BUILDING A NEW BUSINESS MODEL

BUILDING A NEW BUSINESS MODEL

An All-Student Partnership, a new logo, and a reimagined school store help drive Vallejo High School revenue

Working on a tight budget, Vallejo High School has come up with an innovative way to capitalize on its All-Student Partnership uniform program and increase revenues for the school.

Vallejo High School Spirit Gear

Athletic Director and Head Baseball Coach Josh Ramos runs the athletic department like a business. When he took over as AD three years ago and looked at the operation, Ramos realized the school needed to visually upgrade the Redhawks logo, consolidate athletic purchases to get a larger discount, and enter into an All-Student Partnership Nike uniform deal. The annual rebates from the deal allow Vallejo to stock the school store with Nike gear branded with the new Vallejo logo.

“Each sport used to individually buy whatever was on sale,” Ramos says. “We decided to go to Eastbay Team Sales, and Matt Pantazes, an Eastbay Area Sales Manager, helped us put an all-school program together around Nike. It was a great opportunity to partner with Eastbay and Nike. The whole school has head-to-toe Nike gear — the band, phys ed. classes, leadership classes…”

Working with Eastbay, Vallejo created an on-campus school store stocked with Nike product such as hoodies, backpacks, shorts, tees, and hats branded with the new logo. “We sold out of everything at orientation,” Ramos says. “We bought back into more product, and it’s gone again. The kids love it.”

The plan was for Vallejo to maximize its uniform purchase with Eastbay each year and use the Eastbay rebate to stock the store, Ramos says. “It took just one year to build our rebate level, and since 100% of the rebate goes to restocking the student store, we don’t have to pay anything additional for student store product,” he says.

Selecting product for the store is done by a leadership steering committee made up of Ramos, Activities Director and Head Men’s Basketball Coach Andrew Johansen, and Head Finance Officer and Women’s Soccer Coach Mallory Walton. (The three are frequent collaborators on larger athletic department decisions as well.)

Sales aren’t limited to students. A physical school store is set up at athletic events to sell Vallejo-branded gear to parents, supporters, and alumni.

Small Business Challenges

For Ramos, the parallels to the business world range beyond driving revenue for the school.

“As I look at the athletic department as a small business, I’m the owner, and my job is to train everybody,” Ramos says. “My job is to get the coaches on the same page, teach our kids how to conduct themselves, set the expectations, and establish the procedures.”

Challenges vary each year, Ramos says. Finding great coaches is the first priority and setting up regular communication with them follows suit.

Vallejo hosts one large meeting at the beginning of the year with every coach, assistant, and volunteer to get everyone acclimated with new rules and new staff. In addition, Ramos meets with coaches three times a year for the fall, winter, and spring sports programs.

“We also have pre- and post-season meetings with coaches to review performance, to discuss what they want to accomplish for the season, and whether they met those goals,” Ramos says. “It’s a very positive atmosphere. Every coach needs to receive constructive feedback on their performance through someone else’s eyes to help them build their program.”

LEADERSHIP THROUGH ATHLETICS

LEADERSHIP THROUGH ATHLETICS

Innovative leadership programs have helped Johns Creek athletes create a path for life after high school

Since Jason Holcombe took over as athletic director at Johns Creek High School (just northeast of Atlanta), the school has made a name for itself not just through its athletic programs, but from its approach to education and creating leadership opportunities for its students.

Academically, Johns Creek is among the top 2 percent of schools in Georgia and has a graduation rate of 97 percent. The school is a proponent of athletics, arts, and academics, and its high standards are reflected in its athletic program.

Johns Creek is competitive in every one of its 16 sports. Three years ago, the school was reclassified into a smaller tier and was able to face schools its own size (enrolment of 2,100) rather than schools with twice the population. It now regularly sends teams to state finals in 90 percent of its sports. And Holcombe works to make sure all sports are equally supported.

“As an AD, the goal is to make school pride infectious for all sports,” he said. “We are all Gladiators, and we want to make sure the school and community provide support to all programs.”

While the school strives for athletic excellence, Holcombe sets the bar higher for Johns Creek. “Our job is to prepare young men and women to be equipped to face life’s challenges after graduation. They learn to win and lose with grace and how to come back stronger when faced with obstacles.”

As part of a holistic leadership philosophy, Johns Creek has created several innovative programs:

Rebranding, school pride, and new revenue

“We needed to modernize our branding,” Holcombe said. “It was time for all our teams to have a unified look. Consistency and feel are important. When the kids get off the bus or walk down the school hallway, they should look like Johns Creek athletes.”

Eastbay helped adapt the primary logos to specific sports. “Eastbay created an online photo repository for different variations of the logo for every sport,” Holcombe said. “Coaches were inspired to suggest new ideas for their own logo variations.”

Once finalized, Johns Creek began building online team stores to help promote the school and drive revenue.

“Coaches have done a tremendous job of getting their online team stores live,” Holcombe said. “They work with Eastbay to pick out the product, which is posted for the parents and community to look at. The ordering is online, and items ship directly to the customer, so they don’t have to do any physical work. Eastbay’s been a great partner for us.”

Special Needs program support

Johns Creek has created a remarkably inclusive and supportive relationship with special needs students. In addition to mentoring the students academically, members of the athletic teams embrace the opportunities to get them involved with sports programs.

“Special needs students have served as managers on our teams,” Holcombe said. “One student in a wheelchair — we call him Coach — attends every baseball game, home or away, and presents the line-up card to the umpire. He’s really part of the team. It wouldn’t be a Johns Creek baseball game without that student in attendance.”

Johns Creek organized a send-off for the Special Olympics basketball team. “The drumline and cheer team were there, and 150-250 students made a tunnel for those athletes as they were getting on the bus,” Holcombe said. “It was huge. The look in their eyes was amazing.”

Strong promotion of multisport participation

Getting athletes involved in more than one sport is a key component in the Johns Creek philosophy, Holcombe said.

“Studies have shown that multiple-sport athletes are more involved, get better grades, and have a more positive outlook. The experience and discipline helps them develop their problem-solving, leadership, and interpersonal skills for later on in life.”

The athletic department tracks athletes’ grades and brings in guest speakers (including local pro athletes and alumni) to talk about topics such as social media awareness, managing schedules, and leadership. “The guest speakers help students understand that they’re held to a higher standard and how to prioritize and deal with pressure,” Holcombe said.

BUILDING A BASKETBALL DYNASTY

BUILDING A BASKETBALL DYNASTY

The Sierra Canyon High School boys’ and girls’ program is in elite territory

Sierra Canyon High School (Chatsworth, Calif.) pulled off a rare feat in spring 2019 — both the boys and girls teams took home California State championships on the same night in March.

In fact, the Trailblazers can make the argument that the basketball program is one of the best in the country.

During the 2018-19 run, the boys’ team, led by first-year coach Andre Chevalier, outpaced Sheldon High School (Sacramento) in the title game. The girls took the banner with a convincing win over another historically strong high school team, Pinewood (Los Altos Hills).

“We have a culture of success here,” says Boys Head Basketball Coach Andre Chevalier. “Our guys compete on the court and are pushed in the classroom too. That’s one of the things that was attractive to the players and their parents.”

The girls’ team has arguably been even more dominant than the boys’ team in recent years. The state championship marked their fourth in the past seven years under Head Basketball Coach Alicia Komaki. The girls’ program had a single loss all year and took a run at an overall national #1 title.

“That team was special,” Komaki says. “They worked hard. They didn’t take days off. They wanted to learn and get better. “I enjoy seeing the growth as a person and an athlete,” she says. “It’s my responsibility to make sure these girls are prepared for life after high school.”

Eastbay partners with Sierra Canyon

Eastbay has an all-school deal with Sierra Canyon and helped the team fulfil their uniform needs.

Sierra Canyon wears the Nike Digital Unlimited home and away uniforms, and seniors pick and design the jerseys.

The relationship began in 2015 when Eastbay Team Sales Rep Tony Cubillo provided uniforms to Komacki and the girls’ basketball program. “From there, other sports started seeing the service I offered, and eventually it turned into an all-student partnership in 2018,” Cubillo says.

“I’m just very happy to work with a first-class program like Sierra Canyon,” Cubillo says. “I appreciate their trust in me to service the sports programs.”

Cubillo works with Sierra Canyon Assistant Athletic Director David Soble to coordinate the timing for all school orders, and works with individual coaches on sizing, delivery, and other needs. Coaches also partner with Eastbay to organize team stores and spirit pack bulk orders.