NEW ULM - With tough economic times hitting everyone including school budgets, the New Ulm High School Soccer Booster Club may just be ahead of the times when it comes to difficulties dealing with costs.
The New Ulm high school soccer program has been around since 2006, and thanks to the booster club, it's in a unique situation not seen by the other sports in town.
The booster club is in charge of raising money for the New Ulm High School Soccer program. That program is hosted by District 88 (New Ulm High School) but it includes student-athletes from all three New Ulm High Schools: New Ulm Cathedral, Minnesota Valley Lutheran, and New Ulm Public.
Journal file photo of New Ulm Boys and Girls High School Soccer.
Dan Braam serves as the Vice President of the New Ulm Youth Soccer Association and is the liaison for the high school and the booster club for high school soccer. He's been a member of the booster club since 2009 and is well aware of the financial situation of the soccer program.
"I wasn't on the board back then and it was back in 2006, but my understanding was a group from the New Ulm Soccer Association approached District 88 about starting a high school soccer program," Braam said. "Not unlike today, the district was looking at the funding situation being kind of short, so they agreed to take it on only if it was funded outside of the district."
From there, the soccer association was able to raise some money to start up the program and the costs associated with it, such as travel, uniforms, equipment and other necessary expenses for the program.
New Ulm soccer booster club members
Gail Thoreson - President
Sheri Melville - Treasurer
Dan Braam - NUHS/NUAYSA liaison
In the first year, the soccer association contributed money for the cost of the program and since then they've been raising about $8,000 for 2011 with fundraisers to keep soccer a high school sport.
"We do the pancake breakfast and we've sold soccer-related apparel like shirts and t-shirts," Braam said. "We've participated with the Herbergers community days, there's a variety of things that I think they've done in the past."
Braam said that the players get involved with the fundraisers and that helps them appreciate how the program is run and helps them give back to the community and to the program.
"I think at the pancake breakfast, the kids were the servers and they were making it all happen," Braam said.
It's no secret that budgets at high schools are becoming a concern. However, the New Ulm High School Booster Club may have helped itself out in keeping the sport of high school soccer from being in danger of being eliminated due to budget cuts by raising money for its own program. Braam thinks that with the current way the soccer program is set up (with the booster club funding it), perhaps it could be a sample for other school activities to consider when trying to keep their programs going.
"I feel that when they're having discussions about that, when they're having discussions right now about having various activities and what to do about them - I'm not trying to say that we're exempt from it, but I think that at the same time, we're in a different position than some of those other ones [sports]," Braam said. "We've kind of faced the challenges already to know that we have to fund it."
He thinks that if necessary, booster clubs could work for other sports.
"I think that we can demonstrate that it can work in a high school setting," Braam said. "If you look at soccer, comparatively speaking, it's a rather inexpensive sport and we're very fortunate in New Ulm with our affiliation with MLC [Martin Luther College], they've just been excellent to work with in allowing us to use their facilities at a very nominal cost. So that really helps diminish the fees the district would have for practice facilities and game fields."
The soccer program is also unique in that it allows athletes from the three high schools in town to come together as one, allowing them to meet other students their own age that they normally wouldn't get a chance to have contact with on an everyday basis.
"I think it's a tremendous community resource," Braam said. "These kids become friends and they have a shared interest in the soccer program and in sports and they tear down these walls and these notions that they go to different schools - they'll go to practice and talk about these subjects, whether it be in English or math and they can kind of start comparing notes. It shows that they have so much more in common."