Sports teams cope with funding losses

Alex Holmes

After suffering two successive blows to their financing last fall, Wilson athletic teams are ramping up fundraising efforts and spending more conservatively. In October, Wilson lost access to over $170,000 in funds because the school was no longer allowed to use the money it raised from renting out its facilities to fund sports teams. Then, teams were no longer allowed to fundraise through the sale of unhealthy, “junk” food such as Krispy Kreme donuts because of the school’s enforcement of the DC Healthy Schools Act. 

In the aftermath of those two events, Director of Strategy and Logistics Brandon Hall, who is responsible for implementing the Healthy Schools Act, was met with an angry backlash from coaches and players. “Students were disappointed that food fundraisers were no longer an option and discussed their concerns with administration,” Hall said. “I provided the policy—the Healthy Foods Act policy—and explained that we are required to comply with the policy.” 

Hall added that a recent visit from DCPS officials prompted Wilson to change their practices and enforce the policy. The aim of the act, which was instituted in 2010, is to increase nutritional standards in schools and get students to eat healthier food. Specifically, DCPS Central Office staffers have to approve the sale of foods on school grounds. If items are not approved they cannot be sold at school until 90 minutes after the school day ends. Unapproved items include pizza and donuts, both of which used to be sold at Wilson.

For Hall, this is a step in the right direction. “Of course it’s always good to eat healthy and to live a healthy and active lifestyle,” Hall said. “[It’s good] to reinforce that on a daily basis at the school level.”

However, the teams that can no longer fundraise this way see it differently. The wrestling team has been among the hardest hit because they don’t have enough players to effectively raise enough money for the often-expensive equipment. New mats for the team can cost up to $8,000 but, according to head wrestling coach Archie Hogan, “Three out of four kids quit during the first week of practice. [We] don’t have that many athletes on the roster to help with fundraising.”

This year, the team has had to make several significant changes to continue competing. “For the first time in our history, we asked wrestlers to pay team dues. We postponed getting new uniforms and a new wrestling mat,” Hogan said.

The primary way that Hogan has raised funds for the team throughout this season was through selling custom-made t-shirts. “The end result wasn’t much, but it was enough to pay for most of our tournaments,” Hogan said.

Another team that struggled in the wake of the enforcement of the Healthy Foods Act was the soccer team. Krispy Kreme donut sales were responsible for the majority of their funds in past years, but this year, players were required to pay an entrance fee for the first time. Gabe Vanni, a senior on the team who helped fundraise, thinks players shouldn’t have to pay at all. “It’s a school sport, and we feel like it should be funded by the school,” he said. 

During the 2018-2019 season, the team made a total of $400 off of donuts. This year, they had to work a lot harder to scrounge up enough money to buy jerseys and equipment needed for practice. “We had to ask more from parents and try to get more money from the school, which is really hard,” Vanni said. 

Vanni, who came to Wilson during his junior year, has more reason than most to lament the lack of funds. At his previous school, in Rochester, New York, the soccer team was better funded. “Our school funds were much more accessible,” Vanni said. “Altogether, it worked much more smoothly. We would get our jerseys, and anything else we needed, on the first day of the season and then we wouldn’t have to worry about it.”

Hall and Hogan both agree that from now on, teams are going to have to work a lot harder to make the amount of money they did before. But, at least for Hogan, it’s a welcome change that all of the teams are in the same boat. “Every club sport at Wilson is in a similar situation,” he said. “We all have to find different methods to keep our teams alive.”