Whether it’s an $8 pair of soccer socks or a $125 pair of basketball shoes, athletes ranging from freshman to varsity are finding themselves paying for extra equipment and tournaments not funded by the Shawnee Mission School District. Although playing for the school team itself is free, the cost of extra practices and equipment can be the deciding factor of whether a sport is worth playing.
SMSD provides each team with a certain amount of money for the season, depending on how expensive the equipment for the sport is and how many players are on the team. Coaches can use the money to replace old equipment and uniforms.
“Anything athletes need to participate is provided by the school,” athletic director Jeremy Higgins said. “For example, football, we provide them with helmets, shoulder pads, all of that stuff. For volleyball, we have volleyballs, we have all the uniforms and all that stuff now. Shoes, obviously, the athletes will have to buy on their own.”
One way teams help pay for costs not funded by the district is through fundraisers. Although Higgins says fundraisers aren’t absolutely “critical,” they can help reduce the costs of extra equipment and uniforms.
“It’s not extremely important for the bare necessities, but if coaches want to go above and beyond and get new uniforms or fancier equipment, then they have to get that money somehow and fundraising comes into play at that point,” Higgins said.
In the past, car washes have been a popular fundraiser for cheerleading and volleyball. Football usually sells mulch, and drill team sells boutonnieres for school dances and holds an annual dance clinic.
A major part of athletic teams’ funds goes towards transportation, according to Higgins. For teams that travel to out-of-town tournaments and competitions, renting buses can cost hundreds of dollars.
“The school also does own a nine passenger van, which really has helped with transportation and actually cutting costs,” Higgins said. “Now, we don’t have to rent a bus if we are just sending our tennis team somewhere. They can take the school van, so that helps a lot.”
This month, the varsity drill team will be traveling to Orlando for three days to compete in the National Dance Alliance Nationals. The cost, which includes airfare and hotel expenses, will be around $1,200. Since the school is not covering any of these costs, fundraisers will help pay for some of these expenses.
“There have been some complaints about the cost just because the economy is not as good anymore,” senior drill team member Megan Nass said. “That’s why we’re trying to do as much fundraising as possible so the cost goes down. Our biggest fundraiser is probably the Lancer Dancer clinic.”
Since lacrosse is considered a club and is not funded by the school’s athletic department, lacrosse players must pay for all of their own equipment. A lacrosse stick, helmet, gloves, elbow pads and shoulder pads can add up to be around $600, according to junior lacrosse player Michael Stonebarger.
“Sometimes we send out sponsorship information to companies and that’s kind of what we do as a fundraiser,” Stonebarger said.
Another expense that some athletes pay for is being on a year-round club team. For senior soccer player Cameron Smith, playing club soccer, which costs a monthly fee of $75, helped improve his play for the school team in the fall.
“Obviously, it wasn’t necessary for some players to play club soccer,” Smith said. “It may have taken them some more time to get back in the swing of things, but when you have your foot on the ball all year long it helps you keep your touch and makes you as perfect as you can be. When you play year round, you don’t really have a period of getting back into playing soccer as some people might if they don’t play club soccer.”
Nass, who dances at Diamond Academy, said most girls on drill team take additional dance classes at studios. Depending on the studio, dance classes can cost an annual fee that can vary from $700 to $1,800 a year.
“(The cost) is definitely worth it for me,” Nass said. “I spend so much time at the studio and at competitions that it always pays off in the end. Dancing at a studio allows me to work on my technique outside of drill team so that I can contribute as much as possible to the team. Being in ballet and contemporary classes helps with overall technique.”
One funding alternative that 55 schools in Kansas have adopted is called “Pay to Play.” In order to keep athletic activities from being cut from the district’s budget, “Pay to Play” requires that athletes on a team pay a yearly participation fee. Although SMSD does not currently have a “Pay to Play” policy, Higgins thinks it could be a possibility down the road.
“With the budget cuts occurring the way they are, could that be an option that we look at?” Higgins said. “Yes, possibly. But again, we’re going to do everything we possibly can to make sure that anybody can be part of the team if they want and we want to keep the costs down as low as possible. Athletics is a great way for students to get involved and we want every single person to have that opportunity.”