West Jefferson Hills School District plans to start showing extra support for its club sports teams.
School board members on Feb. 26 approved the first reading of a new policy outlining rules for club sports teams, including financial contributions the district plans to provide to qualifying teams.
“We like to celebrate their accomplishments and their success, so any support we can show our kids, we wanted to show that,” Superintendent Michael Ghilani said. “We call them TJ. They’re our kids. We like to go to their matches and games, so funding a fraction of their operating budget is a way of showing our support for those kids.”
The district previously lacked a policy for club sports teams.
At Thomas Jefferson High School, there are only two club sports teams: hockey and bowling, Ghilani said. Gymnastics was formed as a club sport, but it was converted to a school sport at TJ last year.
Club sports typically are not sanctioned by the WPIAL or PIAA, Ghilani said.
With fully-sanctioned school sports, the district hires coaches and pays for associated costs including transportation, the superintendent said. With club sports, a board — often boosters — governs the sport and oversees everything from hiring coaches to funding.
Some districts, Ghilani said, have a large number of club sports, ranging from rugby to bocce.
Many TJ athletes already play in two to three sports among the options offered at the school, Ghilani said. He said there haven’t been requests to add more club sports in recent years.
The new policy outlines how parents and students can go about starting a club sport should they desire. The district requires a plan, a governing body, liability insurance and funds to start, he said.
The need for the new policy came after TJ Hockey asked the district for a contribution for the last two years, Ghilani said. Before the district started handing out money, leaders wanted to ensure a policy existed so all club sports were on a level playing field.
The policy requires a three-year probationary period before a club sport can qualify for funds.
Both TJ hockey and bowling are grandfathered in.
Each April 1, the club sports teams must provide documentation related to their finances in order to qualify for funding, Ghilani said.
Funding will be given based on the team’s operating budget:
• A team with a budget between $0 and $9,999 will get $1,000
• A team with a budget between $10,000 and $29,999 will get $2,000
• A team with a budget between $30,000 and $49,999 will get $3,000
• A team with a budget between $50,000 and $79,000 will get $4,000
• A team with a budget exceeding $80,000 will get $5,000
The policy encourages teams to use the district funds for travel, equipment and renting of facilities.