Look good. Feel good. Play good. It’s an adage that has Montgomery County high schools dipping into their athletic budgets so their football players can shine under the Friday night lights.
County schools averaged about $8,725 in football equipment expenditures last year, according to Dr. William “Duke” Beattie, the school system’s director of systemwide athletics. Football uniforms, renewed at most county teams on three- to four-year cycles, can account for a significant portion of that.
At Kensington’s Albert Einstein High School, the school paid $6,000 for 100 new home and road uniforms, said first-year coach Neal Owens.
“To me it represents a lot. A new look, a new attitude, hopefully a turnaround season,” said senior Damien Monroe, who wore used uniforms the past three seasons. “We kind of like the brand-new type of look and it definitely makes you feel better.”
Einstein’s sizable purchase isn’t just the cost of looking good. It’s the cost of playing well, too. According to Stephany Coakley, director at Maximum Mental Training Associates, a Washington, D.C.-based psychology consulting firm, there is research suggesting that new attire can have a positive impact on performance.
“In order to perform at a high level, you have to be confident and have self-esteem. And the way you look will facilitate or debilitate your level of confidence,” Coakley said.
Coaches and players echoed Coakley’s sentiments.
“When they feel that they look good and they got the new uniforms and everything’s all bright and shiny, they’re going to come out with a swagger,” said Greg Kellner, coach of Bethesda’s Walter Johnson High School. “… That is something that the kids, they all talk about it.”
County high schools averaged about $155,000 in total athletic expenditures during the 2013-14 academic year and all of them were provided sufficient, certified football safety equipment, according to Beattie. But there were discrepancies between the teams: average football expenditures ranged from $13,000 to $31,000 (average $21,000 for all county high schools), and booster club income ranged from $0 to $61,500 ($22,300 average), he said.
“Some may be at a position where they can update things more frequently than others, but competitive disadvantages? I say absolutely not,” Beattie said.
The Albert Einstein High School Sports Booster Club’s annual expenditures are about $25,000 — most going to uniforms, according to club president Mike Etherton. He said that if a team has a certain need, regardless of the sport, the booster club works with the school to purchase the equipment.
At John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring, where the booster club is inactive, football coach Carlos Smith said the team has difficulty meeting some equipment demands.
“We can get A, B, C and D but you might not get E, F,” Smith said.
Springbrook High School faces similar challenges, said football coach Adam Bahr.
The Springbrook Athletic Booster Club, which in past years has paid for new lights and video equipment, has a goal of raising about $10,000 for the upcoming year, said club co-president Rachel Spangenberg.
“Fundraising in our community is extremely difficult, and the budget, to my understanding, doesn’t even come close to covering all the costs to all the teams,” said Bahr, a third-year coach at the Silver Spring school.
Springbrook received 150 new football uniforms after winning a contest run by professional football player Pierre Garçon, but if not for the free uniforms, Bahr said, “We would be in tough shape.”