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Decision Time for High School Coaches

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High school coaches and college coaches have to make difficult budgeting decisions.  Coaches want the best for their players but we all know that every athletic program has a budget--and most have a very tight budget.  Here are a few tips for coaches who need equipment on a small budget.  

Some sports are obviously more expensive than others.  Football is usually the most expensive because of the uniforms, helmets and other protective football gear.  Some college and high school football programs also want the best practice equipment to get their players ready to win.  A football program could spend tens of thousands of dollars a year if they had unlimited resources.  This does not even account for the football field also requires a lot of expensive maintenance.

Baseball and softball are some of the more expensive sports to equip, especially for practice.  Baseball practice equipment includes batting cages, pitching cages, pitching screens, fencing and field maintenance.  This equipment can take a beating and needs replaced every few years.  This type of equipment can wreak havoc on a high school or small college budget.

Other sports, such as basketball, volleyball and wrestling do not require such a large expense.  However, coaches in these sports still have to deal with tight budgets.

Most high school coaches use fundraisers.  Many local families and neighbors generally like to support the kids in their town and will donate to fundraisers.  When conducting a fundraiser it is important to give people something of value in return--do not just ask for donations.  One example is selling tickets for a car wash.  It costs the school almost nothing and people can afford a $5-$10 car wash.  Part of participating in school sports should include learning skills other than the sport itself.  Doing service for the community should be an important aspect of any school sports program. 

Another idea is to get the word out that a particular piece of equipment is needed.  I have seen many cases where a local resident with some disposable income is willing to purchase more expensive equipment for a school and use it as a tax deduction.  Reach out to people and let them know if your athletic program has specific needs.  People with disposable income often enjoy helping and if they enjoy sports they will feel really good about donating to a school athletic program.  At our local high school a generous neighbor heard that the school did not have a pole vault landing pad.  These pads can be very expensive and the school district was not willing to spend that much on such a specialized piece of equipment.  A few weeks later a new pole vault pad showed up at the school because of the kindness of a neighbor.

High schools and colleges can also get creative in how they host sporting events.  With the right event an athletic program can charge more for people to attend the event.  Make games and meets and matches fun.  Families are always looking for fun and reasonably priced activities.  Most athletic programs do not market their events beyond the school itself.  Give people a reason to come and have fun and charge a reasonable price.  If you make it entertaining they will come often.  

One successful event I have seen is a clinic where the student-athletes teach kids how to play their sport.  They teach them about the equipment and show them some drills.  Young children really look up to high school and college athletes and they love participating with them.  This event is also a great opportunity for the students to serve their community and gets them out of their comfort zone socially.  I have also seen a football team host a "Women's Day" where the players teach women some football skills.  With all of these fundraising methods it is crucial for the coaches to take a step back and allow the players to teach and serve.

Football equipment is expensive and other sports have to operate on a tight budget as well.  These methods can used to take the edge off and allow student-athletes to have a great experience.