When space permits, we try to include announcements of fundraisers put on by various athletic programs. Public funds are tight these days and many coaches and teams use these events to raise money for equipment, uniforms, assistants and travel expenses. More and more it seems it’s becoming a necessity. There is a golf tournament at Turkey Creek this Friday to help the Lincoln girls golf team. And Oct. 6 the Rocklin High girls basketball squad will host a spaghetti dinner to help keep that program in the black. In most cases, these affairs are well attended and bring in quite a bit of financial support. Credit goes to the communities that respond in this way, and especially to the businesses that donate prizes for drawings and silent auctions. It has become one of the major preseason responsibilities for head coaches. High school sports have come a long way since gasoline was less than a buck a gallon. Today we have high seating-capacity stadiums and gymnasiums to better accommodate the crowds that attend these events. Equipment, training facilities and coaching have improved considerably and so has the entertainment value of these athletic events. Like the commercial says, “These guys are good.” That goes for the girls as well. I had to the opportunity to speak with some of the coaches this weekend as to how far these local programs have progressed. I was at a Jr. Zebras game in Lincoln and saw football being played at nearly the level I remember when growing up; not as big or fast as high school, but certainly as sophisticated if not more so. These feeder programs are allowing coaches at the prep levels to implement more sophisticated systems, plays and formations these days. There was a time when the P.E. instructor was the coach for every sport, and literally had to teach athletes how to play the game well enough to keep from getting hurt. I like what’s out there today and hope it continues, but it costs a good deal more to maintain today’s levels of competition. I know there’s a measure on California’s November ballot to raise taxes, which might help in supplementing public funds, but they also drain private funds. If we are at a point where coaches and players need the sponsorship and support of these businesses, the strain could have a ripple effect. It’s been said the economy is making a comeback and I can only hope that’s true. These athletic programs are not only giving the sports fan a better game, but also giving the student/athletes a better shot at life. Some will earn scholarship money and hopefully put it to good use, but what the games do more is built the citizens of tomorrow. Yes, education comes first, but sports are the foundation of desire, dedication, hard work and character – whether football, swimming, track or rodeo – the ultimate result tends to be the same. So those who put on these events need the help of the community, an economy doesn’t work in a vacuum. It involves time as well as money, and a need for all to participate.