SHERIDAN — Maybe you’ve had a son or daughter meander the halls at Sheridan High School. Perhaps a niece or nephew logs hours in the library at Sheridan College, studying for an upcoming final exam.
Maybe that son, daughter, niece, nephew or even you balanced your daily school schedule with practices and games for a sports team at either of those schools or any of the other area high schools.
And most likely, through all that time spent shooting jump shots or swinging a 6-iron, something was purchased or added or created along the way to make that commitment a tad more manageable.
That’s the goal of a booster club, and the athletic departments scattered about Sheridan County wouldn’t be able to climb the ladder to success without those booster clubs and the boosters that contribute to them.
Just ask Don Julian what the Sheridan High School booster club does for the Broncs and Lady Broncs who fill gyms and fields up at the school. The SHS athletic director will happily run through a list of contributions made possible via booster club donations. He may even hand you a copy to reemphasize their importance.
Certainly, the large, groundbreaking items stick out the most. The new locker rooms and training facility at SHS — completed in 2016 — game from years of donations to the booster club, some small and some quite significant. When the high school renovated Homer Scott Field and added turf, much of that funding came from the booster club.
But, while significant and beneficial, those much larger projects are few and far between. The booster club hits the ground running to provide even the smallest additions to athletics at SHS.
Awards for All-State athletes. Hudl subscriptions that allow teams to watch and share film. A new popcorn machine in the concession stand. New uniforms for all teams — on a yearly rotation. All of those things come from booster club funding, and it all goes to improving the athletic experience for student-athletes.
“I really think a successful booster club raises money for all,” Julian said. “We could very easily have a football booster club in this town. It would be real easy to go out and raise money for football. But I don’t think that’s what we should be about. If it’s the SHS booster club, it should raise money for everyone.”
SHS booster club representatives don’t hesitate to point to the students as the sole purpose of the programs. Providing for the student-athletes is the mission of the organization.
And it’s a model taken on by many booster clubs in the area. While Sheridan College’s booster club, the Cavalry Club, doesn’t do as much in terms of large-scale projects, the group tries to bring in funding to better improve the experience and provide for its student-athletes.
SC head men’s basketball coach Matt Hammer admitted how much more difficult his job would be without help from boosters. Those funds help support assistant coaches’ salaries and generate scholarships for prospective athletes.
“Our main goal is trying to get more involved out in the community,” Hammer said. “We’re trying to get our student-athletes out there in the public so these people know who they’re giving to and what it’s going toward.”
Both Hammer and Julian applauded donors who take such an interest in athletics in Sheridan County, no matter how big or small the donations are. Banners hang in the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome and on the fence surrounding Homer Scott Field and the fence surrounding the field at Big Horn High School, as well. Even sandwich donations from Jimmy Johns or chips and queso from Q’doba alleviate certain expense pressure from budgets.
And with the constant budget talks and potential cuts looming, having a booster club and generous donors makes the heart beat a tad softer for those in the trenches.
“We’re in a state where there’s one four-year school, and the rest of the schools are our competition,” Hammer said. “Our booster club is kind of where we can try to make up some ground where Sheridan is a very supportive community. If you ever need help or need support, there’s always people out here looking to help.”
Hammer certainly knows that the Cavalry Club hasn’t reached the level of its counterpart at SHS, a booster club founded in 1990 and one Julian calls the most productive in the state aside from the University of Wyoming’s. And Hammer and his booster club supporters and members are steadily trying to generate new ideas and opportunities to build support around their programs and, more importantly, the athletes who use those programs to propel themselves forward in life.
Tempe Murphy, co-president of the SHS booster club, admitted that Sheridan made it a bit easier to bring in that support. With the handfuls of philanthropic organizations scattered about the community, folks are more inclined to help these booster clubs than many other areas in the state or even the country.
“Everybody wanted on board because it does trickle down,” Murphy said about the mindset of giving in Sheridan. “There are very few of us that are part of the booster club officers; probably seven or eight of us show up every month. But we reach out to other people, and those people know they’re a part of it.”
Murphy credited the coaches who put the time in effort into the student-athletes, which she said makes it much more gratifying a cause to get behind. Support the coaches, who support the kids, who all support the community, she said.
And while coaches like Julian and Hammer and their staffs and their colleagues battle budget cuts, ever-changing rules and regulations and the constant pressure to win games, booster clubs work tirelessly to drive these programs from behind the curtains.
“It’s pretty amazing what is happening,” Julian said as he opened a brochure with donor names printed across it — close to 100, if not more.
Booster clubs do what their name implies; they boost. They push teams and coaches to in turn drive young student-athletes to success, both on and off the field, and those funds raised help pave the way for even more giving as it all trickles down.