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The Value Of A High School Fishing Program

My name is Chris Kuchyt and I have served on the Illinois High School Associations (IHSA) bass fishing advisory committee for four years. I have coached my high schools fishing team since the inception of the program and the approval of bass fishing as an officially sanctioned IHSA activity in 2008-2009.

The IHSA officially categorizes bass fishing as an activity, not a sport. This is important in that coaches of a sport need to be certified teachers or certified through American Sport Education Program (ASEP). Activity sponsors do not need such a certification. This also helps the school find sponsors/coaches for their programs.

Oak Lawn Community High School is an urban high school located in the south suburbs of Chicago. When I approached the administration at my school about beginning a fishing program, I thought I might have an uphill battle because none of the administrators at my school are outdoors persons, and besides Lake Michigan, the nearest large body of water is about an hour drive from the school. To my surprise, the administration was in full support of the program because they saw the value of meeting the social and emotional needs of our students though fishing.

Much of the school violence we see across the nation can be directly attributed to the social and emotional needs of students not being met. This is why high fishing is such an important outlet for many kids. If you contact IHSA bass fishing administrator Kurt Gibson, he can give you the statistics for how many kids across the state are part of their schools
fishing team and have no other involvement in school activities. If you examine the competencies taught in social/emotional learning (self-awareness, social-awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and responsible decision making), those competencies are the embodiment of what it means to be an angler! You can read more about social emotional learning by visiting:

In the email you sent last week, you asked about funding for the program. It is important to know that schools across the state fund their programs differently. The information that I am providing you below is what I have gathered from informal discussions with other coaches in the area.

Coaching salary: In my informal conversations with coaches across Illinois, the average starting pay for a coach is between $3,000-$4,000. This varies depending on coaching responsibilities. Some schools have a program that meets during the entire year (like ours); other schools have a program that only meets during the spring state tournament season.  Some schools choose to have a parent volunteer to take their kids out to the sectional
tournament. It depends on how the school/coach envision the program.

Team budget: As with any high school program, the first year is the most expensive because of the need to buy “start-up” equipment (life jackets, nets, coolers, etc). The district budget for beginning the program for each of the first two years is between $300-$500 and is used to purchase necessities. After team has established itself, the district budgets are usually cut by a couple hundred dollars.

Liability insurance: Coaches who use their boats can have their districts get “Blanket Additional Insurance as respects to General Liability coverage with regards to Interscholastic Bass Fishing Competition”. I don’t believe there is an additional charge for the district for the additional coverage, but if there is, it is nominal.

Other costs from the district: Most high schools offer some reimbursement to coaches and volunteers who take the kids out fishing on their boats. The reimbursements help cover the cost of gas for the boat, towing the boat to the lake, and oil. The amount reimbursed usually depends on how far the boat must be towed and how far the boat travels around the lake/river. I would think most reimbursements per boat are around $40-$50.

One other expense is transportation costs. Where our school is located, to charter one large yellow bus costs between $200-$210 for about five hours. For longer events, the price doubles. So if you take 30 kids out fishing for 7 hours, the bus cost would be over $400!  This is one of the higher expenses for the school. As a result, for most of our team trips we take the minibus, which I drive, and the only expense for the school is gas. The
minibus only seats 14 kids so it is on a first come first serve basis. If I have more than 14 kids sign up for an outing, I enlist the help of team parents who the drive their kids and a car load of their friends. Having used this system for a few years now, i haven't had to leave any kids behind.

Team fundraising: Teams that fund raise use their money for things like equipment purchases, food for the kids during outings, and other fishing “luxuries”. There are many different ways teams fund raise, but I think our team fundraiser is particularly special and one the administrators and community members love! We sell advertising space in our teams newsletter. The kids on the team write the stories for the newsletter, which helps
refine their reading, writing, and research skills. The kids also help in trying to find community businesses to advertise in our newsletter, thereby learning important real world experiences such as talking to adults outside of a school setting and sales skills. The newsletter then goes out to community members through our school website, our schools electronic newsletter, outdoor journalists post it on their websites, and various
fishing clubs.

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