The athletes might score the points; but without organized support groups, most high school teams would have trouble just taking the field.
Booster clubs have been an integral part of high school athletics for generations, yet there isn’t an established template. No better example of this exists than with Johnson County’s six public high schools.
From smallest (Edinburgh) to largest (Center Grove), game plans vary when it comes to raising money, coordinating events and publicizing the school’s sports programs, either collectively or individually. Each school implements what works best for it.
A variety of Center Grove booster clubs and parent groups exist, the primary entity being the Athletic Booster Club. Others include a Football Parents Club, Wrestling Club, Cross Country Parent Organization, Girls Soccer Parent Boosters, Boys Basketball League and Boys Soccer Booster Club.
The school’s Athletic Booster Club serves all 19 sports sanctioned by the IHSAA, plus cheerleading.
To some, this might be viewed as a relatively small number at a high school that is among the state’s 32 largest in terms of enrollment. But Center Grove athletics director Jon Zwitt doesn’t see a need for more.
“No, I encourage them not to.
Only from the standpoint that you have a general booster club, and it’s very effective, and they do a good job. Why do you want more opportunities for problems? Whenever there’s money involved and there’s too many hands in those pots, you have the tendency to have problems,” Zwitt said.
“(Athletic Booster Club) has three main fundraisers every year. They also help out at football games with programs, solicit ads and help with the golf tournament that they put on. They serve an excellent purpose, and they work hard.”
Franklin Community High School takes a different approach. The school has eight clubs, serving a total of 11 Grizzly Cubs sports programs. The head coaches serve as each sport’s point person.
“What we’re trying to do here more because of our facilities is we try to use our facilities to fund raise,” Franklin athletics director John Regas said. “We try to host events. So like our basketball program will host an AAU tournament. They’ll run the tournament in concert with me and be able to profit from the concession sales. And then our basketball kids are around basketball and getting to take part in that process, as well.
“This is the best fit at this time for our school. It gives the coaches autonomy. It gives them ownership over their programs. It also allows them to make an impact directly for their program.
“For example, if the soccer team wants a new soccer locker room, they have the vehicle to go out and raise funds for that locker room specifically for their sport and utilize the parents and the student-athletes who are in that sport for that.”
Regas pointed out another benefit, which is a percentage of funds potentially being used to benefit youth sports.
“Our Grizz Club (football) is taking over our new youth football league and doing a fantastic job at it. They have funded a lot of really great initiatives for youth football in Franklin that otherwise would not be possible,” he said.
Football the constant
Because football typically is the leading revenue generator for a high school athletics department and involves the highest number of student-athletes, it tends to have a booster/parent club of its own.
Greenwood Community High School’s Woodmen Touchdown Club, according to second-year president Doug Montgomery, dates back many years — albeit under different names.
“Believe it or not, my father (Kent) was a member when I played football at Greenwood,” said Montgomery, a 1992 graduate who played center and guard for coach Len Scotten. “For us, our goal is to promote the program.
“We’re now tailgating before home games, and it’s gotten to the point where we have at least 100 people there at 5:15 p.m. We provide the main dish, whether it’s hamburgers, hot dogs or pulled pork.”
Cash is raised primarily through three fundraisers — a summer golf outing at Hickory Stick, the players themselves selling cards discounting purchases at specific local businesses and banner advertising of businesses at home games.
But at Indian Creek, a gradual decline in participation eventually forced the Brave Backers into extinction.
“We had a booster club a couple of years ago, and it kind of fizzled out,” Indian Creek athletics director Justin Ray said. “Now, with the economy, you add one thing to another ... everything adds up. We’ll wait and see.”
A Class 3A school in the three highest-revenue sports (football, and boys and girls basketball), Indian Creek remains small enough that it can generate money for its programs through creative thinking.
“I plan within my athletic department to do a couple of fundraisers and see where we’re at,” Ray said. “In my opinion, the smaller the school, I don’t see that you really need (booster clubs).”
The Braves’ football program benefits from a mom’s group which, among other things, provides food for a Thursday night team meal the week of home games and snacks for players while on the bus to and from road contests.
“All we want to do is minimally provide what’s necessary for our kids over and above what the athletic department should be responsible for,” 14th-year head coach Mike Gillin said.
At Edinburgh, a Class A athletics program, the high school and middle school have a shared booster club.
All for one
As Zwitt indicated, there are potential trouble spots the more athletics booster clubs a high school incorporates.
Greenwood, which has six clubs serving eight sanctioned sports, may one day research the possibility of conducting business similar to the way Center Grove does, according to athletics director Pete Huse.
“My preference would be to have one united booster club that would represent all the sports, and that would work for the betterment of the entire athletic program, where we could start saying, ‘Here are some of our needs.’ ‘Here are some of the financial shortfalls that we have,’” Huse said. “What we have now is these boosters, they just take care of their own needs.
“The biggest problem we suffer from is they go out to these companies, they get sponsorship, and when I come knocking on the door, they’re going to say, ‘Well, I’ve already given to Greenwood.’
“Well, you haven’t given to Greenwood. You’ve given to a booster club, and the athletic department actually doesn’t benefit from most of the fundraising that’s done.”
Whiteland’s Adult Booster Club works to keep things under a single fundraising umbrella, though football and girls/boys tennis branch out to earn what’s necessary to address the special needs of their programs.
“We probably have 50 people who pay $25 (annually) to be a member. I think there’s always just been a handful of people that work really hard at it, and it’s hard to get other people to commit. It might be if we get that umbrella group going, then we can do more, and maybe more parents would be more involved,” Whiteland athletic director Ken Sears said.
With Whiteland’s population expected to increase in the coming years, it stands to reason the high school’s booster turnout will grow, too.
“If we had maybe 100 people involved in our booster club, we could reach out and probably raise more money. I’ve seen (Center Grove’s) signs that they’ve raised $2 million or whatever over the last however many years. ... That would be wonderful. I think we’re a little different community, but in the same sense, it’s OK to steal good ideas,” Sears said.
“Our new principal, Mr. (Tom) Zobel, is looking at within the next three or four years to have sort of an umbrella booster club with maybe the band under it, athletics under it, so you can possibly do some different things. He’s been to a couple of different schools, so he’s got ideas as how to develop that.”