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The cost of playing high school sports

Donations and fundraisers are necessities in today’s high school sports world

Posted: August 17, 2013 9:31 p.m.
Updated: August 17, 2013 9:31 p.m.
Donations and fundraisers are necessities in today’s high school sports world . Donations and fundraisers are necessities in today’s high school sports world .
Donations and fundraisers are necessities in today’s high school sports world .

Today marks the first in a five-day series in which The Signal looks at the influence of money in our sports. 


Parents are not required to spend money for their kids to participate in high school sports in the state of California.

However, if there was no outside money coming in for the William S. Hart District Union High School District schools’ athletic programs, it’s clear that it would be extremely challenging for coaches and administrators to run the programs.

In fact, one Foothill League athletic director and former boys basketball head coach said if he only received money from the school’s Associated Student Body for boys basketball and didn’t fundraise or receive donations, only his varsity team could play in two tournaments.

That means his lower levels would be in zero.

That would mean he couldn’t pay for meals for his kids.

That would mean new uniforms, basketballs, medical equipment and many other things that teams would consider a necessity would likely be sacrificed.

Whatever money parents are pouring into the programs, in terms of donations and fundraising, helps to sustain these programs.

However, over the years The Signal has heard grumblings from a very small minority of parents who say they are paying programs too much money and feel that if they don’t contribute, their child might play less.

And when The Signal threw out the question on Facebook as to whether parents felt that they had to contribute, if they had to contribute in order for their child to play, and if athletic programs ask for too many donations or do too many fundraisers, answers were mixed.

“So tired of the mentality of people thinking you should be able to get something for nothing,” one person wrote.

Another person wrote:

“I will gladly pay for my son to participate in sports, but the parents deserve an accounting of how the money is spent. There is no transparency and that is troublesome to me.”

From another poster:

“All programs cost money and our state can’t even cover the costs of academic programs! If we want these extras for our kids we need to be willing to pay and help those who truly cannot.”

And finally:

“We as parents ARE required to pay if we want our kids to be able to play. I have spent thousands of dollars on high school sports ... and it was most certainly a requirement.”

Saugus High School Athletic Director Jeff Hallman said he has not heard any complaints from parents.

Canyon’s Chad Phillips said the same.

Both were boys head basketball coaches and feel that in order for athletic programs to not only thrive, but survive, they need the support of parents and boosters.

“It’s 100 percent important,” Phillips said. “In terms of parental support, if that comes from volunteering, from donations, from fundraising, we need parents to be involved. We want to be competitive. That’s the key word in all aspects in the Santa Clarita Valley. We live in a valley with great public schools. In order for this to be competitive, we need parents to be involved.”

With that being said, every program in the Santa Clarita Valley asks for support in some way.

One way is the “spirit pack,” — which is a term district employees don’t want to use because of the implication that it has to be purchased.

A vast majority of the coaches interviewed for this story were willing to detail what athletes get in the spirit pack.

What that covers is practice clothing, caps, transportation. medical equipment, field maintenance and other related costs.

That’s a full year, which amounts to about 10 to 90 games depending on the sport.

Coaches asked for this story say their “spirit packs” cost between $70 and just over $1,000.

West Ranch High varsity baseball head coach Casey Burrill said his program asks for optional donations in the form of a payment plan to ease things on parents.

Parents who can’t afford to donate don’t and other parents, business donations and fundraisers help cover costs.

Burrill has a son who plays club volleyball and said he paid approximately $3,500 for coaches. Transportation was not part of that fee and his family was traveling across Southern California and most recently to Nevada.

“West Ranch baseball’s a steal compared to that,” he said.

Rival Foothill League coach Jared Snyder said his program spends thousands of dollars per year on baseballs alone, which Burrill said sounds about right for his program per year.

The school is not paying for those balls, so they have to come from somewhere.

Track and field programs need hurdles, softball programs need softballs, football teams need athletic tape, volleyball teams need nets and so on.

Booster clubs might ask for more money for various reasons and The Signal has heard from people in the past who wanted a better accounting of where their money was going.

Coaches and athletic directors asked for this story said they would freely support their booster clubs giving an accounting of what money is being spent on.

“Most coaches have parent meetings and do a good job of showing where the money’s going,” Hallman said. “Football cost (for example) is unbelievable. As you present this, you say this is how much money we need per athlete.”

West Ranch High boys and girls golf coach Jeff Holen said instead of donations he tries to get his athletes to try and raise at least $250 each.

Those $250 pay for greens fees and range balls.

“I had one player balk at me and the kid said, ‘My mom said public education is free.’” Holen recalled. “I said, ‘It is, but those who support the program by bringing in ($250), I pay their green fees. If you don’t, you pay for green fees and range balls.’”

Golfers in the SCV play at Robinson Ranch, TPC Valencia and Valencia Country Club — among other courses — for free.

The standard Monday through Thursday fee at Robinson Ranch is $87, according to the course’s website. TPC and VCC are private.

However there are those who will not be happy because their kids don’t get playing time. And others who feel kids who bring in more money get preferential treatment.

No coach would admit that’s the case.

Phillips was emphatic with his answer.

“It’s not true,” he said. “The amount of money does not dictate playing time. ... From time to time, parents may donate more time and more than other parents. I could see some parents would see that. I give this much time and this much effort. My son or daughter should play more. Never would we want any of our programs to think that.”

High school sports programs, say some coaches, would shut down without the support of donations and fundraisers.

Maybe that’s an extreme statement.

Maybe it isn’t.

But a simple Internet search of high school budget cuts will illustrate how important that support is.


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