Groveport rallying to save its sports
Groveport Madison High School athletics programs are trying to overcome the loss of several coaches and funding after a 7.08-mill, five-year levy for emergency requirements barely failed May 7.
The $5.5-million levy would have cost homeowners about $217 a year per $100,000 of property value. It lost by 12 votes (1,639-1,627) after an official automatic recount.
"The community and parental support we have received has been fabulous as we try to maintain our athletic programs," athletics director Steve Petros said. "I kind of expected people would unite and pull together through this because it's a great community."
Still, there will be no boys golf program this fall.
"We have lost golf and it looks like we will lose boys and girls cross country right now, too, although that's still up in the air," Petros said. "We have maintained girls tennis and boys and girls soccer (as club teams)."
Groveport will fund one boys sport and one girls sport each season throughout the school year. In the fall, football and girls volleyball will be funded. In the winter, boys basketball and girls basketball will be funded. In the spring, the sports are baseball and softball.
All other sports will be club sports. To gain that status, a sport needs to be self-sufficient, paying operational costs such as transportation, game officials and supplies.
All club sports will have volunteer, unpaid coaches and must have a board of directors -- a president, vice president and treasurer and/or secretary.
A pair of parents will guide the boys soccer team, with Ron Jones serving as coach and Tom Snyder as assistant coach.
"We've done pretty well raising funds and the enthusiasm is there, so things are good so far," Jones said. "Our kids have to pay about $160 each to play. We've had a genuine effort from everyone and have a five-member board. We sold coupon packs and had car washes.
"My son, Jacob Jones, has been playing all the way through the system, so for him and the older guys, not being able to play this year would have been tough. We've got 26 players, so we have a varsity and junior varsity team."
A new OHSAA bylaw also put an extra hurdle in the way for the soccer programs. Home jerseys must now be solid white and socks also must be solid white. The color of the shorts does not matter. Visiting teams must wear dark colors.
"We had to order new home uniforms to comply, but the boosters helped us with that and we got a nice contract with Nike," Jones said. "So we had to raise a bit more and we were able to do that to get new jerseys."
Jones replaces Deke Scott, who guided the Cruisers to an 8-8-1 record last year in his 12th season as coach.
"I would've continued to coach on a volunteer basis if I was still teaching, but when the levy was defeated I also lost my position as a health and physical education teacher," Scott said. "As of right now, there's a chance I could continue teaching in the school system, but with the uncertainty last spring, I felt it was best to let them know I wouldn't be coaching.
"I have told the boys and the coaches that if they need help with something, they can come to me. But I also don't want to step on anyone's toes. I don't want to interfere."
Not much has changed for the funded sports.
"We still have the pay-to-participate system in our funded sports and it remains $150 per athlete per sport and there is no cap," Petros said. "What has really tickled me is to see the athletes of funded sports out there supporting their friends at fundraisers for the club sports."
Although no longer directly involved, Scott also has seen how the parents and community have stepped up.
"What has really been outstanding is the way the parents have rallied behind the boys," he said. "Before, the funds in the boosters were low and there was not a great deal of support. Now, these parents have really stepped up and they're all getting involved and doing great things. They've been tremendous."
All Groveport teams, including the club teams, will continue to compete in their respective leagues, playing full league schedules. Most teams compete in the OCC-Ohio Division.
"The athletes are invested, working hard and excited to be able to compete," Petros said. "Despite the challenges, it's still great to be a Cruiser."