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Students of the Santa Monica High School wrestling team raise money through donations by washing cars earlier this year. Many of the sports teams use bake sales, car washes and other services to raise money for equipment and other needs. (photo by Brandon Wise)

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS

SAMOHI — The good news is that Santa Monica High School’s sports funding for the upcoming school year is unchanged from last year’s numbers. The not-so-good news is that there wasn’t much to cut from to begin with.

For the second year, Samohi received $54,000 for transportation and $19,000 for safety from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, a number that Principal Hugo Pedroza said doesn’t come close to covering the cost for the Vikings’ dozens of individual teams.

“The money [from the district] is a nice token,” Pedroza said. “But, sports takes resources to make it happen.”

Pedroza added that funding for athletics hasn’t been paid for by the district for decades. Instead, the school has to rely on fundraising, fees and ticket sales to pay the costs for uniforms and even facility improvements. This comes down to booster clubs, student-athletes and their families.

One of the more colorful efforts was put on by the Santa Monica Diamond Club, Samohi’s baseball boosters. Held in November of 2009, the tournament featured a number of celebrity players and ultimately began a fundraising drive that raked in enough money to pay for a major field rehabilitation, the construction of a scorers box behind home plate and new uniforms for the team.

Head Coach Sheldon Philip-Guide, who had yet to coach his first game at the time, said that he wanted to draw on the energy from a group of parents who obviously were plugged into the team.

For Daniel Escalera, Samohi’s new athletic director, he’s at ease coming into the job knowing that he has a support network around his program, but is aware that the ongoing budget crisis at the local and state level could mean changes in years to come.

With funding from the district remaining at previous levels, Escalera said that no teams had to be cut this year, a reality for fellow Ocean League member Hawthorne High School. A number of teams at the school have been combined and some sports may be eliminated.

“Right now, we’ll just leave it the way it is,” Escalera said. “At some point in time there will be a need to raise more funds and start to share some of the strategies that have been successful.”

The impacts of limited resources are a reality for all sports, but none more so than football. Traditionally one of the most expensive to maintain, football presents a special challenge to school officials.

Head Coach Travis Clark said that the burden of maintaining a thriving program falls to him. He works closely with the program’s booster club to raise funds to pay for equipment and uniforms and has come to terms with that fact.

“All of that stuff is based on what football raises on its own,” Clark said. “We feel more pressure to raise money on our own. We’re out there hustling and bustling.”

daniela@smdp.com