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Expanding the sports program without expanding the budget!

How a school board, athletic department, and community joined forces to meet the athletic needs of the students

Saranac community school district is in a small but growing community that, until recently, has been experiencing difficulty funding its broadening needs for co-curricular activities.

When the school board had to make decisions about where to put most of its new money, athletics wound up near the bottom of the list.

The school board, the athletic department, and the community supporters had three major problems:

First, the school district had no set standard or procedures for starting a new sport. People would show up at the school board meetings in the hope of launching new programs, and the school board would waste a lot of time trying to determine what to do.

Second, was the problem of expanding the use of the facility to the community.

Third, were the unforeseen problems, like dealing with the school board's strict policy on fund-raising and a teachers' contract that restricted coaches from working for free.

With the students' needs rising and the funding failing to keep pace, the athletic director, several coaches, and a group of parents formed a committee to survey the problem and come up with an answer.

Thus was born a structured recommendation called "Procedure for Creating an Individually Funded Sport or Team." It was simple. It was educationally sound. It was economical. The school board approved the committee's plan and it went on to meet the athletic needs of both the school district and the students.


Whenever an individual or a group professes an interest in introducing a new sport into the community program, the proposal must be passed on to the athletic director.

The athletic director will meet with the sponsor and pass on the school board's criteria for an individually funded sport to be considered for acceptance. A timeline, usually six months prior to the start of the season for that sport, will then be set for the completion of all of the criteria.

The athletic director will then form a committee to evaluate the fulfillment of the criteria. The committee will be made up of five to seven members, including the athletic director, current coaches, and nonstaff members of the community, and will be expected to meet several times to evaluate the progress and answer any questions about the individually funded sport or team.

Once the committee determines that all of the criteria have been satisfied, the athletic director will ask the board of education to approve the establishment of the sport or team for one year. The sport will then be considered a school-sponsored sport and be treated the same as all of the current sports (except in terms of raising its own money). All money raised by the person or group for the individually funded sport will go into the general athletic department fund, and all of the money brought in by the sport during its season of competition will go back into that sport to help fund it for the next year.

The coaching position(s) for the individually funded sport or team will be posted, applications taken, and interviews conducted for the hiring of a qualified coach.

After each season, the individually funded sport will be evaluated by the committee to determine whether or not it will be continued the next year. If the committee approves continuation, the sport will follow the same criteria previously established.


The criteria are not designed to discourage people from starting a sport or team, but to determine a firm commitment to a well-planned program that will adhere to the Saranac Community Schools' philosophies and policies, and be accountable to the athletic director.

To repeat, all established criteria must receive committee approval six months prior to the start of the individually funded sport or team season, as determined by the Michigan HSAA.

The person, persons, or group who seek to create an individually funded sport or team must show that:

* there is a school demand for the sport.

Demand can be shown in a variety of ways, but the more ways to show demand, the better - just one way may not be enough. These can include, but not be limited to, a feeder system, sign-ups, surveys, etc.

* there is a long-term commitment to the sport.

The committee wants to know whether this will be just a one-year sport or one that likely will be continued for at least several years.

* there are schools within a reasonable proximity to compete against.

Concerns over the distances that our team will be called upon to travel are not only for transportation costs, but for how long our students will be gone from the classroom.

* the available opponents will be of comparable size and talent, so that our team can be competitive.

The committee wants our teams to at least be competitive. Playing much larger schools just to have a team may not be to the best interests of our students.

* adequate facilities are available for practices and contests.

The facilities do not necessarily have to be on school grounds. They do have to be accessible, safe, and available at reasonable times. During some seasons, the availability of our facilities may be a problem because of the number of our teams using them.

* the new sport will or will not affect existing sports and teams.

Some new sports may take away athletes from existing sports during the same season. Other new sports may enhance sports of a different season by providing athletes with ways to improve general skills (e.g., a track team helps cross-country).

* the money necessary to completely fund the sport or team will be raised.

The amount of money needed to fund a sport or team will be determined by the athletic director. The money will cover all aspects of the sport or team, including coach's salary, transportation, equipment, uniforms, officials, tournament fees, etc. All fund-raisers used to raise money must observe the school guidelines and be approved by the athletic director.

As previously stated, all of the criteria must be approved by the committee six months prior to the start of the specific sport season before the athletic director can submit a proposal to the board of education to accept the sport for one year.

This process has provided us with the opportunity to meet the growing needs of our students. A track team and a wrestling team were both launched in this fashion. Both became so successful that when more budget money became available, the two sports were made regular members of the department - which meant that they no longer had to raise their own funds.

Other sports were also introduced in this fashion, but had to withdraw from the process when they had trouble satisfying the criteria.

Thanks to our sound, well-organized Procedure, we now feel confident in our ability to meet the changing needs of our students.
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Houston, Keith
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Nov 1, 1996
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