PUBLISHED: 3:59 PM on Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Sports costs pack a punchfor Southeast Alaska schools
Sports is a significant part of school programs from training, developing teams, playing games to actual events-there's time, organization and significant funds needed to make it all work. Money wise, it's the dollars that "count" toward successful sports program.

At Sitka High School, roughly $600,000 last year was spent on activities including athletics and non-sport programs, according to activities coordinator Mike Vieira.

"An additional $85,000 would be tacked on to that as a result of coaches' salaries," he said.

There are a variety of ways sports are funded in schools around Southeast Alaska.

"The district funds about $150,000 of our activities budgets. The remainder is covered by participation fees, and fundraising," Vieira said. "In a typical program the percent of the budgets are 30 percent covered by district, 30 percent by participation fees and 40 percent by fundraising and donations."

"There is an extensive amount of fundraising," said principal Tom Milliron, of Floyd Dryden Middle School in Juneau.

"There is funding in the district, and the one percent tax. We're heavily dependent on student fundraising, depending on the coach and sports," he said.

Basketball and football tend to be the most expensive of all sports, which entail the most money managing.

Games can require anything from advertising, traffic directors to people managing food kiosks.

"Basketball often times does a free-throw shooting marathon, there's a variety of raffles to, and a banner advertising for businesses (during games)," he said.

One-hundred percent of what's raised from fundraising and games is put right back into the line of sport, he said.

"It's a very substantial amount that is raised. I think it's very important to find additional sources of fundraising to support our after school programs and academic programs," Milliron said.

Realistically, a major source of fundraising is though the students' parents, he said.

"For example in volleyball, when they travel on the ferry, the parents pay depending on the sport," he said.

For students in financial situations-they look at each students individually.

"It's in the hand of the coaches," he said.

At Juneau Douglas High School, budgets are a big discussion for after school activities and sports programs.

"Any activity that we have, the coaches are responsible to raise their own money," said athletic director Sandy Wagner, of JDHS.

Concerning students of low-income families, she said if they can't afford it, a scholarship is provided.

However, it's more than just being able to cover funding; additional costs include uniforms and being able to get transportation to practices.

"The reason being, they have no way to get to practice, because they have to stay home and baby-sit their little brothers and sisters," she said. "Anyone would allow anybody who can't afford (to play) to do it."

"It's not something that you're going to hear much about or see happening - it's not a very common thing," Wagner said.

At JDHS, the most expensive sport is football. Students are required to play teams in their league plus equipment costs and a higher amount of traveling than other sports.

"Hockey is going to be up there in the next year or two," she said.

Besides running the activities, facility usage is an issue.

"It costs us to use an ice rink and a football field," Wagner said.

Besides just sports, the cost of running activities at the high school is significant.

Last year, the dollars waged at $1.8 million to run activities at JDHS, according to Wagner.

At Sitka High School, football is also ranked at the most expensive sport due to the number of students traveling and the need to financially support visiting teams.

"Each home game costs us a minimum of $ 7,000," Vieira said.

Money raised at Sitka High School's basketball games typically ranges between $100-$800.

"Volleyball and wrestling are the only other activities we charge for and the gates are much smaller for these activities," he said.

Recently, the school has begun to develop an activities scholarship fund; the local tribe also offers financial assistance for members of the tribe, he said.

While money is always an issue, the bright side is extra curricular activities and sports are a way for students to further explore their talents and develop social and life learning skills.

"They are very important for after school activities both sport and academic connected, so students can get a sense of high self-esteem that they may get in sports versus an academic activity," Milliron said." "It's a way to keep kids connected to the school-it connects with a large number of students."

According to a study of nearly 22,000 students conducted by a University of Colorado professor for the Colorado High School Activities Association, students who participate in some form of interscholastic activities have "significantly higher" grade-point averages than students who do not.

Online surveys of the National Federation of State High School Associations said a larger percentage of students who participate in school activities tend to be school leaders and role models, and participation in school activities provides an opportunity not found in a regular classroom setting to develop self-discipline.

"Activities are a bridge between our students and staff. They increase the amount of time our students get to interact with caring adults, positive role models," Vieira said. "They are a huge part of creating an enjoyable experience and atmosphere at a school."