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Nov. 10, 2011

Blairís athletic culture gets a required monetary revamping

by Claire Sleigh, Print Managing Sports Editor, Ombudsman and Design Team
People associate many things with Blair - a diverse school culture, strong academics and competitive magnet programs - but probably least of all athletics. We know that our football team doesnít have a winning record and that the boys on cross-country wear short shorts, but we have no comprehensive idea of Blair athletics as a whole.

It is the mission of the new athletic director, Rita Boule, to help foster an inclusive athletic community in the school. By encouraging an overall athletic culture, Boule will help the school grow and define itself as a well-rounded and exciting place to be.

Blair is overly focused on individual teams - we need greater emphasis on athletics as a whole. Combining the sports teamsí budgets, along with other improvements, will foster overall athletic (and Blazer) pride and make it easier for teams to do what they do best: play.

Instead of having each team raise and manage its own money, Boule is going to ask each team to contribute to the general athletic budget. Coaches will then go to Boule with requests for anything from new equipment to buses to and from games. While teams wonít necessarily get back dollar-for-dollar what they put in, they can rest assured that everything that they require will be paid for in a timely manner and that any extra money goes to supporting other sports teams.

Varsity field hockey coach and JV lacrosse coach Christine Denny trusts that Boule will manage the money effectively. "Iím confident that if my team raises more money we will have that money given to us," she said. Denny also stressed that she isnít only thinking about her own team when she predicts the success of the budget changes. "I think it helps the athletic program in general," she said.

Blairís old system of each team operating its own budget didnít fully conform to county regulations. The integration of the budgets, in addition to adhering to country policies, is a win-win for both sides.

It is Bouleís goal to take some of the pressure off of individual teams - now all that teams have to do is raise a set amount of money with one big fundraiser, or help participate in some of the department fundraisers. It is Bouleís goal to lift the burden of worrying about finances off of the coachesí backs. "I feel like teams did a lot of things on their own," she said about the old system. "Where I want to move is taking some of that off the coaches so they can coach."

Boule also stressed that having a more flexible budget will allow her to prioritize and make sure that all basics are taken care of. "What teams need, thatís what they are going to get. We need our athletes to be safe and prepared," she said, emphasizing that safety is her topmost concern.

Not only will individual teams be able to perform better and more safely, the whole culture of athletes will become tighter-knit with these new measures. "I want student athletes to feel that they are part of something really positive that will prepare them for life," Boule said. "I want them to work with all kinds of student athletes."

Striking the ideal balance between individual teams and central control might take some time, but Boule recognizes that teams needed to be given a large degree of autonomy. "Teams need to do their own thing whena it directly affects the team," she said. However, the point of these new measures is to create some things that can be common to all teams. Most importantly, the wide base of support will help improve play across the board. "To raise the level of all the teams you have to have a unified athletic program," she said.

Boule is supporting these changes by creating a captains-council of all the sports teams, which promotes interaction among teams and will give a strong base in leadership for all the captains. She is also taking measures to encourage teams that arenít in season to support those that are. For example, if the softball and field hockey teams are paired up, softball players will be expected to attend field hockey games, and vice versa.

Boule hopes that Blazers will begin to recognize the strength of the athletic program and will be encouraged by the engaging and unified community. Only a small subset of the school population tries out for teams, especially compared to the numbers that show up to schools that are much smaller than Blair. The new emphasis on athletics will hopefully spur an increase in turnout during tryouts in coming seasons.

The focus on the overall culture will benefit the school. While the success of individual teams will always matter, Blazers will hopefully be able to look toward a unified front of Blair athletics with pride. After all, the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts.



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