SEO High School Football Battles for Funding to Uphold Tradition< < Back to
High school football means everything to schools in Southeast Ohio.
Football is a tradition. Kids are playing on the same fields that their parents and grandparents left their hearts on years before them.
Fans come out to immerse themselves in competition and feel a sense of community. During the three hours spent at a Friday night football game, everything else goes away – it is just about the game.
The Trimble High School football team in Glouster, Ohio has been to the state football championship twice since 2011. Their roster this past season included six All-State players. They were led by the Division Six Defensive Player of the Year at linebacker, Sawyer Koons.
The team plays at an elite level, despite hardly being able to afford to play the game at all.
The players lift weights in an old tractor garage, play on patchy grass, and the stadium doesn’t have restrooms, they use porta potties.
Tonya Kittle is a mother and the secretary of the Trimble High School boosters program. The boosters are currently made up of five members. Participation in the boosters has been hard to come by, but Kittle understands the importance of bringing people together for bringing success to Trimble.
Kittle and her committee work hard everyday to improve the athletic program’s resources with the little they are given to work with.
“We still don’t have locker rooms, we still don’t have bathrooms,” said Kittle. “We’re still using the porta potties and those aren’t the best option. But what we have is great and we love it.”
Most football fans expect high school football to look something like they’ve seen in the movies or on television. Shows like “Friday Night Lights” paint a picture of lit up fields with fully equipped players having only to worry about not being tackled. Sold out crowds chanting the school name and fight song, players wearing the nicest gloves and the brand new cleats.
That is a dream for a lot of high schools struggling to fundraise. Trimble high school is an example of success on the field with less than average facilities to back them up.
Players at Trimble High School have much more to worry about than just equipment, though. Their halftime locker room is less than ideal.
“Locker rooms over at the field would be nice,” said Cameron Kittle, a senior. “We’re in a boy scout room right now and the visiting team is in a tent over by the baseball dugout.”
Cameron Kittle is the senior quarterback on the Trimble football team and the son of booster secretary Tonya Kittle. He loves the game and he loves his team. Cameron says that it would be amazing to get the necessary renovations to their facilities, but he also believes that having less than others has pushed them to strive for greatness.
The athletics program for the school only has $13,000 in its budget for improvements. The renovations that it needs, however, cost substantially more.
Jerry Lackey has been Trimble’s treasurer for many years. He, like many others, knows there are many improvements to be made in Glouster, but nothing comes without a price.
“If you do it individually, you’re paying 40,000 for locker rooms, you’re paying 50,000 for restrooms,” said Lackey. “For $180,000 you could have a field house and put it all in there, but nothing moves without money.”
Trimble High School wants to buy an old building once used by Frog Ranch foods as a field house. The cost is prohibitive, though.
With hardly enough money to keep the program running to begin with, trying to build new additions on the field, even something as basic as a toilet, is out of the question.
Glouster has already put more than $600,000 into the athletics program through taxes. For an impoverished area, asking for more is not realistic.
“We’re one of the poorest, well, the poorest township in the state of Ohio,” said Lackey. “We’ve tapped them for $625,000, I think we’ve reached our max.”
Since there is no more money to be had from taxes nor the district, some parents have taken the problem on for themselves.
Booster mom Tonya Kittle said they can grow together as a community.
“That’s the thing about Trimble, smalltown, people work together,” said Kittle. “We’re fortunate to have people willing to help out when we need it.”
Kittle and other volunteers are a part of why Trimble players have what they have although it may be little.
She and other parents work the concession stands at football games, fundraise, and often pitch in to help buy equipment for players who can’t afford it as a part of the Trimble Athletic Boosters.
Mike Smith is the head football coach at Wellston High School. Smith has only been in Wellston for a year, but he works everyday to recruit players for their 40 member team even if they think they cannot afford to play.
“We find a way to pay for it,” said Smith. “If you have to pay for it out of pocket that’s what you have to do.”
Wellston High School is lucky compared to Trimble.
The “Rise Up” program chooses four high schools across the country and gives them the necessary renovations for their facilities. Although most of the renovations were cosmetic, the changes gave the team, as well as the community, hope.
“They may not have 50 dollars in their pockets, but they do have that sweatshirt,” said Smith. “And with that sweatshirt they look just like the guy that does have 50 dollars in their pocket. It’s about the kids.”
Most fans who come out for Friday night football under the lights don’t realize the cost that goes into the game. A single high school home football game can cost thousands of dollars to put on for even the smallest of schools.
These expenses include paying for security, getting equipment for each player and doing whatever is necessary to keep up the facilities. Even with district taxes and pay to play fees this is not enough money to fund the full athletic program at schools like Trimble.
Football is the second most expensive interscholastic sport. A helmet alone can range from 200 to 350 dollars. It is not easy for parents of athletes in Southeast Ohio especially knowing that bigger schools with bigger budgets never have to pay those out of pocket expenses.
However, for the people in Glouster it is not about the money or the glamour. It is about carrying on a tradition that has been passed through generations and the happiness that runs throughout the town as the boys of fall take the field on a Friday night.
When the music is playing out of the speakers and the stadium is rocking for the Tomcats, the intensity and passion is at its highest in Glouster.
“When you see the kids come over the bridge and you talk to the kids, it’s amazing what you see,” said Lackey. “The smile, the twinkle, you know that look like man this is awesome.”
Football is a part of history in Glouster along with many other schools across this impoverished region. The hardship and struggles have nothing on the community and the families that this sport creates.