It is said over and over that “hard work pays off.” For athletes at Keene State College, in addition to working hard in the classroom and on the playing surface, they work hard to fund their most memorable team trips. When athletes went upstate to Loudon, N.H. a couple of weekends ago, they learned that hard work can indeed pay off – pay off their team trips planned later in the year.
The women’s basketball and men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs have made it an annual fundraising opportunity to work at New Hampshire Motor Speedway each year when NASCAR makes a pit-stop in New England. The Sylvania 300 is one of the final races in NASCAR’s Chase for the Spring Cup Championship and the Owls have seemingly always been a part of making this race happen.
It starts at three in the morning for the Owls athletes making the trek up to Loudon for a full 12-hour work day on their feet. The teams attend the race separately and work in different areas assigned to them by the coordinators of the speedway.
A pair of sophomore women’s basketball players, Nikki Stacy and Rachael Brucks, were among the group of girls assigned to handle parking duties for the day. The two said they realized this was for fundraising but also had a decent time this year as a bonding opportunity. “You get to know everyone better under those conditions and certainly make the best of it,” Stacy said. Head coach Keith Boucher has used the NASCAR race as a fundraising opportunity for nearly a decade now. While this event may be looked at by some players as primarily a team bonding event, Boucher said that this is a great way to defray costs for the teams’ bi-annual trip. “We can’t raise that type of money in one day doing something else,” Boucher said. “Next year we’re going to Key Largo for a tournament and this helps defer the cost that comes out of our players pockets.”
Owls Swimming coach Jack Fabian mentioned how players get credit for the hours that are worked but that the team also has to serve some time in the summer during other races at the track.
This is another opportunity to fund their winter training trip. “We had a fairly decent turnout of kids this summer,” Fabian said.
The summer work also helps the team to be re-hired for other days of work by the race staff. Fabian’s team was assigned to work as screeners at a gate to enter the track.
Their job was to check bags for restricted items that are prohibited by the event staff. Regardless of the task at hand, Fabian said that he hopes it serves as a motivator to his team to finish college and get a degree.
However, it is not just Owls athletes that work as part of the fundraising effort. Parents of the swim team members assisted with work as well as some of the sessions in previous years. Figuring that the money for team trips are typically out of pocket to students with little help from the school, the parents are big suppliers of the funds for the trips.
“This summer my wife, son and myself were all working just trying to get the numbers up,” Fabian said. “I work every session and I do it for them [the athletes].”
While all members of the Owls Basketball and Swimming and Diving programs have different stories and experiences to share, both reveal the commonality that the fundraising effort not only helps with paying off trips but reflects personally on the athletes and institution as a whole.
KSC is just one of many schools that assist at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway as a way of raising money to get to the next level. “We’ve become really close with other schools, specifically Norwich University,” Fabian said.
Fabian added, “We really enjoy seeing those familiar faces.”
For Keene State College as an institution, athletic director John Ratliff feels that it certainly reflects positively on the school. “We set a good example up there and perform well,” Ratliff said, “We leave the people up there are impressed with our Keene State student-athletes and how well they work.”
The Owls Women’s Basketball program travels on a costly winter trip every other year while the swim team goes annually.
Various fundraising events are done by all athletic teams to value the concept that “hard work, pays off.”
That mentality sticks with all of those at Keene State College.
Brian Schnee can be contacted at