Funding cuts affect athletes

The Wilfrid Laurier University athletics department is facing some changes this year as they are forced to navigate through 2009-10 with a significantly smaller operating budget, following $380,000 (roughly 16 per cent) funding cuts.

Eight varsity teams now face the challenge of finding their own financial support and working together to continue their season.

“What we lost this year was funding for some of our competition training; travel to practices and competitions and competition registration,” said head cheerleading coach Melissa Marshall.

“The main change will be that we just need to spend more time fundraising,” Marshall added.

The cuts will limit the competitions that many of these teams can be a part of and will also mean that they must increase their fundraising in order to train and compete this season.

Marshall explains that the cheerleading team has always been a “pay-to-play sport”, meaning it has never received as much financial support as some of the other varsity teams.

While the team has always had to cover the cost of uniforms and traveling expenses, the defending national champions will only be able to compete if they can raise the money to travel and register in tournaments.

Fundraising has become a necessity for all the teams affected by cuts, forcing the athletes and coaches to work together to fund their own season.

Many have turned to alumni for assistance.

Head coach of the men’s baseball team Scott Ballantyne explains that Laurier Athletics already has the “Adopt a Hawk” fundraiser, in which each athlete finds a sponsor.

This year the sponsorship sum that athletes are asking for is increasing from $300 to $500. The teams have also come up with new fundraising ideas such as a golf tournament, T-shirt sales and 50/50 draws.

“We’re obviously disappointed that we won’t be receiving any financial support from the school, but the athletes have kind of taken it upon themselves,” said Ballantyne. “I think they’ve kind of rallied around the fact that we are in a different position than some of the other teams that we’re going to be competing against.”

The shared frustration at losing their funding, as well as the need to work together to raise money, has the potential to bring these athletes even closer together.

Teammates are brainstorming and working hard to keep their teams competitive; some of the coaches have even seen positive results from the cutbacks.

While both fundraising and alumni support have been a source of help previously, the future of these teams remains unclear.

The start of the school year and the prospect of many more years of fundraising brings yet another challenge for athletes to face.

“They’ve worked together to come up with different ideas to fundraise, but at the same time it’s also a lot more pressure and work, so once the school year starts it will be interesting to see how well the fundraising continues,” said Marshall.

Teams that lost Laurier funding

Men’s, women’s rugby
Figure skating
Men’s, women’s cross country