"In a day and age when our high school students are constantly barraged with potentially negative distractions, it is incumbent upon adults to identify creative solutions to budget problems that keep our future leaders focused on positive activities."
The Coventry Lacrosse Association was founded last spring to help the Coventry High School club lacrosse team join the Rhode Island Interscholastic League when the school department had no room in its budget for the popular program.
Ralph Izzi, president and program director, has a son, Alex, 17, who plays on the team. Izzi says the program is creating civic-minded young men by supplying them with leadership, business organization, and fundraising skills.
The program is funded through corporate and other private donations and is running a ‘$13 for 2013’ Web-based campaign in hopes of garnering 1,000 $13 donations to fund the 2013 spring season at www.covlax.org.
PBN: How was the reception been from corporate sponsors you have sought?
IZZI: Fortunately the program has had two generous sponsors (Contech Medical & Xpress Sweeping) whose donations accounted for approximately 40 percent of the budget. As generous as they have been, the team still needs several more key sponsors to ensure the longevity of the program or until such time when/if the funds are allocated to the lacrosse team from the school department.
PBN: Do team members actively participate in fundraisers?
IZZI: “Pay-to-play” is illegal in Rhode Island and therefore payment [to be a team member] cannot be required. We do strongly encourage donations to the program from friends and family members. Truth is the tuition costs for a single player for many youth sports can easily reach into thousands of dollars each season. It is important to note that if a student/family wants to play however finances are an obstacle, mechanisms are in place to assist with these expenses. The team has and will conduct fundraising events to help raise the necessary dollars. In January the team sponsored a Comedy Night / Sports Memorabilia Auction which was successful in raising approximately 30 percent of the annual budget.
PBN: Why is this sort of program the best alternative to depleted school sport budgets?
IZZI: In a day and age when our high school students are constantly barraged with potentially negative distractions, it is incumbent upon adults to identify creative solutions to budget problems that keep our future leaders focused on positive activities. It is much easier to just ‘cut’ than it is to work hard at finding solutions. Beyond all the obvious positive effects of physical fitness and improved health, the benefits of building character and developing leaders provide equal if not greater lifelong rewards to the student as they move on to college and/or into the business community.
PBN: How does it work to have the team officially on the school roster when the school is not governing the play?
IZZI: The school does govern play. Students participate on the Interscholastic Lacrosse team just as they would any other high school sport and therefore all the rules and regulations regarding participation apply. The team is governed by the Coventry High School Athletic Department and furthermore, operationally the team must abide by all the teachers’ union contract obligations as well. The only difference - funding does not come from the school or town budget. The funds are submitted to the school department’s central accounting office and deposited into a separate account established to pay for the expenses associated specifically with the lacrosse team.
PBN: What business and life lessons do you hope the program will give players?
Izzi: The benefits of participating in high school sports are many such as building character and leadership skills, teamwork, focus, discipline, compassion, respect for coaches, teammates and officials, learning how to win AND lose with dignity, facing adversity and challenges. The players (and families) associated with our program acknowledge a greater appreciation for the effort needed to be successful at a new venture. All of this translates to responsibility which will serve these young men well as they move into their professions whatever they might be.