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Funding high school athletic programs is a constant struggle

October 21, 2012
By CRAIG REMSBURG - Senior Sports Writer ( , The Mining Journal

Of all his duties as Westwood High School athletic director, Jon Beckman says raising funds to maintain the district's athletic programs takes most of his time.

"It's the most challenging part of my job," the second-year AD said. "It's constant, 12 months out of the year.

"There's no summer vacation for fundraising and it's a strain on everyone involved, including myself."

Article Photos

Patrons wait in line at the concession stand at the Marquette Senior High School homecoming football game. Proceeds from the sale will help fund school athletic programs. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)

For Jamie Tuma at Marquette Senior High School, adequately funding Redmen athletic programs is on-going.

"I'm a little sheepish with my hand out (for financial) help all the time," said Tuma, now in her fourth year as the school's athletics coordinator. "It's a constant thing and It wears on you.

"Do I like having my hand out? No. But people (in the community) are usually willing to take part in fundraising. It brings the community together."

Beckman oversees 10 sports programs at WHS, some of which involve both boys and girls. A few sports have freshmen and-or junior varsity teams.

"That's a lot of offerings for a school with 350 students," he said.

Beckman estimates there are 160 WHS athletes in the fall, 150 in winter and 120 in spring.

"More than half of every season, the same kids participate. We don't have a lot of specialized athletes. We have multi-sport athletes," he said.

Beckman operated with a $261,000 athletics fund budget in the 2010-11 school year. Coach's salaries, officials' fees, transportation costs, custodial work - even the cost of lights at the football field - come out of that fund.

Other things like uniforms and athletic equipment don't, however.

"We know from years past what it'll cost for anything we do," he said. "There's some leeway, though. It's always possible you can save some money and come under the budget.

"We constantly revamp and revise the (athletics) budget."

Beckman said he was directed to cut $70,000 from the budget last year.

"It's tough, unless you cut out something vital," he said. "I'd rather keep every sport we have and find a way to fund them. Up to this point, we've been able to do that."

The WHS All-Sports Booster Club is a main source of funding every school year, primarily through - but not limited to - concession sales at home athletic events.

"It infuses thousands of dollars into athletics to maintain our programs," Beckman said. "I can't say enough about the club and how much it does for us."

WHS athletes also help with funding programs, through pay-to-participate fees of $80 for each of the school's first two sports seasons and $40 for a third in the spring.

They also hold numerous fundraising activities such as selling raffle tickets, Krispy Kreme donuts and Croation chicken dinners.

Ticket sales also help with the WHS athletics bottom line. Area businesses like Fox Motors of Negaunee and Jubilee Foods in Ishpeming are often asked for contributions to help pay for a needy athlete's athletic fee or items to be raffled off.

"If I make a few calls, people will be there to help out," Beckman said. "There are a lot of people in this community who are passionate about athletics.

"But we have to be careful not to soak our local businesses. People can't continue to give, and give, and give. It's a strain on everyone then."

A WHS athletic budget committee is constantly brainstorming ways on how to raise money, Beckman said.

"It's a necessary evil (to raise funds)," he said. "You have to be creative to fund it all. I just wish we didn't have to do nearly as much as we do."

Tuma worked within a $265,825 budget for athletics at MSHS in 2011-12. This school year, the figure dropped to $252,643, mostly for salaries, transportation, game officials, custodial fees and tournament fees.

"We're working with a shrinking budget, trying to hold onto every program we have," said Tuma, who estimates 20 percent of her job involves fundraising. "We just have to find a way to do it. It's a challenge."

Tuma said there are 25 athletic teams at MSHS, with nine self-funded: baseball, girls softball, boys and girls soccer, competitive cheer, boys and girls bowling, boys and girls nordic skiing, figure skating, JV dance and JV hockey.

"We give them administrative support, such as scheduling, but no monetary support," she said.

The school's pay-to-participate fees for athletes vary depending on the sport. For example, JV and varsity football players pay $190, those who compete in track, it's $135. There's a $700 yearly per-family cap.

Tuma said about 350 students participate in MSHS athletics in at least one sport yearly, with many multi-sport athletes.

Other sources of revenue come from the MSHS All-Sports Booster Club through concession sales and school attire sold through the Sprit Store; ticket sales; 50-50 drawings at athletic contests; and car washes.

"All our teams benefit from bagging groceries at Econo Foods or Super One," Tuma added. "And athletic (summer) camps can help raise funds."

The last couple of weeks, MSHS basketball team members pumped gas at the local Freedom station, earning five cents for every gallon of gas pumped. And Tuma said Fox Motors of Marquette recently donated $20 for every test drive taken through its dealership on a specific day.

A new football scoreboard was made possible in part through local business donations, the MSHS hockey team holds a fund-raising golf tournament and soccer players sell flowers and fruit to subsidize their teams.

"I sometimes feel guilty asking my coaches to do so much (with fundraising)," Tuma said. "I know how much time and effort they put into just coaching."

She added like most in her position, she knows how important it is - and difficult it can be - to keep high school athletic programs afloat financially.

"On any given week, someone here is doing some sort of fundraising event," Tuma said. "You always have to be thinking of creative ways to get athletes, parents and the community involved.

"I just hope everyone who has been giving to us knows how much it's appreciated, We don't take it lightly."

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is



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