Tracking Creative Solutions
Sometimes, although a track and field facility is desperately needed, it simply doesn't make it onto an administration's list of priorities. At the University of New Mexico, Head Men's and Women's Coach Mark Henry encountered that scenario, and for him, the solution was to look elsewhere for help. After his pleas for a facility upgrade fell on deaf ears within his department, Henry turned his focus outside the university and found the assistance he needed in some nontraditional places: city council.
"We had difficulties getting the administration to agree to upgrades, and we were using the same surface that was poured in 1986," says Henry, who retired after the 2007 season. "I eventually went to the administration and told them, 'I understand you can't help me right now, but I'd like to go out on my own and raise money for the upgrades.' That way, I knew I wasn't stepping on any toes."
Henry didn't turn first to businesses for fundshe looked to lawmakers. "We had some friends in the state legislature, and they got us $500,000 that we used to put in a new jumps area," he says. "We had another good friend on city council, and when we came across an opportunity to purchase a track surface at a greatly reduced price, they helped us get the funding," he continues. "The track was supposed to go to an indoor facility in Los Angeles, but the buyer backed out. The company offered it to us for half price, and the city got the money together and purchased it."
State and local legislators can be an untapped resource for coaches, according to Henry. "Don't be afraid to ask them for help," he says. "Each one of them has quite a bit of money earmarked for local projects. Tell them that a track facility isn't just a project to benefit your team or your school, but that the community will be able to use it also."
After Henry secured state and city help with the project, he turned to contacts he had made in the community for additional funding. "I started looking around town for people or organizations that wanted to help track and field," he says. "Through various projects we've developed quite a few construction and plumbing friends, and we asked if they could help. One of the companies helped us move our high jump and pole vault equipment from the old track to the indoor track, saving us about $10,000.
"We really ended up with a great asset to the community," he continues. "We're able to hold home meets there and a number of high school state meets and the Great Southwest meet are held there as well. The track has now become one of the best in the Southwest."
This article originally appeared in the September 2007 Track issue of Coaching Management, Fundraising For Sports' sister publication.