MTHS Football Boosters-the group behind the team’s success

MTHS Football Boosters-the group behind the team's success

By Steve Willits

It is hard not to sing the praises of the Mountlake Terrace football team these days. The Hawks finished out the season by making the playoffs for the third time in the past five seasons. Not bad for a school that had never made the playoffs during its first 48 years of existence.

Coach Tony Umayam, his staff and players weren’t the only members of the football program that should be commended though for having a successful 2013. Another group of people played a vital role in assuring that the team prospered both on and off the field. The group that I’m talking about is the Mountlake Terrace Football Boosters. They played an important role in making sure the Hawks had everything they needed from the start of spring practice all the way through the playoffs.

Speaking of the playoffs, the Hawks season came to an end with a loss down in Vancouver Washington last Saturday, a trip that included traveling to and from the game on bus rides that were longer than 3 hours each.   It was a long day for the team but one thing that they didn’t have to worry about was hunger. 40 pounds of fruit and other snacks were available on the bus. 40 various foot long sandwiches awaited the players when they arrived at the stadium and 25 pizzas were delivered to the stadium after the game. All provided for by the Football Boosters.

Football is not an inexpensive sport. There are a number of costs attached to fielding a team of players and coaches. Jerseys, helmets, pants and shoulder pads are just the start. Factor in other equipment, transportation, coaches salaries and the costs start to add up very quickly. The MTHS ASB provides the football program with an annual budget however it also funds other school clubs and sports teams. The money that ASB gives is a nice start but it isn’t enough to cover the $15,000 minimum needed to efficiently run the program. That is where the Football Boosters come in.

Tony Umayam saw first-hand the importance of a booster club during his years as an assistant coach at other schools. “Coming from Mercer Island and Jackson where the booster clubs was very strong and well-funded, I understood how critical it was to have an independent group raise money for the team. A group that was there to help the players and program” said Umayam.

The first booster club meeting took place back in 2004 at a coffee shop and consisted of Umayam and 3 MTHS player Moms. “The first 3-4 years a foundation was built by some awesome parents who supported the team as it turned its fortunes around on the field and established it as a lasting organization. The President/Vice President combo of Debbie Bennett and Bob Ferlic led that initial charge” said Umayam.

Bennett’s ultimate legacy on the program might have come in the guidance that she gave to one of the other members of the booster club back in the earlier days, Susan Esparza. Esparza began volunteering with the MTHS Football Boosters back in 2007 when her oldest son Trevor was a freshman, “I started out by catering the annual football auction and the rest is history” said Esparza.  Over the next 3 seasons Esparza continued to help as a volunteer before becoming the President between 2010-2012 and attributes much of what she learned to Bennett, calling her “my mentor and the person that taught me absolutely everything I know” Esparza went on to praise Bennett by saying that she made the boosters “a club that everyone wanted to be a part of, I owe everything good about where the booster club is to her for setting the stage and the bar”.

During Esparza’s three years as Football Booster President, the program raised funds that went toward a number of needed big purchases such as: a high pod camera used to film practices and games, headsets for coaches to use in games, transportation to and from stadiums and football camps, practice jerseys, food before games and the other general needs such as footballs and equipment.

Utilizing the internet and computer programs more effectively was another thing that happened during Esparza’s tenure. The team purchased a membership for a video tool called Hudl which at the time was more of a collegiate level service for Coaches to use to analyze and prepare reports for games. Players also use Hudl to create highlight videos to send to colleges that might be interested in recruiting them. Esparza’s booster club also upgraded the team web-site, one that according to Esparza was “more modern, robust and socially interactive, including a Facebook fan page and a Twitter feed”.

Esparza’s team was also able to reach outside the walls of just the school “we garnered the most community sponsorship in team history which enabled us to create a game day program like no other”. As Umayam said about Esparza “Susan took it (Football Boosters) to another level by running it like an efficient organization where the club was able to bring more bang for the buck”.

Esparza was the glue of the booster club for 3 seasons however her youngest son Tye graduated from Terrace this past June which meant it was time to pass the torch, enter John Klippert.

Klippert’s son Drew was a freshman back in 2012 when he started volunteering for booster activities and much like the way Debbie Bennett mentored her a few years earlier, it was now Susan Esparza’s turn to be the mentor. According to Klippert “Susan pulled me in early, she says she knew right away she was going to hand it over to me based on how much time I was putting in from the start. I stayed involved with as much as I could from the start to learn what she could share”. Klippert also goes on to point out that Esparza hasn’t been far away this season when needed “The best part is that she has been at the other end of the phone or e-mail all year for me”. Klippert and the current Football Boosters have continued to build on what their predecessors started and have continued to raise money and help the team in various ways.

Among some of the things that this year’s Football Boosters have done to raise money in 2013: A poker tournament that raised  $900, a spring car wash raised another $900, football parents working at the MTHS concession stands during other school sporting events raised $700, a summer BBQ at O’Brien Ford during a car show raised over $200, setting up a dunk tank and selling merchandise during Tour de Terrace in July raised around $1000, a Red Onion Burger fundraiser night in which a generous percentage of sales went toward the club raised $850 and a barbeque right outside the stadium before the Homecoming game also raised $600. The big event of the year though was the annual dinner auction in October.

This year’s auction raised over $8000 and some of that money is already earmarked for 2014 needs such as purchasing a water station that will enable the players to stay hydrated during practice and a new camera for the team’s high pod.

As Klippert is quick to point out, the President of the Football Boosters doesn’t do all this by himself. There are a number of football parents that have done an excellent job of helping out this season.  Among those that have contributed are Keith Lampers who Klippert refers to as “my right hand all year, Keith is always there to do whatever is needed at every event we have held”. Others who Klippert mentioned include Kerri Krause and Michele Lampers for all of the work they put into make the auction event a success, Xena Downs for keeping the books for the past few years, Randy Brehm for taking the lead on Tour de Terrace weekend as well as constantly assisting at other times, Mark Hopkins for his outstanding work on the teams program as well as the game photos that he shoots (he often sells these photos on his web-site and the proceeds go to the Football Boosters), Jeff and Darci Brooks for providing the barbeque at multiple events, and three other dads; Anthony Brocato, Mark Poellinger and Scott Allen who have stepped in and help run the team’s web-site. These folks as well as others have all made great contributions this season.

When asked about Klippert’s contributions, Uamayam said “John being a former coach himself can see things easily from a football perspective and does a great job anticipating the needs and possible storms facing the program before they become big issues. Like Susan was, John is as valuable to the football program as any coach on staff.”

The other group that needs to be mentioned that plays a role in the football teams success is the Sports Booster Club (SBC) at Mountlake Terrace which is responsible for helping to fund and support 17 MTHS sports teams as well as the Cheer Squad.

Much like the Football Boosters, the SBC also has strong leadership and a board of people that have enabled them to flourish.  Tara Zuehl is the President and her school spirit is hard to match. Her father Neal started attending MTHS when the school first opened in the early 1960s, Tara also graduated from Terrace and her freshman year was the 1st year of the current MTHS school back in 1991 and now her son Tim is an MTHS student. Tara’s enthusiasm for Terrace is easy to note when you discuss her position “Can you tell I love what I do? I had a strong sense of school pride when I attended MTHS and to this day it is still some of my fondest memories” said Zuehl.

Zuehl went on to say that the relationship between the Football Boosters and the SBC has been a win win situation “Collaborated efforts between (the two groups) has truly allowed us to raise additional dollars and awareness for each of our clubs and programs we support, as well as afford opportunities with cross promotion, communication and member involvement” said Zuehl.

Klippert also expressed mutual admiration toward the SBC “Tara has been fantastic to work with all year.  She does a great job with (SBC) and has helped football more than I ever thought would happen.” I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other board members from the SBC:  Treasurer Meliny Gonzalez, Secretary Randi Wasik, Concession Scheduling Lynn Baisch, Concession Inventory Herb Hudson and Members at Large Donna Tremain and Ruthie Smith. Together this group raises over $24,000 annually for MTHS organizations and has been a tremendous resource for the Football Boosters.

The achievements of our young athletes is always an enjoyable topic for me to write about and/or discuss when broadcasting games, however sometimes it is important to give praise to the parents and volunteers. They are the ones that put the athletes in a position to prosper both off and on the field. The Football Boosters as well as the Sports Booster Club work tirelessly to ensure that our teams have the support and resources necessary to thrive and they deserve to be recognized. The Mountlake Terrace High School community is fortunate to have them and their efforts do not go unnoticed. Go Hawks!!