What Everyone Needs To Know About Pay-to-Participate


Sydney McCabe, Staff Writer

Pay to participate is a well-debated and often discussed topic in Dover. I never really understood why we paid to participate because it seemed so simple to come up with new ideas on ways to lower the cost for families who struggle financially. In reality, there’s almost always more to it; in this case, there definitely is.

I understand and agree with the people who truly have legitimate reasons to be upset at pay-to-participate. However, in a recent interview with our athletic director, Mr. Tim McCrate, I found out that the district placed a levy on the ballot that gave the community the choice of either passing a levy or implementing pay to participate.  So now you might be thinking it’s unfair to people who voted for pay-to-participate, but in the case of a democracy, the majority rules. Even if the majority is only the majority by a 2% margin (ex- 51% to 49%).

When I first thought about this funding problem, I used a hypothetical girls’ basketball team with Dover’s prices as an example. Let’s say there are 20 girls total, for half of them this is the first sport of the year. So, they’re paying $150. For the second half, it’s their second sport so they pay $75, and that’s 10 times $150 plus 10 times $75. In total, that comes to $2250. According to Mr. McCrate, the cost of pay to participate covers coaches’ salaries and busing only. Everything else comes from the Mothers’ Club, general school funds, etc.

So now let’s discuss the actual funding and costs that go into a sport. Pay-to-participate covers, as previously stated, coaches’ pay and busing. The hypothetical $2250 doesn’t cover that so where do the rest of their salary and other such things come from? It comes from general school funds, which in some people’s opinion, it should come from there anyways because the coaches are employees of the school and the school provides busing, so why do we pay for it? As for Mothers’ Club, the money that the organization raises goes to things the athletes can keep; to put it simply, they cover warm-up shirts, etc. The money that the Club has is entirely from fundraising such as concession stands, t-shirt sales, etc.

That being said you might still wonder why we pay to participate if almost every cost of a sports program is already paid for, in one way or another. I wonder too, I’m not taking a stance here, and I’m only a student, so I don’t have access to every piece of information but from my understanding and multiple interviews, it seems the easiest and most efficient way to pay for teams without taking money from other funds.

What about ticket sales? I never had the chance to confirm for certain where that money goes, but we charge all ages the same high prices for tickets, and they’ve recently moved to almost fully online sales which have a “processing and handling” fee. Assuming that since the money isn’t fundraised, it doesn’t go to the Mothers’ Club it should go straight to paying for busing and coaches’ pay.

I asked coaches for their opinions on pay-to-participate. First, I talked to the assistant girls’ varsity basketball team’s Coach Rikki Metcalf who helped with providing numbers and also said she understands pay to participate since “Dover does a pretty good job at keeping the costs low.” I do agree that the prices could be a lot higher but I also feel they could possibly be lower.

I also talked to the Assistant girl’s JV basketball coach, health and PE teacher, Coach Zobel, who had this to say, “When athletes have to pay I think some feel they should be guaranteed to play time but the goal is still to be competitive so that means there will be athletes paying to sit the bench, which can be a hard pill to swallow.” I asked her about fundraising as well, she said, “A lack of funds should never be something that prohibits a player from being able to participate on a team, though, and I believe if that were the case that there are donors who would pay their fees.” She also said her husband had a good idea that I also think should be looked into, “Talking with my husband about these things too, he had the suggestion that local businesses might be willing to sponsor a team. Jerseys could promote those businesses and signage around the facility where the team plays. (I just said community businesses already make a lot of donations for our school/students too, so I don’t know if they could do more but a good thought.)”

She brought up a few things to mind that I never thought of. I’d first like to say, I agree with paying for the opportunity to play. It never says anything about guaranteed playing time when you sign up, even if it’s a little frustrating to sit on the bench. I do think you should at least get to play sometime, no matter how minuscule, cause if not, what’s the point? It’s discouraging. I also agree that money shouldn’t ever stop a child from taking an opportunity they have.

Keeping all this in mind, $150 doesn’t sound too bad anymore. I still think there are ways to completely cut that cost if we wanted to. It will just take some time and creativity. Pay-to-participate makes sense on the surface because you need money to pay for things, and where do you get that money? The people that pay. However, taking even a slightly closer look will reveal there are more ways to handle funding for sports programs. Taking ideas from people who pay and those from higher up combined with looking at how other schools manage not paying to participate would be a good start. It’s just a matter of if those who can make changes are willing to make the changes and do what’s needed to help the students’ families.