As high school athletes wait to find out if they will return to the field this spring, it is easy to forget about some of the behind-the-scenes problems schools and athletic programs will face in the coming months. Whether the AHSAA’s suspension last another two weeks or another two months, there will likely be some financial issues high schools will have to deal with to make sure there are no long-term effects.
“This is obviously a very unique situation and this is all new for all of us,” Wetumpka athletic director Tim Perry said. “We have never had to deal with this before. We have to see what our options are because we aren’t sure at this point. We need the best plan to help spring sports to stay operational and have enough money even if we are not able to complete this season.”
Everyone is still holding out hope for the season to resume but in the meantime, coaches and athletic directors have to focus to create contingency plans for any possible scenario.
“We have to operate in the black,” ECHS athletic director Terry Nicholas said. “We can’t run an athletic account without a positive balance. It kind of just depends on what the effects will be and that will be situation by situation.”
Nicholas is also Elmore County’s softball coach and the Panthers were affected by rain and a travel-heavy schedule in the first half of the season. They had only two home dates which means this suspension is having a major impact on their ability to raise money with tickets and concessions.
“We played a whole lot more on the road than at home,” Nicholas said. “It’s not going to be dire but it’s going to have an impact. We don’t know how much we will have to make up going forward. I really don’t know yet. We will just have to wait, look at the books and go from there.”
Nicholas said worst-case scenario was the Panthers missing out on seven home dates for the rest of the season which could equal anywhere from $3,500 to $7,000 for the program.
Fortunately for Elmore County, Nicholas said the softball program along with the baseball and soccer programs already had their biggest fundraisers and may not see any impact beyond this year.
“All of our coaches do a good job of planning and fundraising,” Nicholas said. “And we have good gates because the people of Eclectic show up. We’re going to be OK.”
Several programs have booster clubs to help out with the finances during difficult times. Holtville softball coach Kaelin Dawson said her booster club has always been active and this pandemic has not changed that.
“I’m very fortunate enough to have a fantastic booster club,” Dawson said. “They have done a wonderful job to make sure we are financially set for everything. They make sure the girls needs are met first.”
Dawson said the program did get to save some money when its trip to Gulf Shores for a tournament was canceled. However, the Bulldogs would have much rather gotten to spend the money on their trip if it meant they got to take the field again this season.
“We are just trying to stay positive so maybe we won’t have to come up with plans for a different scenario,” Dawson said. “It hurts knowing we are going to miss out on a lot of money but it hurts the girls most because that money shows people are investing in them.”
Spring sports were not the only part of athletics already feel an effect on the financial side. Stanhope Elmore’s football team had to postpone its biggest fundraiser of the year, the Lift-A-Thon, and the Mustangs are not sure if they can make it up or where they will get the money from if they cannot.
“It’s hard because we don’t know where to go from here,” Stanhope Elmore coach Brian Bradford said. “There are so many things up in the air right now. You don’t know what you can do. We’re at a loss right now.”
Money is what makes these programs thrive and without these funds, some of them may find it difficult to provide the best experience possible to the student-athletes. While the coaches and administrations are concerned about that side of things, they are all still focused on the well-being of the players and how this will affect them in the long run rather than just the programs.
“We will figure the financial part out,” Nicholas said. “I have more heartbreak over these kids not getting to be on the field. The rest of it we will figure it out. I can make up the money but I can’t make up these games and the playing opportunities for these kids.”