Sports Boosters hosts a chili cook-off for Fall Homecoming on Oct. 12. (Photo by Shimin Zhang)

Sports Boosters pays for amenities, not ‘nuts and bolts’ of athletics program

Sports programs, like those for the arts, are expensive. According to athletic director Matt Vargo, the three basketball officials typically needed for a basketball game cost $100 each, each basketball costs $60, and every volleyball costs $50.

While the “nuts and bolts” of sports team upkeep — equipment, game officials and transportation to games — deplete most of the athletic department’s budget, Vargo said, the program is able to upgrade and expand in part via the Sports Boosters. 

Sports Boosters, according to its president, Jeannie Choi-Boersma, is an independent, parent-led organization whose mission is to increase school spirit.

Past works include the baseball diamond, another scoreboard in the gym, nighttime lights for Homecoming soccer games, upgraded uniforms and pompoms and cheer gear.

Additionally, to increase membership and “enhance school spirit,”  Choi-Boersma said, the Boosters has multiple mixers, such as the Fall Chili Cook-Off, three high school sports banquets and, recently, a s’mores/hot chocolate event. These events cost $15 to attend years ago, according to Vargo.

Though these events are free, they reap profits by incentivizing families to join Boosters, Choi-Boersma said.  

“Lots of generous families come in and offer us donations, which vary in price from a small donation to thousands of dollars,” Choi-Boersma said. 

Memberships — which require a minimum annual payment of $50 — give families free entrance to sports events, accounting for $10,000, two-thirds of the Boosters’ budget. 

Nonmembers, she explained, must pay at the door, contributing to the “gate sales” that comprise $5,000 — one-third — of the Boosters’ budget.

Joining Sports Boosters also, as Vargo said, “gives parents a voice.”

However, that voice is somewhat limited. According to the newly updated Sports Boosters bylaws based on the 1993 version, Choi-Boersma said, voting rights are extended only to members willing to volunteer for at least 50 percent of Boosters events.

Nonetheless, Choi-Boersma said, all members can attend the monthly meetings at which ideas for future projects and fundraisers are discussed.

“We’re definitely still listening to ideas,” Choi-Boersma said. “I recently sent a survey out to Boosters members asking them what areas they’d like to see improved upon — spirit building, equipment or mixer activities.” 

Other ideas come from Vargo, Choi-Boersma said. 

“Matt’s always present at our meetings,” she said. “Lots of our requests come from him since he knows exactly what is needed.” 

Once the varsity volleyball needed “Booster buses,” as Vargo called them, to travel to competition. 

“If we want to bring friends and families, Boosters could provide those,” he said. “Our administration doesn’t want us to nickel-and-dime parents. We don’t want money to be a hindrance from playing sports and making sure the teams are filled.”

But no matter who decides what to buy next for the school’s fifth- through 12th-grade athletic teams, it all goes to the same purpose. 

“They’re competing against other schools and need resources,” Choi-Boersma said.

This year, Choi-Boersma said the Boosters’ focus is on middle school athletics but listens to its members to “put attention in the right areas.”

By Chardonnay Needler

Originally published in the March 19 edition of the Octagon.

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