In early April, I tweeted that there were five sectionals listed as TBD. This was just on the boy’s side. I viewed that as a problem. It was an even bigger problem when there were still two TBD sectionals during the last week of April. Why the unwillingness to host? I imagine there are quite a few reasons, but the following may be the root. In education, we are seeing a true issue with staffing. To go along with a general teaching shortage, it is becoming more difficult to find people to coach or sponsor activities, work events, and find substitutes to cover teacher absences. It could be that hosting events (in this case specifically those who have the facilities to host a track sectional) are becoming a headache schools do not want to deal with.
Within the aforementioned tweet, I stated that the host school for a track and field sectional should receive an entry fee from each participating school in their sectional. My thought was that the financial incentive would help get more schools to consider getting into the sectional host pipeline (ideally a rotation of 3 schools in each sectional). I thought this was a pretty harmless request, as schools are required to pay an entry fee for any invitational they attend, however, this part of the tweet caused quite a bit of resistance. Most of that resistance seemed to think that I was attempting to create a “money grab” for sectional hosts. The true intent was just to get more schools to consider hosting, but if the host school walks away with heavier pockets, they deserve it. Hosting is a big undertaking.
Staffing and Cost
As mentioned before, it is becoming increasingly difficult to staff events. We just ran a home invite at our track this past weekend. Here is a list of paid positions I can think of off the top of my head: admission gate, concessions (2), security, announcer, clerk (2), timing company, starters (3), certified field event officials (2), non-official field event workers (2). I am probably missing some, and our head coach was scrambling to fill these positions until the day of the meet. I am aware that some of these positions are taken care of when you host a sectional (IHSA provided 2 officials last year). I am also aware that the IHSA provides a stipend (I believe $1350) and 20% of the sectional gate to the host school to assist with the cost of hosting. I also know that there is no cost for awards when hosting a sectional. Some may say the staffing is overkill, but we did our best to get as many to work so visiting coaches would not have to. Some may say some of the positions (like concessions) could be filled by volunteers. I agree, but again, it is a challenge to get people to work for pay, let alone without it. Another cost that the host takes on is feeding coaches from visiting schools. Sure, a host can choose to go the hot dog route, but we all love something better, and with that comes a cost (~$640 – $800).
What I am getting at, and have confirmed with a few sectional hosts, is that the host school takes a loss by hosting. This should not be the case! Some coaches also felt that the IHSA is being greedy with 80% of the gate and their admission fees. My rebuttal is that our state meet is an ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC event, and if that percentage and rate helps ensure it remains that way, it is a nicely dispersed price to pay.
Use of Entry Fee
What would the money go towards?
- In a perfect world, host schools would also be able to find enough workers (and pay them) so opposing coaches do not have to work an event. However, if the host school cannot find workers, visiting coaches should be more than willing to assist, or be given a discount in entry fee for providing an event worker.
- Track equipment. When you host, there is wear and tear on facilities and equipment. Hurdles cost money. Blocks cost money. Jump boards cost money. Toe boards / rings cost money. Crossbars cost money. Shells cost money. Schools who may be reluctant to host due to this may be more receptive if they were guaranteed to be in the black after hosting.
When a school/program takes on the responsibility of hosting a sectional meet, they are not only responsible for doing everything in their power to have their own athletes ready, but also are responsible for providing the best possible opportunity for all athletes who are participating in the sectional. That stress is real. If an entry fee causes a school to be willing to host because the money would be worth the stress, I view that as a big win!
Call to Action
Please consider communicating the following to your administration to relay to the IHSA Advisory Committee:
- Entry fee to be paid to each sectional host by the schools participating in the sectional. I feel $250 is a reasonable amount (consistent with many regular season track invitationals).
- While there are moving pieces to sectionals each year, it would be ideal if the IHSA can get 3 schools who are capable and willing to host in each sectional. These schools would be “locked” into a certain section unless absolutely necessary. The schools not in the hosting rotation could be moved around to create a similar number of teams in each section. This would help being unaware of who is hosting in late April.
Finally, consider hosting, and if you do, read this article by Tony Holler!
THANK YOU TO ALL SCHOOLS WHO TAKE ON HOSTING SECTIONALS!!!!!