Friends of Cambridge Athletics: not your average booster club

Tom Arria, athletic director of the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, checks his emails in his office. Photo by Tyler Oringer/ BU News Service.

By Tyler Oringer 
BU News Service

This article was previously published in the Cambridge Chronicle

Cambridge Rindge and Latin School has long been known for its student athletes’ impressive feats. However, not much is known about the Friends of Cambridge Athletics, the all-parent, nonprofit booster club that has served an integral role in the high school’s storied athletic history over the last 20 years.

FOCA was founded in 1998 and has provided the school with an organizational and fundraising outlet where student-athletes, parents and coaches can participate and raise money for the various teams.

FOCA runs or helps out with three events each year, including the September Serve-A-Thon, February Winter Social and April Cambridge City Run. The funds help FOCA contribute equipment and provide other support to the school’s athletes and coaches.

Kevin Richard, president of FOCA, is a booster of this more-than-a-booster club.

“The goal of FOCA is that no student should have to pay for any sport,” he said.

Richard noted the varsity basketball programs were able to secure college-level equipment thanks to FOCA fundraising and close collaboration with Athletic Director Tom Arria and the coaches.

“There is an enormous gap between the athletic director’s budget and what teams need to put a full roster on the field. At a high school, you can’t get everything you want like the rebounding machine for $5,000,” Richard said. “However, when the coach came to us for the Shoot-A-Way [a machine that rebounds and passes the ball back out to players], we didn’t bat an eye.”

Kept afloat by volunteers

The nine parents who serve on the board of FOCA joined because they have an interest in helping their children’s athletic programs grow. There are also parents who serve as liaisons with each team in order to coordinate events for the coaches and athletic staff. Arria serves on the board and coordinates communication with coaches and CLRS.

“I’m really the communication piece between the operational part of the school and the independent piece of FOCA that helps to support our programs to make it better for the students,” Arria said.

Though they have provided college-level equipment and hold three fundraisers each year, the most direct financial support FOCA provides are 10 scholarships awarded to those who demonstrate excellence on and off the field.

Jennifer Miles, FOCA’s communications director, is most proud of the scholarships — five for young women and five for young men — which range from the Courage Award to the Athletic Achievement Award.

“The highlight for me is to be able to give 10 scholarships of $1,000 each,” she said. “It’s not necessarily based on need. The talent, the feedback from coaches and how they are in the world determines it.”

Miles also hopes to have a parent with a child on each team be as dedicated to FOCA as the current board members.

“I think we could grow this web of parents that really benefits FOCA and build the program to get more representation,” she said. “It would be incredible.”

Arria pointed out the program and the need for support is only growing as CRLS athletics continues to improve.

“FOCA is just a group of good people giving up their time to support the program and make athletics here better for everybody,” Arria said. “I think it’s a special thing.”

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