November 20, 2017 • Strength & Conditioning

Fundraising for the dream weight room

Jordan Schumaker remembers his coaching staff’s first request last year when he became the athletic director at Butler (Ohio) High School.

“We need to do something in regards to the weight room,” the coaches told him.

The school already had a 5,000-square-foot space used for training, but it was in dire need of upgrades. There were just six free-weight stations to accommodate 22 sports, and most of its equipment was donated by the University of Dayton nearly a decade ago. Butler wanted something to call its own, and coaches wanted space to train more athletes.

“We love (the University of Dayton) here,” Schumaker said, “but you still don’t want to go lift on equipment stamped with the UD logo when you’re trying to promote school pride.”

Renovations come at a high cost, and with a majority of high school athletic programs counting every penny, it can be difficult to justify something like a new training facility. Butler’s project was estimated to cost about $105,000.

Schumaker knew fundraising had to play a major role in the renovation. The booster club pledged half of the project’s cost, and another donor matched up to $20,000. David and Cheryl Kudla, whom the new strength and fitness center is named after, committed $25,000. The project was off to a fast start, but the athletic program still had work to do.

Grassroots effort

In an age of Kickstarter and GoFundMe, grassroots fundraising campaigns still have their place. And they’re effective.

Schumaker made it a priority to get out of the office and into the community, speaking at the rotary club, optimist club and chamber of commerce. Coaches invited parents to practices, where they presented drawings of the proposed training facility and answered questions.

The athletic program even used some creativity by partnering with businesses. Schumaker said he made an arrangement with a local pizza restaurant to put pledge forms on their boxes for a week. He brought the forms and glue sticks, and the restaurant stuck them to every box.

“Every day in the mail, we’d get $500 this day and $1,000 the next day just from those pledges,” Schumaker said. “It was really good to see the community support that.”

Butler’s booster club originally planned to cover $50,000 of renovation costs, but with the program’s fundraising success the initiative required just $35,000 toward the weight room. Schumaker said that’s roughly the amount the booster club raises in an entire year.

“We have physical education classes in the (weight room) too,” he said, “so we were able to renovate a classroom with no tax dollars.”

The perfect space

Butler needed new equipment and greater functionality, but what it didn’t need was space. The weight room was converted from an old volleyball practice facility, so the school had some flexibility with how it would use the room.

The new weight room features 14 free-weight stations, up from six. That allows the strength coach to train nearly 52 student-athletes at once, instead of 18. With so much space, the school also installed 1,600 square feet of artificial turf, allowing kids to work on conditioning. It’s a unique addition that Schumaker said makes Butler’s training facility one of the best in southwestern Ohio.

“It has really become a source of pride for the kids and the community,” he said.

Strength coach Jeremy LaVoie said the changes made a monumental difference to the school’s training program. Two different teams can administer their lifting programs at the same time, while the baseball and softball teams are able to take indoor batting practice when necessary. The school’s offseason training program last summer had its highest attendance in recent memory, and members from the community regularly dropped by to see the changes first hand.

“It’s been pretty busy, but I love the fact that boys and girls sports want to use the weight room,” LaVoie said. “Anytime you can make working out fun for kids, that’s definitely going to be a positive.”

Butler’s project is an example for how high school athletic departments can still make fundraising work during a time when donors seem to be giving less. Schumaker said keeping projects like this under budget is always a challenge, but it’s important to have realistic expectations and do the best you can with what you have.

“There were some tough decisions with 22 sports that have a variety of needs,” he said. “But we’ve come a long way, and it’s been pretty cool to see how much the community supported it.”

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