The abrupt end to the 2019-20 athletic season didn’t just impact the students who saw their seasons, and in some cases, careers come to a close.
“When the shutdown came at spring break, there were still lots of sports going on,” said Rockwall High School Jacket Backers president James Schaefer. “My heart breaks for the families that didn’t get to finish their seasons.”
Schaefer’s broken heart – along with the hearts of his fellow booster club members – will be a driving force for the club in 2020-21. The Jacket Backers support all 22 of Rockwall’s athletic teams and the club will do what it is necessary to help those teams meet their day-to-day needs. A successful year, though, will have less to do with meeting those day-to-day needs than it will the bigger picture.
“I think this year will be successful if every sport gets to finish out its season,” Schaefer said. “Those are memories that you can’t forget. Especially for the seniors, we want to do everything we can to make it special and as smooth as possible.”
If things go smoothly, not only will the Jacket Backers enjoy a full season of Rockwall athletics, they’ll celebrate by handing out scholarships to a group of graduating seniors. When Schaefer first joined the club, which began handing out scholarships in 2014, it gave away $3,000 in scholarships. By last year, that number had grown to $12,000.
“That was more than we’ve ever done before,” Schaefer said. “We still want to do more.”
To do that, the Jacket Backers will rely on support from a community that’s still dealing with economic circumstances beyond anyone’s control.
“There are a lot of small businesses that are integral parts of the club who may not have the funds to participate at levels they have in the past,” Schaefer said. “Our club will think of creative ways to give them great value for what they can spend with us.”
The Jacket Backers include business leaders from the community, and Schaefer said club members work together to maximize every last dollar that comes in. For businesses that support the club in the current football season, Schaefer said the club will do more than it has in the past to help sponsors get exposure.
“They will still get their exposure on the scoreboard, but with fewer people coming to the games, we need to do more to help them,” he said. “We are excited that we get to play this year, but there are lots of restrictions on capacity. So, we are extending the reach the sponsors get with an enhanced digital media program.”
Along with traditional recognition in the stadiums and gyms during games, sponsors will get the added reach of the club’s comprehensive social media program. Sponsors appear in the club’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, posts that get shared to an audience that approaches 1 million viewers in a year. Sponsors aren’t the only ones who benefit from the expanded reach.
“That helps the sponsors, but it also helps the kids get exposure,” Schaefer said. “If we can help an athlete get recruited…”
Schaefer said the club, just like the school’s athletes and coaches, must be flexible and find a way to be successful in the reality that is 2020.
“We need to think outside the box and be creative while complying with the UIL’s rules,” he said.
Club members fall back on the one thing that brought them together in the first place. The Jacket Backers are first and foremost a group of parents working together to support students – their children – who want to represent their school doing the things they love.
“We come together in times of adversity,” Schaefer said. “There are obstacles, but 90% of our members have a child or have had children participate in athletics here. We want to provide the best opportunities for our kids. The school needs our support.”
This article is available to our Digital Subscribers.
Click "Subscribe Now" to see a list of subscription offers.
Already a Subscriber? Sign In to access this content.