They’ve Got Spirit, Yes They Do! Boosters Provide Ongoing Support to Students
Oct 01, 2016 02:06PM
By Jennifer Monahan
2016 Pine-Richland Field Hockey seniors
Booster clubs—especially at the college level—sometimes get a bad rap. People rarely hear about them unless there is a headline in the paper citing NCAA violations and subsequent school sanctions. At both the high school and collegiate level, though, booster clubs can be a helpful source of support for students and their various extracurricular programs.
“Booster clubs are a vital necessity in athletics today,” explained Leonard Trevino, director of athletics at Chatham University, of a club’s ability to help build an athletic program and open the door for a lot of student-athletes to be able to participate.
However, he adds that they do require significant oversight. “If booster clubs are not well-managed, you’re putting the institution at risk,” he said.
Chatham recently expanded from a women’s university to a co-ed institution and is building its men’s athletic programs from scratch. The school is in the infancy of building its booster clubs as well. Trevino explained that booster recruitment at this stage is focused primarily on parents of current student-athletes and friends of the program, and will eventually reach out to alumni from the different teams.
Collegiate boosters provide funding for everything from equipment and transportation to endowments, weight rooms, athletic fields and buildings. Universities often seek corporate sponsorship and partnerships for their booster clubs. For members, the benefits include community involvement, the satisfaction of philanthropy, and access—although not to student-athletes, Trevino said.
“We really have to be careful about boundaries between student-athletes and boosters,” Trevino explained, citing the importance of complying with NCAA regulations. Instead, boosters have privileged access to first-rate seats at athletic events and fundraising events with the coaches.
At the high school level, booster clubs fill a role that is slightly different but just as vital in terms of providing financial support to sports and other extracurricular programs like band or music. The function of booster clubs varies widely among school districts, depending on what kind of funding the school is able to provide for its extracurricular programs.
Lisa DeFoggia, president of the Pine-Richland Unified Booster Organization (PRUBO), said that the main purpose of booster clubs should be to support and enhance the educational and sports experiences of the students. That said, it is up to each booster club to determine how best to support the kids. Some examples of typical booster club spending in the Pine-Richland School District include unique large purchases like a new wrestling mat and the addition of an oven for a concession stand, as well as more common expenditures like team sweatshirts or an end-of-season team banquet.
Pine-Richland boosters devote significant time to support their children’s sports, DeFoggia said. Parents often serve as announcers or timers at athletic events and expend substantial effort on fundraising. As school districts everywhere grapple with how best to use funds to support all areas of students’ education, booster clubs fill a gap.
“I don’t think high school sports can exist today without booster partnerships,” DeFoggia said. “There is increased need at the district level. If booster funds can supply equipment and uniforms, the district doesn’t have to.”
Carrie Cooper has served as a board member for the Mars Football Boosters for three years—two of those as president. According to Cooper, booster clubs do a little bit of everything.
“We provide a lot of extras,” Cooper explained. Booster club parents feed the football team twice a day during their extended summer practices; provide team shorts and T-shirts for special “seven on seven” scrimmages; supply post-game drinks and food for the team during away games, and organize weekly spaghetti dinners for the team hosted in family homes by a rotation of senior parents. Beyond the care and feeding required by the bottomless pit of active teenage boy stomachs, the boosters raise funds to provide perks for the players.
For trips longer than an hour, Cooper said, the boosters rent Coach buses for the team to travel more comfortably. Booster funds also cover the cost of a team photographer/videographer to create a year-end video, Fathead® posters of each senior player for home games and three modest college scholarships available to seniors. In order to raise the funds, the group holds golf outings and car washes, organizes T-shirt sales and sells advertising space in its football programs.
Although the investment of time and sometimes cash can be significant, both DeFoggia and Cooper say that the effort is worth it, because booster involvement pulls parents in and helps them engage in the community. Parents of upperclassmen serve as resources for the parents of younger student-athletes, and ultimately the students benefit.
“As long as our focus is on the kids,” DeFoggia said, “it works well.”
Whether supporting high school or college athletics, boosters provide much-needed funding and encouragement for students to succeed in a variety of extracurricular endeavors.