Tracking Creative Solutions
Toni McKee, Head Boys' Track and Field Coach at Campbell County High School in Alexandria, Ky., has never forgotten the sense of connection and camaraderie she felt as an athlete when she met the runners who'd gone before her at Northern Kentucky University's track and field reunion.
And when her current athletes started asking about the record holders on the plaques in the school hallways, it brought back memories for McKee, who ran with some of those record-holders when she competed for Campbell County High School. So McKee took it upon herself to organize the school's first track and field and cross country alumni reunion.
"I thought a reunion would be a fun way to introduce some history and tradition to the track and cross country programs at Campbell," McKee says. "A lot of the time alumni aren't very involved, especially at the high school level, because they don't know how to be or they've lost contact with teammates and coaches."
Reconnecting with former athletes was the first step, and McKee admits it was the hardest part of planning the reunion. Locating alumni who had moved or changed their last names after marriage was especially challenging, but by using several different avenues, McKee was able to build a database of names and addresses.
"I got in touch with some of the earlier coaches, and they were really interested in the idea of a reunion, so I asked them to help spread the word to people they were still in contact with," says McKee, who also serves as Assistant Boys' and Girls' Cross Country Coach. "I posted an announcement on our district Web site, got a couple of articles into the local newspaper, made announcements at basketball games over the winter, and sent information home with my current runners because some of them have parents or aunts and uncles who ran at Campbell."
The hard work paid off, as she got a lot of response for her efforts. Alumniincluding former head and assistant coacheswere invited to watch the current team at its biggest home meet of the season in April, then join everyone afterward for an informal social gathering.
"Groups came from the Lexington area and even West Virginiait was neat when a bunch of friends would get together and show up as a group,' McKee says. "There was a pretty good-sized group from the early '80s, and some of the women from the very first cross country team were there, too. Quite a few generations were represented, including more recent graduates, which was really pretty cool."
Alumni who couldn't attend the reunion due to prior commitments promised they would mark their calendars for next year, and McKee heard only great reviews from alumni who did attend. "A lot of them suggested having an alumni meet following the high school meet next year, so we're going to try that," she says. "It may be only four or five events, but it would be really fun to bring them back in that way."
Alumni weren't the only ones who gained from the reunion either. McKee hopes the event produced some new volunteers for home meets as well as sponsors and community members willing to help the squad when fundraising time rolls around. And best of all, her athletes were able to meet some of those whose names grace the hallway plaques.
"It's been pretty neat to touch base with older coaches and runners, especially for the kids. Now as they break those records, they can put faces with names," she says. "This event really helped to create a sense of history and pride for our athletes here. They now understand that they're not just running for their schoolthey're also running to keep something alive for the people who ran before them."
This article originally appeared in Coaching Management, Fundraising For Sport's sister publication.