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Monday, March 18 , 2019, 5:58 pm | Fair 65º

 
 
 
 

Local High School Track Coaches Compete for Funding

Coaches at Santa Barbara's underfunded public schools carry the burden of raising money for uniforms, equipment and assistants.

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Dos Pueblos High School head track coach David Kuderka, with seniors Steven Scarvelis and Patrick Smith, says he is forced to spend most of his time finding ways to raise funds for track improvements, uniforms and assistant coaches. (David Kuderka courtesy photo)

In this day and age of underfunded public schools, being a track coach in Santa Barbara is less about coaching and more about raising money.

Need your track resurfaced? Find donors. Need uniforms, referees, a high-jump mat or a pole-vault runway? Ditto.

Perhaps as a result, coaches say they find themselves increasingly exhausted and unable to find money to beef up the meager stipends set aside for assistant coaches, who are in short supply.

“It’s tough,” said David Kuderka, the head track coach at Dos Pueblos High School. “A head coach like myself spends all my time being a business manager instead of being a coach.”

Track isn’t the only sport — or extracurricular activity — that needs to pass the hat around. But unlike, say, a basketball team, which might include about 20 players, a track team is much larger. Track rosters in the Santa Barbara district range from 80 participants at Santa Barbara High to 200 at San Marcos High. (At San Marcos, participation has more than doubled in a decade.)

Last year, San Marcos and Dos Pueblos each spent $10,000 on uniforms, and none of the money came from the coffers of the Santa Barbara School District.

“That’s a lot of money just to go to clothes,” San Marcos head track coach Marilyn Hantgin said. “But I had to do it; I couldn’t have no uniforms.” 

All of this means that in addition to minding their high jumps, relays, shot puts and javelin throws, players and coaches must raise cash for the spring season by holding car washes, bingo tournaments and lap-a-thons, and by sending mailers and even knocking on doors.

What’s more, a few years back the Santa Barbara school board cut transportation funding for all athletics, leaving it up to parent booster clubs to figure out how to bus their teams to away games. For the Dos Pueblos Athletic Department, the cut amounted to an annual loss of $70,000.

Kuderka raised $340,000 during the course of seven years to get the track resurfaced at Dos Pueblos, as well as purchase other equipment, such as a pole-vault runway.

The track, he said, was in tatters. In some places, its rubberlike surface had worn down to the asphalt.

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Dos Pueblos track coach David Kuderka raised $340,000 to get the track resurfaced at the high school and to purchase equipment. (David Kuderka courtesy photo)
“It is really bad for their shins,” he said of the runners. “I had to start this whole fundraising committee.”

At San Marcos, Hantgin finds herself at the beginning of the track-replacement marathon. Her torn-up track is nearing the end of its life, and if she wants to replace it, she’ll have to appeal to donors.

“I feel burdened a little bit with that,” she said. “I feel like the district should be responsible for something. It’s their property. Once you put it in there, it’s not mine. It’s kind of a weird situation. I have to raise (the money), but the track is theirs and they won’t take care of it.”

Still, Hantgin — a P.E. teacher at the school — said she’s optimistic she will get it done.

However, she has heard rumors that the booster club’s contribution for transportation costs soon could come to an end. “That will just kill me,” she said.

At Santa Barbara High School, the team doesn’t even have a usable track. Peabody Stadium is crammed into a small bowl-shaped valley, so the dilapidated track — with its absence of straight-aways — is unsuitable for meets.

“It was never intended for athletics,” said head coach Olivia Perdices, adding that the field initially was created for the Fiesta rodeo 150 years ago but later was converted into a playing field when the school was built.

As a result, the Santa Barbara High track team does most of its work at Santa Barbara City College. Don’t expect that to change anytime soon: Construction challenges posed by the unique landscape means the price tag for a new track and field could approach $10 million, she said.

In a perverse way, the absence of a track perhaps eases Perdices’s fundraising burden somewhat, but the Santa Barbara Junior High special-education aide still feels the pinch.

At Santa Barbara High School, coaches and players in all sports take turns hosting the school’s Saturday swap meet, collecting cash from the vendors who hawk their wares in the parking lot. The track team does it five or six times a year.

“You get there at 5 a.m., kind of hang out and collect the fees,” Perdices said. “At the end of the day, you clean up.”

Meanwhile, all three high school teams are short on assistant coaches. Dos Pueblos needs three to five, San Marcos needs five or six and Santa Barbara High needs four.

At Dos Pueblos, now that the epic track upgrade has come to fruition, Kuderka wants to start raising money to pad the district-provided stipends of his assistants.

Kuderka, a history teacher at Dos Pueblos, receives an annual coaching stipend of $3,500. His assistant coaches, depending on expertise and availability, receive $500 to $2,000 for the season.

“If I could give a $5,000 stipend — a stipend way bigger than mine — I’d have tons of assistant coaches,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Rob Kuznia can be reached at [email protected]

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