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Making Money In The Mud

Eighteen teams and about 140 individuals participated in the Sequoyah High School (Madisonville, Tenn.) volleyball team's 2012 mud volleyball tournament, which was held in August. Between the $5 per person entry fee and money from concessions, the tournament raised over $1,100.

High schools teams are used to asking community members to break a sweat when helping with fundraising. But individuals who want to support the volleyball team at Sequoyah High School in Madisonville, Tenn., go beyond sweaty. For the past four years, the Lady Chiefs have held a mud volleyball tournament to raise money for equipment and uniforms, with participants signing up to get messy for a good cause.

Sequoyah Head Coach Brittany Lynn got the idea for the fundraiser from another school that held a mud volleyball tournament for players and students. At Sequoyah, Lynn keeps her players on the sidelines during the event, and only allows community members and other students to participate in the matches.

"I thought that if I just had the girls play, the community wouldn't be as involved," she says. "I want the community to be active supporters of the program, attending matches during the competitive season. This gives them a chance to come to the school, interact with the players who are helping out, and learn more about the sport by playing it. That has translated into increased fan support."

Leading up to the event, the Sequoyah team members are responsible for drumming up participation. Because many of the girls' parents are local business owners, several teams are formed from employees of those companies. Others are made up of members of the Sequoyah student body. Support for the event comes from beyond Madisonville as well--this year, a neighboring community's varsity volleyball team competed.

Event preparation begins the night before when the school's groundskeeper turns up two 30-by-60 feet areas of grass in front of the school to serve as the courts. The next morning, the fire department brings a tanker truck of water to the school and creates the mud by hosing the courts down. The tournament runs from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and the firefighters stay on hand to ensure the consistency of the mud remains right.

During the tournament, Sequoyah players serve as line judges and scorekeepers, while also working in the concession booth. Lynn, meanwhile, oversees the brackets and takes care of other housekeeping items, like ensuring the concession stand has enough change and that the girls are all working in their assigned roles.

With 18 teams participating this year, the tournament was double-elimination. Each match consisted of one set, played to 25 points, using traditional volleyball rules, while the championship match was a best of three series. Members of the winning team receive free admission to, as well as free concessions at, all Sequoyah volleyball matches during the season.

The team promotes the tournament through Facebook, the local newspaper, and word of mouth. Their efforts typically draw in hundreds of spectators. Lynn would like to see the event grow even more, with upwards of 30 teams taking part on four courts, rather than just two.

"The key to an event like this is making it possible for the school and community to show support," Lynn says. "For example, the football players always want to field a team, so we make sure the tournament is held during a weekend when there is a home football game. If the team is traveling back from a Friday night road game until 1 a.m., they're not going to want to get up early the next day to play volleyball. Including everyone who wants to take part is a critical aspect of the tournament's success."



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