Seaside's sports programs are feeling the pinch of district-wide budget cuts.

But, thanks to the generosity and diligence of the community, all fall middle school and high school sports are fully funded, and supporters are working to secure funding for middle school winter and spring sports.

When Seaside High School Athletic Director Jason Boyd heard last spring that the Seaside School District had to make $1.5 million in budget cuts, he  knew that sports funding would need to change drastically.

The high school and middle school athletic programs were looking at a combined deficit of $123,000, including $48,000 for the middle school and $75,000 for the high school.

Boyd said he felt raising $123,000 was "too much to ask" of the community.

Despite a $35,000 contribution from the boosters club, and the elimination of seven coaching positions, Boyd still needed $10,000 to pay for high school athletics. To bridge the gap, he raised the participation fee for high school sports from $100 to $125.

“For the high school, it’s going to be the new normal,” Boyd said of the increased fees.

On the middle school side, the Broadway Parent Teacher Organization and the boosters each kicked in $10,000.

After middle school participation fees, that leaves between $16,000 and $26,000 left to be raised. 

“We felt it was a doable amount for the community,” Boyd said.

The community has responded: Boyd and others at the high school have made funding middle school sports their top priority. With the help of some committed citizens, they are well on their way to funding all sports for the 2013-14 school year.

“Right now, we want to make sure the middle school funding is intact,” Boyd said. "We want our middle school kids to have something to do after school."

This is a common refrain from the administration, one echoed by piles of data: sports – along with other extracurricular activities – are instrumental to student retention.

“Our No. 1 dropout prevention is high school athletics," said Jeff Roberts, assistant principal and head football coach at Seaside High School. “We get a lot of kids, high-risk kids, who often don't come from the best circumstances ... (Sports) are a huge motivator for a lot of kids.”

Seaside High School and Broadway Middle School Principal Sheila Roley believes that athletics can benefit students in myriad ways.

“It's across the board,” she said. “For students to be involved in healthy activities after school, it’s really important.”

For students to see these benefits, it helps to get them involved from an early age, which is why funding middle school sports has become a point of focus.

“The discussion was always centered on middle school athletics,” Roberts said.

When the budget decisions were made, funding middle school sports was reduced – not cut completely. They stayed in the budget as line items, but no money was allocated, Roberts said.

The distinction may seem inconsequential, but it meant this: There could still be middle school sports, but they would simply require outside funding.

That's where the community stepped in.

“Steve Olstedt and the Utti family are integral to keeping middle school sports alive,” Roberts said. Olstedt is a former boosters club president whose kids have attended Seaside schools.

His daughter, Marla Olstedt, a former athlete and 2008 Seaside High School graduate, is the marketing director for the Uttis’ TD & M Enterprises, which owns the Seaside Fultano's, Twisted Fish and several other area establishments.

“We're really focusing on middle school sports now,” Marla Olstedt said. “It's what kids at these ages thrive on.”

Olstedt, who played basketball, soccer and ran track, said the community’s fundraising efforts can assuage some of the uncertainty for middle school athletes.

“Every moment doesn't have to be, ‘Are they going to cut this or cut that?”’ Olstedt said.

TD & M's primary marketing effort thus far has been a massive raffle: Tickets are $1, and, at a drawing at the Oct. 10 homecoming football game against Astoria, the first-prize recipient will take home $1,000; the second place winner will receive $500.

Olstedt and her colleagues sold raffle tickets during the Hood to Coast Relay and at the schools’ open houses. They also will be selling tickets and offering pizza specials at the Seaside Fultano’s after every home Seaside High School football game, from 9 p.m. to midnight.

Each Friday night will highlight a different fall sports program: first football, then girls soccer, volleyball, cross country and boys soccer.

“We hope that Fultano's becomes a place for athletes to come after their game and celebrate,” Olstedt said.

Those in the administration think that the community can step up and ensure that middle school sports programs stay funded.

“I feel confident that we'll have middle school athletics,” Jeff Roberts said. “I certainly feel comfortable with it.”

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