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Booster Clubs for High School Athletics: One vs. Multiple

By Lisa Myran-Schutte, CAA on February 12, 2020 hst Print

The mention of booster clubs can make high school activities directors cringe. While booster clubs are essential for many programs, there is the other side of dealing with overzealous parents who take a lot of their time.

Booster clubs support what is needed or wanted by coaches. They offer volunteer hours, monetary donations or food for athletes. Often, they cover some items that may not be covered in the school budget.

But then comes the question. What is better – a school with one booster club for all sports or a school with multiple booster clubs so that each sport has its own booster club? There are pros and cons to each scenario, and it really comes down to the culture that the school – and its programs – have embraced.

Schools with one booster club have an advantage when it comes to the communication aspect. The activities director only has to deal with one booster club board and one meeting. Booster clubs are often not a part of the school umbrella, however, so relationships with the school’s booster club is key for everyone to work toward a common goal. The activities director should be the liaison between the booster club and the coach or coaches when necessary. This allows for the coach to focus on the athletes and the program.

One booster club works in a manner of raising funds for all athletics. This means there are fewer fundraisers if only one group is doing it. In the one booster club format, funds are divided and all teams are supported as fairly as possible. The idea of one booster club works well in a small-school setting where involvement is not specialized for the athletes or the parents.

One of the disadvantages of one booster club is commitment. If the booster club decides to do a fundraiser to support football, a parent of a child who plays soccer may not be as supportive for that fundraiser. Another disadvantage is the process of dividing of funds fairly. Perhaps the football coach wants to upgrade the stats program; however, the cross country program does not need the upgrade. In this situation, the monetary support can be tricky in maintaining fairness.

Another disadvantage of the one booster club model is if the booster club is run in a dysfunctional manner, parents have no other options. In some cases, the same person may head up the booster club year after year as all their kids go through school.

Schools with multiple booster clubs have some advantages. The commitment from parents tends to be stronger because they are supporting a sports booster club related to the sport in which their child is participating. There also tends to be a cycle of parents coming in and out as students graduate or move on to other activities; however, this process is usually smooth as many parents commit to four years in some capacity or another. Another perk is that big ticket items can be purchased more quickly. If a sled is going to be purchased for football, all funds that are raised can go to that particular item.

One of the drawbacks to multiple booster clubs is the number of meetings that take place. Activities directors need to build relationships with each group, so it can be a time-consuming process.

As more booster clubs emerge, it may be difficult for the activities director to be that liaison between the club and the coach when issues arise. As an example, it is important to be aware of the specific projects for which booster clubs are raising funds. The last thing a school needs is a big set of bleachers that were not part of any plan, and there is no place to put them, but the softball club thought it would be great to have bleachers at the softball field.

One of the major challenges for an activities director with multiple booster clubs is the idea of looking out for the common good. As a department, you want to hang banners in the gymnasium, but it is not allocated in the budget. Where can you go for funds? In the multiple booster club model, there is not a general athletics fund for items such as these.

When reviewing the pros and cons of each model, it really depends on the culture of the community and the school. No matter the style, it is important that booster clubs have guidelines. Following are some possible guidelines for school booster clubs to ensure they are supporting the coach and the program correctly.

Purpose and Function of Booster Clubs

A booster club is defined as “an organization that is formed to help support the efforts of a sports team or organization. Support is shown in many ways, including volunteering time, raising money and contributing funds to better enhance the team or organization’s performance.”

Another definition is a “a booster club provides enthusiastic support of a team or organization.” This type of support is much like emotional or psychological parental support, but it is given in a collective manner. Booster clubs play a key role in supporting school activities in many ways. Booster clubs may raise money by printing approved promotional items. Booster clubs can financially support the program by providing additional funding for coaches, staff and event workers. They can organize team events, such as pregame or postgame dinners or social events during the season. Booster clubs may perform, meet or organize in any way, in accordance with the above stated definition, that supports or ‘boosts’ the program they are formed to support.

Booster Clubs Should:

  • Volunteer time and raise money
  • Contribute funds to better enhance the team or organization’s performance.
  • Print promotional items like team schedules, programs and yearbooks (subject to approval by the head coach/athletic director).
  • Financially support the program by providing additional funding for coaches, staff and event workers as approved by the head coach and athletic director.
  • Listen and work closely with the head coach.
  • Discuss as official business any item that meets the definition or function of a booster club.

Booster Clubs Should NOT:

  • Openly discuss or perform a performance review of the head coach or coaching staff.
  • Review the performance of a coach funded by the booster club; staff evaluations are solely the responsibility of the district.
  • Openly discuss playing time issues.
  • Ransom funding of the program in order to control the hiring or firing of the head coach or staff member.
  • Offer a petition by booster club members to hire/fire a coach.
  • Discuss as official business any item that does not meet the definition and function of a booster club.

The reality is that today’s high school athletics programs need support. Booster clubs are a fantastic way to feel supported with monetary items but also encouragement. As an activities director, it is essential to embrace what is possible in your district, whether it is one or multiple booster clubs as they can be a huge asset to successful seasons.