Money tight for essentials
Football is an expensive sport to administrate, due to its great amount of needed equipment, and you don't have to be a coach or athletic director to realize that obvious fact.
Schools and their athletic departments provide each program as much assistance, financial and otherwise, as possible. Sometimes, though, there are things that are needed or desired for which the money isn't there.
Everyone agrees there is a huge value in athletes having a personal stake in their program by raising money through the sale of various items such as pizzas, discount cards and other common products.
All student-athletes possess a strong desire to have the best tools possible to achieve as much success as possible. Perhaps the only people whose interest level is even greater than that of the participants in assuring the quality of the high school opportunities would be the parents of those student-athletes.
Hence, many schools have strong parent booster clubs to supplement what the schools and athletes do -- and Putnam County is no exception.
The Greencastle Football Parents Club was formed in 2015, with a self-described mission to "provide financial support for the equipment needs of the Greencastle High School Football program and to engage parents and community members in the football program."
The Tiger Cub program has a strong tradition, dating back to the era of Indiana Football Hall of Fame coach John Fallis, with a string of consecutive seasons from 2011-13 in which the team went 26-6.
Greencastle fell off to 3-7 in 2014 and 1-9 in 2015, and whether that brief decline inspired the booster club's birth is unknown.
A move into the much stronger Western Indiana Conference also undoubtedly played a big role in the creation of the group, with such larger opponents as Northview, Owen Valley, Edgewood and Sullivan looming as better foes than in the previous West Central Conference.
The fact that Greencastle also fields a team in every IHSAA sport, with the exception of gymnastics, also makes the need for additional revenue imperative with the many additional bodies who need to be transported, put in uniforms and have equipment provided for them.
Whatever the reason, current Greencastle coach Mike Meyer is glad the group is around.
"They do a great job of making the experience of playing football at GHS a very positive one for the players," Meyer said. "They do fundraising, which is more visible, but they also do some of the little things that some people don't see."
Meyer noted doing some sprucing up work around John Fallis Field this fall and providing snacks and meals for players as two of the hidden, yet important, tasks the group has undertaken.
"It's something the parents want to be a part of," he said. "This day and age, with limited budgets, they make it possible."
The parents' club had a dinner/auction on Saturday night, coordinated by Melissa Winslow, with about 160 parents and fans in attendance.
Gary Williams, president of the GFPC, said early estimates are that the event raised more than $11,000.
Several big ticket items -- such as a Larry Bird autographed jersey, kayaks, a big screen TV and tickets to major sporting events -- drew big attention from the crowd.
It always helps to know people, too. Greencastle principal Russ Hesler, Bird's college roommate, was instrumental in getting the jersey and Pacer tickets from the team's current president.
One of the biggest purchases by the GFPC was an end-zone camera capable of being elevated to a height where coaches can get a much different viewpoint than from the traditional locations such as the sideline or press box.
"It's gives us the ability to do a lot of teaching from the back side, especially for linemen," Meyer said. "We can see the holes much better from that angle.
"It's a great teaching tool," he added. "Sometimes when you don't have it, you notice how much you miss it when it's not available."
Both North Putnam and South Putnam have Quarterback Clubs, which their program head coaches consider as important to the overall operation.
"It's huge," North Putnam coach Greg Barrett said. "They do a great job, and we have great parent support."
Barrett noted that his Quarterback Club had a pre-season hog roast fundraiser, as well as selling team apparel and other amenities such as yard signs.
"Every little bit helps," Barrett said. "The fund raising helps take stress off the school, and groups like this are critical to everybody's program.
"You have to have great parent support. Normally when you have great parents you have great kids, and that's the case with us."
South Putnam Nathan Aker has similar thoughts on his team's Quarterback Club.
"They are very important to us, and they do an outstanding job of raising funds," Aker said. "They feed the kids after every game and on Thursday nights after practice, help with uniform purchases and practice pack purchases."
Aker noted that sometimes a "big ticket item" can help the program, the Quarterback Club steps in.
He was able to purchase an end-zone camera after his players sold discount cards for local merchants.
"They have bought blocking sleds, Hudl subscriptions and all sorts of different things," Aker added. "They roll up their sleeves to sell concessions during truck pulls and home games, they put on a golf scramble and a cornhole tournament and whatever else they can."
Cloverdale coach Tony Meyer differs with his colleagues on parent booster clubs, and his school does not have one.
"We had a pizza fundraiser like Greencastle did, and we made a nice chunk of change on that," said Meyer, brother of the Greencastle coach. "We are trying to do the minimalist approach [in terms of fund raising]. Some of what gets done is excessive, and I don't see the need for that."
Meyer said his program receives money from the operation of the concession stand, and tremendous support from principal Sonny Stoltz and athletic director J.J. Wade in addition to his school's "awesome" maintenance department.
"This year they got us our own freestanding locker room, separate from the school and for football only," Meyer said. "That's been great for the kids."
Meyer also gave credit to Endeavor Communications, who hooked up the new locker room with free Internet service and will also be providing free WiFi to fans at home games this year.
While his brother's program will reap the benefits of Saturday night's huge fundraiser, Tony Meyer does not think he could duplicate such an event -- and has no plans to do so.
"You're talking about two very different socioeconomic communities," he said. "I don't think we could do something like that here, and I don't think you need a whole stockpile of money.
"If you keep it simple, and work on basic needs, you can get along just fine."