Not sure about you, but it came as quite a surprise to me when the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) recently announced that it is facing a budget deficit this year of $407,000. I found this surprising because I guess I just took for granted that the MSHSL was a fairly well-oiled machine, capable of putting on sporting events in perpetuity. Sadly, we’ve come to find out that’s apparently not the case.
This unprecedented shortfall is said to be due to a combination of factors including expanded classes in three sports, a significant decrease in sponsorships, tournament ticket sales, budget revenue projections that are not expected to be met and a $250,000 investment to update what League Executive Director Erich Mertens called, the league’s “Outdated data systems and website.”
Mertens went on to say that he would be soliciting ideas from school activities directors for dealing with the budget shortfall, but the ideas initially floated by the MSHSL are predictable.
Mertens was quoted in the Mpls. Star-Tribune as saying, “The MSHSL is reviewing all aspects of expenses and seeking cost containment in all areas. We are seeking efficiencies in management of tournaments, while maintaining the quality experience for all student participants.”
And that’s what it’s all about, right? Maintaining the quality experience for all participants.
I recall my mom, who lived through both the Great Depression and World War II, complaining loudly about the cost to play sports as she dutifully wrote out checks. This was back in the late 70’s, and while I can’t remember how much it costed to play, I know exactly what I got out of the experiences. I learned about the pride of representing my school and community, the value in practicing to reach a common goal, the struggle that is a part of any athletic competition, and I formed friendships that will last a lifetime. There are many options for kids in high school and each is beneficial in its own way, but few things can bond a school community more than high school athletics.
So, what is the MSHSL going to do address its significant budget shortfall? According to Executive Director Mertens, the league is doing a cost/benefit analysis of whether to charge at all events. The league is also going to make an effort to increase the number of sponsors and the revenue from current sponsors, and of course, raise activity fees and admission prices.
Standard stuff, right? Executive Director Mertens: you didn’t ask, but may I make a suggestion?
I’m just a “Baby Boomer,” but if you believe the website, www.gofundme.com claims you can get started in as little as 30 seconds. Yup. I think the MSHSL should set up a GoFundMe account to address its budget deficit.
Consider that more than 240,000 kids played high school sports in Minnesota in the 2018-19 school year. If you asked each of them to donate $1, and if they did (they all won’t I know, but stay with me..), we’d be more than halfway to solving the problem.
Consider if you asked anybody who’s ever played high school sports in Minnesota to donate $1 (they might, and maybe some would donate more than $1?!), we could not only wipe out that deficit, but maybe we could keep the current kids from having to pay more to play, and help their folks and fellow students from having to pay more to see them play too.
I can’t believe I’m the only one who appreciated what I got out of the opportunity to play high school sports, and I very much want kids to continue to have those same opportunities. So, I think if you ask for a little help from those who have reaped the rewards from the experiences you provide, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the response.
There’s my contribution, just don’t ask me to set up the GoFundMe account for you, like I said, I’m a “Baby-Boomer,” I’m sure you can find a high school kid who’d be more than happy to do it for you.