Fundraising crucial for local teams

Nowadays, the cost of putting a son or daughter into sports likely means donating an internal organ or taking on a second source of income.
The gear alone, specifically in hockey with its $300 hockey sticks and $500 ultra-lightweight skates, quickly leads to lighter wallets and smaller purses.
And then there’s the costs associated with out-of-town tournaments, including gas, hotels, and meals, and you’re quickly considering how much you could fetch for that second kidney you consider overrated.
But most parents would agree that those costs are far outweighed by the euphoria that results when you watch your son or daughter out on the field, court or rink—when questions of money seem to quickly go out the window.
Thankfully, many of the Fort High teams here in town are supported by a booster club. The Red Line Club (girls’ hockey), Blue Line Club (boys’ hockey), and Touchdown Club (football) are all crucial to the success of their respective programs.
Co-athletic director at Fort High, Shane Bliss, said an estimate of the average operating budget for the Muskie football team rings in around $20,000, while a conservative estimate on each hockey team’s expenses for a typical season is around $50,000.
“The [Touchdown Club] is responsible for 85 percent of that or more, while 95 percent of the hockey team’s expenses are done by the booster clubs,” Bliss explained.
“But the booster clubs are the parents, basically. It doesn’t necessarily come entirely out of their pocket, but they are the ones that are going to be doing the raffles or fundraising events.
“Over the years we’ve had some parents who were really motivated to do all kinds of work and then we’ve had other parents who are more content to write a cheque, and to each their own,” Bliss noted.
Bliss said the need for fundraising is a necessary evil to keep programs running.
“It’s a small community and it’s hard to keep asking the same people for money over, and over and over again,” Bliss lamented.
“And it’s hard to come out with a catchy idea to raise money that isn’t already out there,” he added. “There’s cash calendars and raffles and things like that that are good, but it’s the same people that have to buy them.
“It’s not a job that anybody really relishes but it’s a very important job,” he admitted.
The other Muskie sports teams all run through the Muskie Sports Association.
Teams looking for cash to upgrade equipment or help cover the costs of a tournament must apply for funding, but there’s only so much to go around.
Volleyball coach Duane Roen said much of the expenses come out of a $125 athletic fee per player, with players then splitting rooms on the road with as much as five players per suite.
Expenses get especially dicey when teams qualify for OFSAA, with additional fees and travel expenses to consider.
Then there’s the other club teams not affiliated with the school here in town and across the district, including the ‘AA’ Canadians Midget hockey team.
Team treasurer Karen Cridland said the cost to the average family with a player on the team was about $1,000 last year.
“It’s estimated at $200 per kid per tournament, which covers the cost of hotel rooms and vans to get them there. Everything else is of course extra after that,” Cridland noted.
“They also have to have a sponsor which ideally pays $500 per kid, so it ends up being about $1,500 per,” Cridland noted. “It’s ultimately the responsibility of the parent to get a sponsor, and we do have a list of past businesses that have sponsored that they can access if they don’t know any local businesses.”
The Canadians also do a Tag Day and a Meat Draw to help offset expenses.
“The Meat Draw wasn’t as successful as in years’ past last year, and that’s probably indicative of the economy right now,” Cridland admitted. “Ice rental is our No. 1 expense, and travel, hotel rooms and that type of thing would be next.
“The kids practice a lot, at least three times a week, so that adds up,” Cridland stressed.
The Cridland’s minimized expenses last winter by traveling to watch their son, Jeff, play at out-of-town games within a few hours’ drive, so that they could return that day and avoid additional hotel expenses.
The Canadians go to several tournaments every winter, and expecting to see every game and not break the bank is a tall order nowadays for most parents.
Couple that with increasing inflation rates, and realistically you can’t expect expenses to stay static from year-to-year, either.
Swim clubs like the Cyclone and Aquanauts host fundraising events of their own (including a FFAST bake sale at the “Castin’ for Cash” fishing tournament this past weekend) with the goal of offsetting escalating user fees to rent time at the Memorial Sports Centre pool.
Sure, swimming doesn’t come with a high equipment cost to start (a Speedo and goggles?), but many of the FFAST competitors must go on the road to compete against the best in their respective age groups, which comes with a host of additional costs for the parents who tag along.
Donovan Taylor was in Victoria, B.C. earlier this year for a meet and then was set to compete in Montreal at the nationals. Between the two he competed at the Man./Sask. provincials in Winnipeg, giving him a truly national glimpse at the competition in all parts of the country.
“This trip [to nationals] is basically coming out of my pocket, not through the club,” FFAST coach and Donovan’s mom, Dawnn Taylor, said. “Plane ticket was $600, room’s another $300, and with entry fees and that, we’re over a $1,000 before he even gets wet or eats.
“It’s absolutely insane,” Taylor said.
Unlike previous events, she won’t be attending the meet in person due to commitments judging a horse show in the U.S.
“It’s basically mom going off to judge horse shows so we can send him to nationals,” Taylor laughed.
Similar expenses would be necessary to put a son or daughter into the figure skating, cheerleading, or baseball clubs in the area. Several local Borderland Skating Club members spend several weeks at the Mariposa skating school in Barrie.
That’s no small potatoes, either.
But clearly, these days more than ever, the need to do whatever you can to minimize additional costs when it comes to your kids’ athletics is ultimately a smart decision. But deciding when and where to cut back without sacrificing their success is a hard line to draw.
These days there’s a whole new industry urging parents to overspend, with a slew of sports companies profiting—from the Nikes and Under Armor’s of the world to mom-and-pop providers of shin guards and shoulder pads.
There aren’t necessarily more kids playing nowadays (obesity numbers can attest to that), but those who do participate seem to be spending at a feverish pace for specialized training and top-of-the-line gear.
The pressure to be competitive is seemingly higher than ever, and every edge a parent can provide for their child might make that sliver of a difference between first and second.
No better example of this excess can be found in Texas (everything is bigger in Texas, right?) where Dallas billionaire Kenny Troutt finances his two son’s elementary school basketball teams.
Both squads travel the country in private planes and stay in luxury hotels, accompanied by a full-time nutritionist and travel planner.
But hey, anything goes in sports nowadays, where spending apparently correlates with winning. Just don’t tell the New York Yankees that!
The message to kids is simple: Everybody can play… as long as you can pay.

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