At new tourney, 7-on-7 squads to play for booster club cash

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Around the country, school athletic departments are struggling to fund the full slate of sports scheduled for the 2012 season. In some cities, Jacksonville, Florida most prominent among them, there's a question of whether any varsity sports will be played at all.

Winter Park football practice
Winter Park football practice

Yet two Florida 7-on-7 squads could help their schools pay for their forthcoming seasons if they're lucky enough to win a new tournament this week in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Battle by the Beach 7-on-7 event will pay $10,000 to the winning squad and $5,000 for the team that finishes in second place at the weekend event, which begins on Friday and finishes Saturday afternoon.

Officially, the teams won't be earning the money for the schools, but rather will give any proceeds from victories to the 5013c foundation of their choice. Considering the fact that high school programs all have booster clubs which qualify as 5013c organizations, you can easily connect the dots to see how the money would go from victory to check back into the program which wins the tournament.

"We definitely don't want to break any rules or make any waves," Jack Holcomb, the New Smyrna Beach businessman who came up with the idea for the tournament, told the Sentinel. "We're here to allow our sports programs to flourish, because we know what that can mean to our young people. We know that keeping kids engaged via sports benefits our community."

Holcomb said the idea for a pay the winners tournament first came up when he was trying to brainstorm new ways to generate money for programs without "hitting up businesses every year." The car dealership owner envisions the Battle by the Beach tournament as a self-sustaining event which will help the sponsors get attention and notoriety that might be buried as a traditional flagship sponsor of a specific high school football program.

Battle by the Beach 7-on-7 logo
Battle by the Beach 7-on-7 logo

The new summer football tournament follows a golf event aimed at raising funds for New Smyrna Beach (Fla.) High, which brought in a total of $25,000 to help fund both high school and youth sports programs in New Smyrna, Edgewater and Oak Hill, Florida.

If nothing else, the cash prizes on offer have gotten plenty of attention from high school teams which are willing to show up to compete for them. The Sentinel reported that 28 7-on-7 squads had already registered for the tournament, paying a $200 registration fee to take part in the event. That doesn't cover the massive $15,000 payout, but it will go a long ways toward helping defray the event's cost, as will the $7 per day admission cost for fans who attend the event and any concessions that are sold on site.

"We're going to do everything in our power to crank this thing up and put on a [good] show for the fans and the teams," Holcomb told the Sentinel. "We want to make it manageable and hope to grow it to 60 or 64 teams. You do that, and it's a great event that raises a lot of money that buys equipment our kids need."

With the list of 2011 competitors including the likes of Winter Park (Fla.) High (shown practicing above), Daytona Beach (Fla.) Seabreeze High, Dr. Phillips (Fla.) High and Cocoa (Fla.) High among more than 20 others, just staging the stacked event alone is sure to bring plenty of attention itself.

If it proves as successful as Holcomb and his fellow planners hope, it might even provide a new fundraising model going forward which can prove helpful for both local businesses and the scholastic athletic communities that need their money so badly.

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