Budget restraints have made fielding a varsity football team in Chicago Public Schools almost impossible, let alone funding amenities to compete at a high level, and yet this past season Wendell Phillips Academy became the city’s first public school to win a state title.
So, how did Phillips football coach Troy McAllister succeed in the face of such adversity?
In addition to reaching into their own wallets — “If a coach says he isn’t using some of his own money,” McAllister told DNAinfo Chicago, “he’s lying” — CPS coaches have fundraised like heck, hitting up administrators, politicians, alumni and even suburban and private schools, according to the city’s neighborhood news website. Now, CPS coaches are taking the next logical step, asking the community to help pay for programs through GoFundMe.
“Being a football program at a Chicago public school … you are under-resourced, you are underfunded,” added McAllister. “GoFundMe has been great because it can get [the word out] to so many people. Due to the lack of coaching stipends, you’re at a competitive disadvantage. But we make no excuses here.”
With the help of coach and athletic director Andrew Friesen’s GoFundMe campaign, Chicago Tech Academy fielded a football program for the first time this past season.
“We are trying to fund money towards our football program for the very first year at our school,” Friesen wrote on the fundraising site in May 2015. “I am very passionate about sports, but football is my true love. I want to help provide the opportunity of a lifetime for students to develop, build structure and succeed by building a football program at Chicago Tech. I want to also give kids the chance to go to college on scholarship through our football program and keep kids off of the streets over the summer.”
He raised $725, enough to help start a junior varsity team. With the success of his Phillips program — including two straight trips to the Class 4A state championship game — McAllister has taken the fundraising to another level. His GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $5,300 towards a $7,000 goal to provide healthy pregame meals for his players.
“Due to the lack of funds, our school and our boys have pregame diets that are either nonexistent or devoid of nutrition,” McAllister posted on the fundraising site. “I am raising money to be able to buy food for our boys for pregame meals. Any amount of money you can donate would be a great help for our team. It seems obvious, but having enough energy to play four quarters of football could mean the difference between making history or not. However, our kids do not always have that choice. Please help them as they strive for greatness.”
Football programs in Chicago Public Schools face a sparsity of playing fields, condemned weight room facilities, underfunded coaching stipends and budgets that favor basketball, according to testimonies from players, coaches and administrators to DNAinfo Chicago.
And those are just the basics. So, GoFundMe is a creative solution, but more must be done.
“It is a shame to see CPS football not live up to its potential considering it has produced quite a number of college and NFL players over the years,” former NFL player Corey Mays, who earned a scholarship to Notre Dame after graduating from Chicago’s Morgan Park High, told DNAinfo Chicago. “There is a tremendous amount of talent in the city and sports have always served as a buffer between the gang life and violence.
“We have to figure out how to make budgets work. That is no easy task to overhaul a complete system especially in a political atmosphere such as Chicago,” Mays said. “But on the other hand, funding these youth sports will make more students productive and possibly cut down on some of the violence plaguing the city. These kids need to know that they can be successful.”
According to DNAinfo Chicago, multiple requests for comment from CPS were declined.