Dear John/Athletic BoostersPublished 3:56pm Thursday, July 26, 2012
How can we get more people involved in Athletic Boosters?
— Beth Cripe
My first thought was, Beth is joking.
We just published her letter about the Chieftain golf outing turning a $28,000 profit it splits with the school foundation.
I thought if any group was immune to apathy, it would be this one in sports-mad Dowagiac.
But after talking to the Athletic Boosters president and Jodi Badder, the longtime athletics secretary who is about to leave the community after 15 years as a mainstay, I must say their challenge is one I’ve not encountered before.
Basically, they have plenty of financial support. Their struggle is with getting sports supporters — even parents — to volunteer a little time. Their problem strikes me as remarkable because usually the latter would negatively impact the former.
“I first got involved after the press box project,” Jodi said, “and it flourished then. A lot of people were involved and stayed with it for several years. There was a fun, hardworking group that lasted eight or nine years. Then we started seeing progressively smaller numbers.”
Beth, a cheerleader in the early ’80s, got involved when her son, Drew, was in eighth grade. Tom Carlson also logged a long tenure as leader of an organization it costs one dollar to join.
They try to make the golf outing one big fundraiser rather than organizing many smaller ones. They sell “spirit items” such as Chieftain hats and seat cushions at games. Boosters line up advertisers for sports programs.
“It can’t fizzle out,” Jodi said. “The school can’t afford that. That $14,000 is a major chunk the athletic department can’t cover out of its budget with all of its cuts.”
A lot of people probably don’t realize that includes some assistant coach salaries and up to $3,500 for team tournament entry fees.
The athletic budget funds uniforms and travel, unless they charter a bus.
“Our meetings consist of our four officers,” Beth said. They don’t meet routinely every month, but only when something “worthwhile” comes up.
“We’re most visible at football games,” Jodi said, “selling programs, selling 50-50. We have a table with our T-shirts. Parking. We do the field goal kick. Other fall sports, ticket takers do the programs because people are primarily at varsity football games. If we had 12 to 15 people to work, that would be a good volunteer base. Fall is our busy time, then we meet again before winter sports and in the spring before all-sports awards. We benefit athletes (grades) 7-12 because you’re talking about whole programs.”
That program has been going for 63 years and introduced Dowagiac to Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers, University of Michigan head football coach Lloyd Carr and welcomed home Mark Staten.
The golf outing, including a dedicated hole, which raised $600, helps fund scholarships given out, including four for $750 and three for $500 last spring.
“The scholarship fund started when Mike Brey came to speak,” because the University of Notre Dame basketball coach returned his honorarium with instructions to “do something for the kids.”
Prospective Boosters should know there is work to do which isn’t a major time commitment. And they don’t have to be parents, just passionate about sports.
“Our community loves athletics,” Beth said. “Getting people to contribute hasn’t been the problem. Getting bodies to do the work is the problem. We’re currently working on new railings for the football field and gymnasium. We priced new bleachers, but that’s $117,000. We pretty much spend the account every year, though we’re thinking about starting a capital account.”
Added Jodi, who played basketball and softball for Hillman, near Alpena: “It’s a very unique situation. On one hand, it’s a good problem to have because we’re not struggling to get money. On the other, we’re struggling for bodies. It’s a Catch-22.”