Everybody Has to Work Together: Booster Club’s President

“It came from us all talking, with our frustration that the high school sports, aside from soccer, were not doing what we wanted them to do — programs weren’t being built."
Tom Cooper and his fellow Bonac Booster Club officers will an open meeting at the high school next Thursday at 7 p.m. Jack Graves

Asked during a conversation this week how the Bonac Booster Club, which is to hold a communitywide meeting at East Hampton High School next Thursday, had come to be, its president, Tom Cooper, said that in recent years it had become increasingly evident to the parents of young lacrosse, basketball, and football players that the programs here needed an across-the-board boost.

“It came from us all talking, with our frustration that the high school sports, aside from soccer, were not doing what we wanted them to do — programs weren’t being built. Boys lacrosse doesn’t have a jayvee [for the second year in a row], baseball’s down, football didn’t field a varsity this year, coaches have been coming and going. . . .”

Perhaps less of a concerted program-building effort had been necessary years ago, Cooper said, when such  coaches as Ed Petrie and Jim Nicoletti, who lived here and had their fingers on the community’s pulse, were active, and when such outstanding athletes as Howard Wood, Kenny Wood, Ross Gload, Sandy Fleisch­man, and Paul Annacone seemed to abound.

Now, however, things had changed — there were budgetary restrictions, fewer teachers and coaches lived here. . . . “Most of the successful programs, on the Island and upstate, have booster clubs,” he said.

“Joe Vas [the East Hampton School District’s athletic director] was frustrated too,” Cooper continued. “He also wanted to have consistently winning, sustainable programs. You don’t need just one coach for that — you need many others, including the coach, the A.D., the youth league coaches, and parents, all working together. Otherwise, it’s just one-year flings.”

“Joe was very responsive — he was waiting for parents like us to say we wanted winning programs. There’s no reason this can’t become the case across the spectrum.”

Asked if he thought there would be a big turnout for next Thursday’s open meeting, which is to be held in the high school’s library at 7 p.m., Cooper, whose aunt, Ellen Cooper, spearheaded the growth of girls sports here in the wake of Title IX, said he hoped so. “We hope the community wants to do this — we want to make sure that everybody who wants to help has that opportunity.”

He had put himself forward when the subject of club officers had come up, the club’s president said in reply to a question. “I feel it’s important — you can’t be vocal and not do anything. That said,” he said with a smile, “I don’t need this really — I think the whole community should stand up.”

His wife (the former Maureen Collum) and he have two boys who play sports, Cooper said in answer to another question. “The older one plays football, basketball, and lacrosse, and the younger one basketball and lacrosse. . . . This club will  be for all sports. Our goal is to have a representative who will work with the coaches in each sport — whether it be girls lacross, boys soccer, baseball . . . all sports.”

“We’re not aiming to run things at all — we just want to give Joe the tools to build successful progams. We’re not out to take over the school district’s job.”

The Booster Club, said Cooper, had obtained a tax ID number, and was in the process of obtaining 501C3 status. That, he said, would enable the club to receive “large tax-deductible donations. . . . Every sport will have a chance to raise money, but each sport will be able to help another if it so chooses. Say football raises a lot and wants to give to the dance team. It could do that.” 

The Booster Club would also, he said, be in a position to sponsor summer camps here — overseen ideally by East Hampton coaches — in return for donations to the club and the proviso that the children of year-round residents could attend at minimal cost.

He didn’t think there was a numbers problem. There seemed to be plenty of kids playing sports on the fields here. “What we need,” said Cooper, “is continuity all down the line. A coach has to lead, but he or she needs help from the community. Everybody has to work together.”