OK, great, how is that going to help me make an informed decision, I thought to myself.
Not wanting to piss her off or anything, I just asked her if she could tell me about how to join.
Joining The Club: Message From Admissions
Great to hear that you are interested in joining, but let me warn you that not everybody can. First of all, it takes one sponsor, a co-sponsor and 5 other members to write you letters of recommendations. Second of all, once all your documents are gathered, your name is put up on our main bulletin board for guests to review. If even one member is not satisfied with you for some reason, you will go under review and be asked to explain yourself for whatever grievances the member may have.
After a month, we will then invite you to meet with the Membership Committee to have a semi-formal interview for final review. Finally, if you are invited to join, we would require the $10,000 upfront, and the dues are only $175/month thereafter, with a low $100/quarter food consumption minimum.
At this point, my head started spinning. Am I applying to buy a fancy New York City Co-Op apartment, the CIA, Harvard University, or a tennis club where we have fun and play a game I love? Jee whiz, this sounds so exclusive and as an outsider, I'm not sure if I'll fit in.
The average member is a couple decades older, and there's really not a lot of diversity, which is odd in a city like San Francisco. That said, the location is wonderful, the people are kind, and the courts are always available.
I played a lot of tennis as a kid, and I'd love to continue playing sports as an adult.
Getting Into A Private Club
As I got past the exclusivity part of getting in, I started fixating on the costs. $10,000 is a lot of money. I could buy a car, a new kick-butt home theater system with 60″ LED TV, or 10,000 Super Lotto tickets with that much money!
To my friend who wants me to join, $10,000 to me is like maybe $500 bucks to him. He's much wealthier, but at least I'm better looking and have a nicer backhand.
The issue I'm facing now is whether or not spending $10,000 to join this exclusive club where there are plenty of well connected members is worth it.
I feel bad for my member friend who always has to pay my guest fee. I also feel bad for my bank account to just write a $10,000 check to play tennis since I'm already a member of one club. Further, there are some free courts just three blocks away from my house (they suck though).
This may very well be a case of lifestyle inflation, which I've done well to avoid for the past 5 years. At the same time, I'd like to join an establishment that always has courts readily available to play on, with great people to connect with.
Pros And Cons Of Joining A Private Sports Club
Pros Of Joining
- Great facilities that are always available
- Good location that's closer to home.
- A new network of friends and connections to tap into for leisure or business.
- New social functions to attend.
- Honor my friend's gesture of sponsorship which doesn't get offered to all.
- Help you children with sports and with education
Cons Of Joining
- Cost. I could invest $10,000 to build more passive income streams fo retirement.
- Not simplifying life as already a member of a couple clubs.
- No equity in the $10,000 membership fee.
- Exclusivity and the negative connotations that come with being exclusive.
- Not a diverse club in terms of race or socioeconomics
Joining A Private Sports Club Is Worth It
More than 10 years later, I'm happy I joined the private tennis club. It feels like a second home where everybody is friendly. The longer you are a member, the more comfortable it feels. I'd venture to say spending money on a private sports club has been the greatest return on investment yet, from a lifestyle perspective.
I've gotten to know a tremendous amount of great people who I call friends. Some are CEOs of public companies. Others are ex-division I college tennis players. Many other entrepreneurs, mothers, and fathers. For the most part, the members have been great.
My only issue is the lack of diversity. Most of the members are white and most work in finance, tech, and internet. It would be nice to have more people from different backgrounds play as well.
Sports knows no bounds. The good thing about playing sports is that if you are an advanced player at a tennis club, you can play with anybody. Your opponent could be a billionaire, on the tennis court you are equal.
If you're a Warriors or NBA fan, here's a conversation I had with 4X NBA champion Shaun Livingston. One of the best things about sports is that it brings people together from all backgrounds.
A Social Outlet Is Incredibly Valuable
The feeling of camaraderie and kinship is what makes joining any type of organization or private club so special. The coronavirus pandemic has made joining a private sports club even more valuable.
Tennis has become a very popular sport in the city because it is outdoors. As a result, a lot of the public tennis courts are always packed. Further, it's nice to play in a private area where everybody follows health safety protocols.
Bottom line: If you have the opportunity to join a private club, do it. The camaraderie you will gain will be worth it. The private club was also great during the pandemic as well. Everybody needs a social outlet. I've met more great people at my private club than anywhere else.
Related post: Why You Should Play Pickleball: The Best Sport Today
For more nuanced personal finance content, join 65,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter. To get my posts in your inbox as soon as they are published, sign up here. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009.