Wielding Chop Sticks Boosts Team Spirit

In a year of tight school budgets and a legal settlement that has spiked the levying of “spirit fees” for student athletes, Laguna Beach’s Katsuya restaurant has made a welcome season-long offer: 10 percent of game-night dinner checks from patrons who wear the school’s maroon and white colors will be donated to the high school’s football boosters.

The parents of football players typically pay for many of the extras not covered by the school district, which pays for coaching salaries, transportation to away games and uniforms every third year.

“If you want something more than that, you have to find a way to raise money,” said Laguna Beach High School athletic director and head football coach Mike Churchill, who depends on boosters’ financial support.

This year, for example, boosters could afford to buy new uniforms, but not new helmets or shoulder pads, he said. Typically, they raise money through sales of advertising in the Football Journal, which includes a team roster, player profiles and team history, as well as sales of snacks and memorabilia at home games.

Boosters hope to raise $30,000 to meet their needs this year, though the president still anticipates deficit funding along the way.

Katsuya’s offer no doubt will generate ongoing income from another source: loyal Laguna Beach residents who dine there on the home game nights for the freshman, junior varsity and varsity football teams.

General manager Jenny Morinaka said that “supporting local communities is fundamental” to the operations of Katsuya and sbe, its Los Angeles-based owner.

Katsuya first put the practice into action in July shortly after opening by combining the kickoff of their lunch menu with a similar promotion for the Boys and Girls Club, raising $2,500. Laguna Beach resident Karen Jaffe coordinated on behalf of the club with Tammy Billings, sbe’s marketing director.

At the same time, Jaffe, mother of two former football players and the current co-captain of the team, was the volunteer coordinator for the LBHS Football Journal. Katsuya purchased a full-page ad but wanted another avenue to help, said Jaffe, and they came up with the idea of donating 10 percent of game-night dinner checks to boosters. Though other local restaurant owners have offered sports boosters one-night opportunities to bring in patrons and divvy up proceeds, few others have made a season-long commitment.

Sports, music and drama booster groups will face a challenge as a result of the ruling in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups which sued the State of California, saying that fees for textbooks, school supplies and sports uniforms violated the state’s constitutional guarantee of free and equal public education. Under a settlement reached last December the state agreed to enforce a state law prohibiting such fees.

The settlement effectively ended “spirit fees,” though in practice any Laguna family that couldn’t afford fees would receive a “scholarship” covered by funds raised and the contributions from other parents.

LBHS Football Boosters president Greg Anderson said no student football player was ever refused for financial reasons. Even without the settlement, boosters likely would have had more scholarships to fund because of the economy, he said.

But boosters’ financial support keeps the program strong, Jaffe said. Booster funds replace equipment more frequently, pay for upgrades in busses for long distance travel, and fund extra training tools, among other things.

Parents get battered with successive fundraisers and find it hard to support them all, said Anderson, so a new source of income is especially welcome.

The Breakers won big at their opening home game last Friday. They hope for a similar result tonight against Oceanview at 7 p.m.

Located at 858 S. Coast Highway, Katsuya opens for dinner at 5:30 seven days a week. In addition to sushi and Japanese-influenced dishes, they offer traditional Japanese Robata items, grilled over an open flame, signature cocktails, and a special kid’s menu.



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