Volleyball sustains pay-to-play program while balancing athletes’ play time

graphic: Nina Zhong

graphic: Nina Zhong

The volleyball team, established by Head Coach Patricia Manhart in 2013, funds its season through a pay-to-play program. Manhart discusses the obstacles and logistics involved with this type of program. Like Fencing and Girls Ice Hockey, two other teams that started out as fully self-funded programs, Manhart hopes to become school-funded within the next few seasons.

How were you introduced to the pay-to-play policy?

I’d heard about it in other places—it’s always discussed when starting a new team. I coached at another high school before this. Their policy was “no pay-to-play programs” because they were afraid that it might exclude people from being able to join the team. But coming to PHS, I learned that that’s how new teams start and it’s just something I worked with the athletic director to really hammer out the details and what it would mean for our team.


Were you surprised at the amount of school funding for new programs?

I was definitely surprised. When you think of Princeton, you would think that there would be enough taxpayer dollars to go around to support a program which obviously had the interest—there were more than 20 girls signed up and then around 50 girls came out [for the team] … But I came to find out about more programs that were pay-to-play as well and I made sure that it wouldn’t exclude anyone from playing by keeping the cost affordable.


What do you do to open up the program to those interested who can’t afford to play?

I let the girls know who couldn’t afford it that there was extra money factored in that would help cover the cost so that way nobody was excluded from the process. That’s all district policy to make sure it was still affordable for everyone. It was just sort of one of those other obstacles when you have a new season.


Besides players’ payments, what does the team do to supplement funds?

There’s always a lot of ideas that float around, like having a student-staff game, but there’s just a lot of logic and planning that go into it. We’ve found that our main fundraiser that we’ve done over the past few years, the cookie dough fundraiser, has been enough to cover a lot for this season.


When do you think that the team will be fortunate enough to forgo the pay-to-play model?

[The fencing and girls ice hockey team] started on the same model; two years fully self-funded, then at the third year … [the school] pays the coaches’ salary. Down the road [the school] might pay for busses, or referees, or maybe uniforms. It’ll be another two to three years… but if we follow the model of other sports programs, we do hope to be fully funded by the school. We’ve had good seasons, we have more than enough interest going in—we’ve always had at least two full squads—and I hope that the BOE [Board of Education], who the decision comes down to, sees that and starts to fully fund the program.


Because players pay for the experience, how do you split up playing time?

For JV, I shoot for equal playing time just because they’re all learning a new sport so I’m thinking about building the future down the road. For varsity, as the years progress and more people develop and play, you do see that it becomes more varied. It was put in my philosophy at the beginning of the year—and it was backed by our athletic director—that if play time isn’t near 100 percent equal that that’s to be expected [by players and parents]. It’s like any other varsity-competitive sport, where people need to work hard, be at practice, and show growth and improvement to earn their spot on the court. The only sort of “monkey wrench” in there is that you don’t want people paying for an experience that they’re not having.

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