Magic Number Five
A softball team from Central New York raises more than $50,000 over a five-year period to fund its annual spring break trip to help build team chemistry and prepare them for their future careers.
by Danielle Catalano
Each year for the last five years, the Tompkins-Cortland County Community College (TC3) fastpitch softball team has raised more than $11,000 to fund the Lady Panthers spring break trip to Cocoa Beach, Florida. The team participates in the annual Cocoa Expo Sports College Softball Spring Training. Over a five-day period, the team plays 10 teams from across the nation at various levels of college athletics, but more importantly, says Head Coach Brent Doane, the trip is used to enhance team chemistry.
"Because our roster changes every year and many of athletes don t have the same daily schedules, this trip is as much a team-bonding trip as it is a skill-build trip," he says, adding the money raised covers all team expenses, excluding the entry fees.
DYNAMICS OF DIVERSITY
"We re constantly fundraising," says Doane. "But, considering the circumstances, we re also very fortunate. We re the only ones to raise this kind of money in the athletic department. The program has been around the longest and we ve been very successful in the [Mid-Atlantic) Conference so our name is out there. But I think what also helps with our fundraising is how diverse our team is."
TC3 is a two-year, Regional-III school of the National Junior College Athletic Association. It is located in Central New York, which is where the majority of athletes call home. However, that majority is slim, as Doane recruits athletes throughout New York, northern Pennsylvania, and western Connecticut. These athletes in particular live in on-campus housing.
"This is handy, especially when we sell candy bars and donuts," says Doane. "The athletes who live on campus, hit that crowd, and the other players hit the local communities. While each group is fundraising, they re also promoting the program to a variety of populations, such as faculty members, student, familiesnot their ownand coworkers, which further increases our recognition.
"Also," Doane continues, "when we sell our holiday gifts, the players who are going home to Buffalo or Albany for Thanksgiving or Christmas, bring their forms home, too. Often times, they visit their old high schools or former coaches and teammates, talk about our softball program, and then the people will buy something from the player."
Since many of the Lady Panthers are playing softball right after high school, Doane says they are already used to fundraising and understand the personal gains fundraising can afford them.
"From their past experiences, the player knows the money raised will be applied toward something that can ultimately benefit them academically," he says. "Some players have opportunities to earn athletic scholarships at the D-II, D-I-AA levels, after they graduate TC3 and transfer into a four-year school. That undercurrent motivates them to improve their athletic performances, which is what the trip tries do and why we play so many talented teams down there."
The team starts fundraising in mid-October with $1 candy bar sales. By the winter holiday season, the players will have finished selling a selected gift item (this year was candles) and work the concessions stands at the men s and women s home basketball games.
The team next sells 50-50 raffle and prize tickets and holds a "Black-Tie Non-Event". This "event" entails each athlete sending 15 cards to friends and family asking for a small monetary donation. "We ve done this for two years now, and it has become our most successful fundraiser, bringing in several thousands of dollars," says Doane.
FIVE AND DONE
To make sure academics is not forgotten in the mix, Doane is methodical about how he organizes each fundraiser. "Our philosophy is the same as the college s: Do what we can so the women can further their academic and career achievements," he says. "While we re constantly fundraising, you can t ask the student to do the same. That s not why they re here, and that s where our diversity becomes an important.
"Different athletes are mingling with different crowds, and we can rotate the concessions schedules so players have time to themselves," Doane adds. "The Non-Event is not too time-consuming, because players spend one night preparing all their cards. We may hold a donut sale in early spring, but that s about it.
"We keep it to five easy fundraisers a year," Doane continues. "Between school and softball, we can t ask the players to dedicate anymore of their time to this."