Annette Duvall, Athletic Director at Bainbridge High School, gets worked up when talking about the school’s athletic program, its importance in students’ lives, and funding concerns. “Every single sport at every level is the most important sport,” she said, explaining the impetus for the We Are Spartans fundraising dinner. BHS hopes the event, which is open to the Island community, will help keep sports programs going for all students, regardless of their sport or skill level.
Bainbridge athletes already pay a high fee for athletic participation: $250 per student, per sport, per year. But even this is not enough, explained Duvall. The average annual cost is just over $650 per student per sport per year. The high school covers the difference. “We’re no longer financially sustainable,” Duvall worried, adding that “reserves are dwindling.”
For the energetic athletic director, whose foot was tapping the entire time we talked, fundraising is a serious matter. She told me that there are 25 different sports offered at the high school, meeting a wide range of athletic interests and serving the largest possible number of students. Duvall explained, “There’s something that each student can plug into and find enjoyment in,” and she emphasized how especially important that is when the students are young. The sports range from football to sailing to water polo to crew.
The We Are Spartans fundraising dinner comes at a crucial time, with the district facing a funding gap of between $15,000 and $25,000, according to BHS Principal Brent Peterson. He explained that the economic downturn has had a big impact on BHS in terms of decreased tax revenue and cuts in state spending on education.
With the major goal being not to compromise the school’s educational program, several years ago BHS used a survey to ask the community if the answer was to cut funding for athletics. “The community said no,” Peterson said. “Instead, the decision was to increase participation fees, which have been raised two or three times since then to reach current levels.”
But Peterson added that there has been no single solution. In addition to collecting the student participation fee, the school district continues to provide a substantial level of support through its operating budget, largely covering salaries for coaches.
And gate proceeds from the football and basketball programs also help support athletics. Most students at BHS have what is known as an Associated Student Body, or ASB, card, which sells for $45 a year and then gives the student ongoing free access to sporting events. But only about half of the charges collected from the purchase of ASB cards go toward the athletic program. The other half is used to support nonathletic programs and clubs, like the math club, the debate club, and even some music programs.
So, laughing, Peterson added, “We’ve become more and more dependent on being creative” in terms of identifying independent financial sources. The BHS Booster Club, in operation for many years, used to focus on improvements to the athletic program, like the purchase of new soccer goals. But now “their focus is more on maintenance, not improvement,” he said.
One of the Booster Club’s creative ideas was a swimathon at Wing Point. The club has donated the use of its pool for a day in June the last two years, and proceeds from the event have gone toward a scholarship account to offset the student participation fee for athletes of limited means.
The We Are Spartans Fundraiser has had the good fortune of landing as its featured speaker Bruce Brown—a professional motivational speaker, coach, school athletics administrator, the 2002 NAIA National Co-Athletic Director of the Year, and winner of the 2003 Citizenship Through Sports Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award. The event runs from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 8, at Wing Point Golf and Country Club. The cost is $100 per person. To purchase tickets or to make a donation, visit http://www.bainbridgeboosters.com/sportsdinner.htm.
Images and photos courtesy of BHS, Annette Duvall, Sue Larkin, and Jared Bell.