Back in the Game
In South Texas, former high school football players are returning to the gridiron after being away for as long as 35 years. The reason? To raise money for high school athletics. At Robstown High School, Arturo Gonzalez explains how a series on contests against other school's alumni will raise money for his alma mater's football boosters.
By Arturo Gonzalez
Robstown High School '95
Robstown (Texas) Cotton Pickers Alumni Football
Here in South Texas, we're very serious about football. So when we heard that people at other schools were putting together alumni football teams, we decided to form one, too. We started ours by creating a Facebook page for Robstown Cotton Pickers Alumni Football and posting a note that read:
"Hey Robstown, Texas, alumni! We are trying to set up a full padded alumni game against one of our old rivals in January! Who's down?! All proceeds go toward Robstown High School athletics! Time to give back, guys!"
The response was incredible, and within a week, we were building a roster. We had 25 people show up for the first meeting, where we talked about what we wanted to do: raise money to buy uniforms, schedule games once a month, and donate all the proceeds from tickets and concessions back to the Athletic Booster Club.
People spread the word, and we've had over 75 ex-players show up for practice. Our first game is against the alumni of Agua Dulce (Texas) High School, and it's scheduled for January 15. After that, we have a game set up for February, and we're trying to find an opponent for March. The more contests we can schedule, the more money we can raise.
We'll host the first game here at Robstown High School, because we have a bigger stadium than Agua Dulce. We're expecting a huge turnout, with at least 5,000 or 6,000 people showing up. We want to bring out as many people as we can, so we're planning to charge $5 at the door and $6 for reserved seating. The booster club will handle the ticket booth and the concession stands.
As soon as we started forming the team, the whole community got behind us. We have the support of the school superintendent, who's helping us use the facilities we need to practice and workout. A group of Robstown band alumni are coming together to play at our games, and the cheerleading alumni have promised to be there cheering for us.
We've connected with the current players, too. They come to our practices, watch us, and tell us what we're doing wrong. So far, we've done all our own coaching, but now that football season is finished, a couple of the assistant coaches are free to help us at practices. Athletic Director Doug Wood has been great all along, helping with anything we need.
It's been a long time since I played football, so practices are a beating, but it's great to get back in shape, reconnect with teammates, and meet other alumni. Training with the younger guys has been an incredible experience. They've got a lot of energy and a lot of speed. They want to be in every play, so old guys like me let them.
I graduated in 1995, which puts me at the older end of our roster. The oldest player on the team graduated in 1975--he's our punter and field goal kicker. The youngest guy graduated last year, so the age range of the team is wide open.
Loaning equipment is against the rules of the University Interscholastic League (UIL), so we're buying all our own, and if we don't raise enough money, we'll rent whatever we need. We've raised about $6,000, which covered our jerseys, pants, and belts. We need another $4,000 for pads and football helmets, so right now, our focus is on fundraising, fundraising, fundraising. I went to businesses around town and dropped off flyers asking for monetary donations, which got us started. We're selling T-shirts, too, and people are helping out however they can.
There are five of us organizing this team, and it's a lot of work. The other four are responsible for running practices, and I'm the one who's going to businesses, getting donations, and ordering uniforms. We're donating a bunch of time to this team, but it's well worth it. With the money we raise, we'll be able to buy new equipment, support our student-athletes, and help our future players. That's the reason why we're doing this: to help our school district and the kids in our community.