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Tennis Marathon

In August, the members of the Friendswood (Tex.) High School freshman, j.v., and varsity tennis teams hit the court for 48-hours straight, to raise money for the program. Their efforts were well served, with the total amount raised totaling more than $12,000.

The Friendswood High School Tennis team has held a 48-hour Tennis Marathon in August, before school starts up, for the past several years. The team only conducts the fundraiser every other year, in order to keep the community and team members from tiring of the event.

"There are so many fundraisers run by different athletic teams," says Event Chairman Jay Milton. "I think we've continued with this event because it is a bit different from what the other teams do, and it's fun for the players. But we don't want everyone to get burnt out from it, so we alternate years."

The marathon begins on a Friday evening and concludes the following Sunday. The event's simple concept is fun for the teams, as well as community members--someone has to be playing on the court at all times during the event, even overnight. 

For the fundraising aspect, the club askes local businesses and community members to sponsor the event at four levels: Tennis Friend ($25), Silver ($50), Gold ($100), and Platinum ($200+). Along with the sponsorships, the marathon features a silent auction to raise funds, and community members who come out to play are asked to contribute a donation.

Each member of the tennis teams is required to attend, but they do not have to stay for the whole event. "We had four-hour shifts with players and parents at each shift," Milton says. "The student-athletes cannot be unsupervised during the Tennis Marathon, since it's considered a school function. So we had a minimum of two parents signed up for each shift, and four players.

"The late night shift obviously appealed to the older players," he continues. "One of my sons is a senior, and he chose to work a shift from midnight to 4 a.m. This was his second time participating in the marathon, and he had a lot of fun with it."

Along with dividing the players' shifts, the planning and preparation was delegated. "I headed the whole thing up, and worked in tandem with the head tennis coach," Milton says. "The Friendswood Mustang Booster Club handled the monetary aspects. Then the event's committee had someone who was responsible for a silent auction held during the event; someone to handle the work logs and schedules; and someone who organized the student-athletes to go out in the community to drum up sponsorships and donations."
 
Getting the event underway started in May, before school let out for the summer. That way, the organizers were able to send an e-mail message through the school's announcement system, letting parents and student-athletes know about the marathon and the expectations for the tennis players' and parents' help.

Next, the players went out into the community to solicit funds. "We started publicizing it through the players in the latter part of June," Milton says. "We were about seven or eight weeks out when they took informational flyers to solicit donations.
 
"But we didn't put up our event advertisements until about two weeks before the marathon," he continues. "We wanted that to stay fresh in people's minds. We also had a few yard signs printed that we placed at strategic locations near the school at that point."

Setting up was quick, taking only a few hours before the marathon's first serve. "We used a pop-up tent, and there's a pavilion on-site at the school's tennis courts, so we were able to utilize that," Milton says. "We set up the silent auction items there, along with bidding sheets and the boxes to put bids into. We also had food and drinks stationed nearby."

The silent auction was held throughout the event and concluded at the end of the marathon. Its spread featured an array of items that had been donated by individuals and businesses within the community.
 
"We had an iPad; cookwear; tennis bags, racquets, and lessons; spa and chiropractice treatments; dental whitening; and several other items and services," Milton says. "The person working on it went to all of the parents and asked them if they knew someone who would prefer donating something for the silent auction rather than donating cash for the event. It worked out very well."

In addition to the silent auction, the marathon featured a two-hour exhibition clinic put on by a local tennis club. "It was free to attend and was great to watch," Milton says. "We were hoping to draw players of all levels, so they could learn something and benefit from the event."

For the remainder of the time, student-athletes were kept busy on the court--either playing against themselves, or community members. Altogether, there were more than 100 participants over the course of the weekend, including the 25 student-athletes. "If someone from the community came to play, we asked that they give a monetary donation," Milton says. "We didn't have an amount dictated. We just asked for a minimum of $5. 

"Some people wrote checks for $100, and others gave $20 bills," he continues. "We had a variety in the size of donations, and having that flexibility worked out really well."

For the 2014 event, Milton is planning on expanding whom the players solicit for donations. "We're in a suburb south of Houston and we've stayed pretty close to our community," he says. "This year, we had a working list for who we would solicit donations from. I think in the future, we'll do a bit more prep work and try to grow that list so we don't ask the same individuals and businesses over and over.  We want to keep the sponsors and donors from getting burnt out, as well as the players and their parents."



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