Former Chiefs RB Kimble Anders has faced plenty of challenges since taking over as Director of Athletics for the Kansas City, Missouri School District (KSMSD). Towards the top of the list have been district-wide budget cuts.
Just last year, the school district faced a $50 million deficit and planned for massive school closures. Roughly 40% of its schools would end up closing.
With drastic measures being taken, athletics presented an obvious area for further cuts.
“A lot of kids haven’t been able to get football cleats, basketball shoes or new equipment because we haven’t been able to supply that in the budget,” Anders said.
As a result, a number of players on the Central High School football team practiced and played in tennis shoes last season. For those that had cleats, most of them were hand-downs with plenty of wear already on them.
Each football squad within the KSMSD operates under similar circumstances.
“We just went to get our helmets reconditioned and about 60 of them were damaged to the point that we can’t use them,” said Anders. “We’re going to have to find ways to subsidize money for new helmets.”
Thursday afternoon, Chiefs Chairman & CEO Clark Hunt, General Manager Scott Pioli and President Mark Donovan made special announcement to the Central High School football team alongside Anders, KSMSD Superintendent Dr. John Covington, Chief of Staff Chace Ramey, Central High School Principal Linda Collins and Central Head Coach Steve Schottel.
Finding football cleats won’t be a problem anymore.
Chiefs equipment manager Allen Wright had been going over year-end inventory with Pioli when the two realized there was a large amount of equipment that could be donated to a worthy group of area athletes.
“We had a lot of extra things that needed to be somewhere else, Pioli said. “We have a group of kids here in our city that really need our help. We talked to Clark about it, and Clark talked to his siblings about it, and we decided that the best place for this stuff to be is right here in Kansas City.”
In total, the Chiefs donated more than 500 pairs of cleats once destined to be worn by NFL players. Also included in the delivery were weight room equipment and headsets for coaches. The donations will be distributed to the five high school football programs across the district.
“It’s a great honor for the organization and for our family to be able to give back to the community,” Hunt said. “This is another way that we can do that in reaching out to a group of schools that have a lot of needs – especially in the athletic programs.”
Central football players were issued their new cleats on site and went through an unofficial summer practice in front of Pioli, Hunt and Donovan.
“I was joking with some of the players that it’s not the shoes that are going to make them jump higher or run faster, it’s going to take some hard work,” Pioli said. “It’s about understanding how important hard work is along with having things.”
In an environment where many of the students come from single-parent homes and struggle with incarcerated family members, the donation gives Coach Schottel one less thing to worry about. It allows he and the rest of the Central coaching staff to focus on the things that are most important.
“Football is a vehicle for us,” Schottel said. “It’s a motivational tool for these kids really understand what’s important in academics and maintain eligibility and gain scholarship opportunities that may come in the future.
“We’re a champions of character school. Obviously, athletics can be a visible part of any institution and we want to model and respect servant leadership, responsibility, teamwork and the qualities it takes to be a true champion of character. You can win games, but that doesn’t mean you’re a champion as a person.”