Lending a Hand
With the opening of a new high school, the athletic program at Loudoun Valley High School found itself split in two. Half of its student-athletes--and their booster parents--moved to the new Woodgrove High School on the edge of town. To start their rivalry on the right foot, the two booster clubs created a partnership that helped turn a potentially divisive battle into a positive for the community.
By Kenny Berkowitz
After more than a decade of increasing enrollment, Virginia's Loudoun County Public Schools opened Woodgrove High School in September 2010, quickly filling it with students from Loudoun Valley High School, known locally as "Valley." Having two high schools in Purcellville solved Valley's overcrowding problem, but dividing the school in half created some issues of its own.
"It's been tough for Purcellvillle overall," says John Sullivan, President of the Loudoun Valley Viking Athletic Association (LVVAA), the booster organization that supports Valley. "Splitting our school put us in a difficult situation, and as much as we like having a new rival across town, competition can sometimes be destructive to a community. So we decided to do everything we could to reach out to Woodgrove and embrace the change."
In the months before the split, Sullivan began meeting with Scott Carpenter, his counterpart in the new Woodgrove Wolverine Athletic Booster Club (WWABC). The two presidents shared advice about bylaws, organizational structure, fundraising, and equipment purchases. Then, to give their rivals a running start, the LVVAA dipped into its treasury to donate $1,200 worth of new equipment to the Wolverines concession stands.
"They were starting at zero, and we knew they were cash-strapped trying to start their business," says Sullivan. "So we made this goodwill gesture to help them get off the ground. It's like when someone moves in next door--you bring over a cake and welcome them to the neighborhood."
Over the course of this first season, Sullivan and Carpenter have stayed in touch, exchanging ideas on concessions, printing programs, and advertising schedules. Sullivan has also used Carpenter's example to reach out to athletic boosters at other schools, which has led to an expanded network of contacts and Valley's first full-color sports program.
Throughout the process, Sullivan and Carpenter have had the support of their principals and athletic directors. As expected, adding a second school has increased competition for local ad sales--but it also produced a new record for single-game attendance when the two football teams met for the first time. "The stands on both sides of the field were completely full, and the crowd was four people deep all around the fence," says Sullivan. "It was a great success, and people were able to see that through this rivalry, both schools are going to be better.
"At the end of the day, we're all neighbors," he continues. "Our ties to each other and to the community are stronger than anything that could divide us."
Kenny Berkowitz is an Assistant Editor at MomentumMedia Sports Publishing. He can be reached at: email@example.com.