Between uniforms, padding, helmets and trainers, it is no secret that playing sports can cause a hole in your wallet. Since Grady is a Title I school, which means the school has a sizeable population of economically-disadvantaged students, not all students have the ability to pay for such costly sports.
Since Atlanta Public Schools promoted Jasper Jewell to director of athletics in 2014, Grady has seen increased sports funding from the district.
“When I first came to Grady the softball uniforms had not been replaced for 5 years, maybe longer, but when I said my girls could not wear these uniforms, he got me new ones immediately,” Grady athletic director Myss Jelks said about Jewell.
The district covers the majority of funding for sports and allots new equipment and uniforms on a cycle based on necessity.
“The annual budget depends on the school’s needs each year. We have all high schools on a three-year cycle for uniforms, which we purchase,” Jewell said.
Despite buying on cycle, covering for uniforms and equipment for all middle and high schools in the district can bring about a large bill for APS to cover. The district finds reimbursement in charging for entry for select sporting events such as football and basketball.
“Basketball and football are the two sports who financially drive the district, so those are the two sports we mainly charge for,” said Jelks.
Many students at Grady vouch for free admission to big sporting events, Jelks responds by explaining it is a district level decision, and is above her.
Despite the district paying for the funds of basic uniforms for sports, some teams and coaches want additional apparel and “spirit packages” that athletes voluntarily pay for. Most coaches will organize a finance plan to help students pay off dues monthly for the overall cost of sports that can range from seventy five dollars to six hundred dollars worth of camps, uniforms and accessories.
“Coach Moreland and Coach Jones let us pay our two-hundred dollar football fee over time, which is nice,” junior Trysten Fowler said.
With such large expenses that not every athlete can afford, other steps besides a finance plan can be taken to allow students to participate in costly sports. For example, some teams do fundraising year-round. The proceeds from these fundraisers can be spent on new equipment, food and drinks for before and after games, meets and covering costs for students who can’t afford to play otherwise.
“We do many fundraisers to support our team like car washes, concessions at our games, and by getting businesses to sponsor us,” said boys basketball coach Brian Weeden.
Sponsorships at the district level also add to funding for sports. Teams can also receive more money by selling advertisements on tickets or posters hung around the stadium or gym.
“We are hoping that through our marketing and advertising sponsorships, we are able to give schools more than we are currently budgeted for,” Jewell said.
Even parents of student athletes get involved to increase funding and discuss new strategies through the athletics booster club. One representative from each sport comes to the meetings to discuss current needs of their sport and how to spread funding equally. The level of funding varies from sport to sport, depending on their level of participation with the booster club.
“Over the years, the Grady athletic program has grown in size and success,” said Paige Cucchi, a soccer booster parent. “We have more sports teams than ever before. There really is a sport for everyone. We now field teams at the highest competitive level. We are putting athletes in Division 1, Division 2 and Division 3 collegiate programs. It’s really exciting for Grady and the surrounding neighborhoods that support Grady athletics. I think as time goes on, the Grady Athletic Booster Club will be critical for growing our programs.”
Thanks to the efforts of the athletics booster club to push for district funding, a batting cage is being constructed in Grady Stadium for the baseball team, which practices off campus. This will be the first space offered to baseball at Grady. This was all made possible by the booster parents pushing to get APS to approve of the requested funds.
“The new batting cage is a good next step for an emerging baseball program that doesn’t have the same facilities as other teams in our region,’’ said senior baseball player Yan Mastin.
Some teams also look to the PTSA for funds through grants just like teachers and clubs. While Grady funding for sports has improved, there are still changes the athletic department hopes for.
“I would just like to get better equipment where there is a need for new equipment. I also would like to see all booster clubs come together,” said Jelks. “I think we would make more money that way.”