Fundraising is evolving for Tiger sports

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Farmington High School’s move to the South Suburban Conference last fall has meant a different level of competition for most of the school’s teams. It’s also starting to mean a different kind of fundraising for parents.
FHS teams have had mixed results in the school’s first year as a member of the South Suburban. The Tiger football team went winless last fall, while the boys hockey team made its second straight trip to the section finals and the wrestlers had their best season ever, qualifying for state as a team for the first time.
Other teams have fallen somewhere between those extremes, but with coaches and players working to be competitive on the field, FHS athletic director Bill Tschida is making changes to make teams more competitive behind the scenes.
Where in the past, a group called the Tiger Fan Club has served as a booster for all of the school’s teams, Tschida has asked parents to organize individual booster clubs for each of the school’s teams. Those clubs might raise money to pay for new uniforms or busing on team trips, while the Tiger Fan Club remains in place to find funding for bigger projects.
Tschida said that kind of arrangement has become the norm for high school sports.
“I think if we look at the South Suburban Conference … I would say we’re kind of behind the times as far as booster clubs,” he said. “I think if you looked at the Lakeville schools and the District 196 schools, they’ve had booster clubs in place for a longer period of time.”
In some cases, those booster clubs pay for additional coaches, or for coach buses in place of school buses to take athletes to away games.
In Prior Lake, which is the model Tschida used for what he’s putting in place, the big-picture booster club raised money for a new scoreboard with a large video replay screen.
“It’s probably nicer than most of the MIAC schools,” Tschida said.
The going is still early for Farmington’s booster clubs. Some have been operating for about six months. Others are still getting organized. Tschida said what those clubs will provide for their respective teams will depend on the support they find in the community.
“This is something we are kind of feeling our way through and breaking ground on these things,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of lessons to learn.”
Those changes are also being felt at the Tiger Fan Club, which is changing its focus along with the rest of the school’s teams. Rather than working the concession stand at home games, the club will focus on bigger-picture fundraising efforts and attempts to find businesses willing to provide sponsorships or advertise at FHS facilities.
Those efforts might pay for facility improvements like bathrooms or an improved entrance at Tiger Field.
“I think it’s going to be a big change that’s going to take a while to implement,” said Tiger Fan Club president Tom Smith. “Certainly it’s a 180-degree change from what the Tiger Fan Club is doing today. It’s going to be a difficult change to do and track, but I think it’s inevitable if we’re trying to set ourselves up to be the same as the South Suburban Conference schools that are in there right now.”
As part of that change, the Tiger Fan Club is looking for people interested in serving on its board. The club is currently recruiting board members for the 2015-16 school year. Anyone interested can visit tigerfanclub.org or come to the club’s next meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 7.