Middle school sports can come back faster when we all pitch in somehow
As previously noted in a recent column in The Post, I’m back coaching at Martin Middle School. It’s not the same coaching intramural soccer after school. I love seeing the kids again and I enjoy my time with them, but it’s really hard to coach a sport when there’s no goal attached. The goal being that the kids can compete against other teams.
The kids and I do miss traveling by bus to games as a team, the team cheers, the practices, and most importantly the games and what kids learn from them.
One of the things that really bothered me since I started coaching was the lack of support. I wanted to give the kids warm-ups my first year, as I wanted the girls to feel like a team, and give incentive for them to come back. By the time we were able to do a fundraiser, it was late in the school year and the money got held up by some paperwork error. We didn’t even get the money until the middle of the summer. Desperate to make sure the girls got what they deserved, I started asking people and local businesses for donations. In a little over a week, we raised over $300. I couldn’t quite get the full warm up suits, but I was able to purchase sweatshirts with the kids names printed on it. I was finally able to work with administration on getting support to help fund my team better. But it took a lot of time and effort. The next year, we were able to get full warm-ups, as well as team jackets, with fundraiser money and support of a generous parent.
Prior to middle school sports being cut, actually exactly a year before it, I had thought about and talked with the Athletic Director about doing a booster club. The idea originally was to get funding for better equipment and uniforms. I was doing all sorts of research, from grants, to other booster clubs locally and in other parts of the country that are faced with similar circumstances. The question was asked “Well, do you want to do this for your team? The middle school teams? All sports?” At the time I had no idea so I put that concept on the backburner. Then the rumors of middle school sports being cut surfaced, and I started trying to bring that back up again.
During the Riverside Winterfest in 2011, one of the first things that I saw was a booth where the track/cross country team was trying to raise money for uniforms by doing a bake sale. I realized I wasn’t alone in my frustrations of doing things on my own for the kids. I was also not the only team hurting in equipment and uniform issues. I asked the coach if I could take a picture of the bake sale sign with the torn uniforms hanging from it. He let me, and I held on to those pictures, because for some reason I felt I would need them. And I did, that picture, as well as a picture of one of my many torn soccer balls are now on the Booster Club website. One of the goals and why it took so long for the Booster Club to be where it is now, is we wanted transparency and having our goals set. Recently, we earned our Guidestar Seal, which is awarded to nonprofits who show transparency.
Someone asked me once how long it would take to raise money to fund both middle schools sports programs. I have no real answer to that question. But what I do know, without other people’s support, it will be a very long time before sports come back. And we need support. Not just money, but helping hands too. We need people from all walks of life and background to help us; people who know how to run certain fundraisers, getting the kids involved, some people who want to help write grants, businesses that want to give back to the community.
The support can no longer be on the backs of just the same parents and coaches, we need the entire community. I’m involved in many things, anyone that knows me well I always run around like a chicken with its head cut off. But I don’t let that keep me away from trying to do what I can to help bring sports back. I would like to see sports come back for both Riverside and Martin as soon as possible. I am a firm believer that with teamwork, we can go back to Martin vs. Riverside games and more in no time.
Middle school sports can come back faster when we all pitch in somehow. Strategy and teamwork, something I heavily emphasized when coaching soccer, are the keys to success. We need to act similarly in order to win middle school sports back. But we need the team in order to win.
For more information on the East Providence Middle School Athletic Boosters visit www.epmsboosters.org.
— By June Coan