Column: 'The Sports Trail': Rating system shows that one booster club doesn't hack it anymore

Thursday, June 29, 2006
Trevor Gies

by David McNeal

The times, they are a changin'.

Selected as the state's best athletic program for the third time in six years by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Fayetteville High School athletic program should be a model for other, less successful programs.

Considering Fayetteville competed for 23 state championships this past school year and scored points on the rating scale in all but five, that "other" would include just about everyone else.

The real difference-maker, it seems, is not facilities, or equipment, or pay checks. The real difference is booster clubs. Notice that is plural, which means more than one.

Yep, Fayetteville Athletic Director Dick Johnson noted that every sport at Fayetteville has a booster club because sports are becoming year-long instead of seasonal.

They tie their booster clubs to individual sports, for softball, football, and so on. The reason? Needs in one sport may be different than needs in another. One booster club won't cut it anymore.

Someone recently asked me, while standing in the middle of the newly refurbished Track and Field Complex at Eureka Springs, why the Highlanders don't have a football team to go with such a nice facility.

"Oh boy!" I thought with a hint of glee. "Here comes sports lecture No. 12."

Whoever it was that triggered that response, my apologies. But I went on to list the cost of one helmet, one pair of shoulder pads, one pair pants with pads, one practice jersey and one game jersey. Total runs around $1,000, and that didn't include light and dark game jerseys, extra practice gear, blocking sled, blocking dummies, and water bills for growing grass.

With a glazed look, the victim said, "Oh. I see." Yeah, figure about $60,000 to start, and then add in a coach's salary, so $100 grand should do it.

And if you do that, how do the basketball coaches afford balls, or uniforms? How will the softball, volleyball cross country, track, soccer and golf teams be taken care of?

In big schools, by more than one booster club. When you specify that the money raised will go only to one thing, then people that support that one thing will get on board. And they don't gripe if football spends $10,000 on new stuff, because they have money to spend on their sport's stuff.

Parents that love baseball may not turn a hand to raise money that seemingly goes to basketball or football. But if they know the funds are going to baseball, they get involved. Witness the summer baseball program in Berryville and Green Forest. Parents are all over the place.

In our local booster clubs, you see the same parents working the concession stands, or at the games. Seems that a new idea is needed.

Is it possible to expand booster clubs in our local Carroll County high schools so funds that fuel improvements in equipment and facilities can be targeted to individual sports?

Remember, these funds are private and in addition to what schools provide. Oh, did I mention? In the rating system that had Fayetteville first, it also had Pulaski Academy and Central Arkansas Christian tied for first in Class AAA, and Harding Academy second in AA. Hummm.

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