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Hudson Benchwarmers work behind the scenes to support football program

The officers of the Hudson Benchwarmers include, from left, Vice President Lucia Bell, Head Football Coach Adam Kowles, President Nikki Meyer and Secretary Karen Meinke. Treasurer Barb Geissler is missing from the photo. (Hudson Star-Observer photos by Randy Hanson)1 / 2
More than 30 members of the Hudson Benchwarmers gather in Coach Adam Kowles' classroom at Hudson High School for the August meeting of the organization. The next meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17.2 / 2

The majority of visitors to Newton Field on a Friday night probably don't how much effort a parent group put into making the game a success for the Hudson Raiders football team.

Long before the starting lineups are introduced and the national anthem is played, the Hudson Benchwarmers have been at work feeding the players, painting the Raiders name in the end zones and getting the concession stands ready for business.

"I don't think the community understands the financial backing that we give the kids or the amount of support that we give the team," said Stacy Wix, a member of the parent group, in recommending that the Star-Observer do a report on the organization.

The Benchwarmers could use some more volunteer help and financial backing.

A guest at the organization's August meeting, held last week in Head Coach Adam Kowles' high school classroom, soon realized that Wix wasn't overstating the Benchwarmers' contribution to the program.

After an interesting insiders' update on the program from Coach Kowles, committee chairs reported on events that have already taken place this season -- and the things yet to come.

Close to 180 players in grades 9-12, plus parents, were served pancakes at the kickoff breakfast for the season in the high school cafeteria on Aug. 10.

The Benchwarmers gathered the mostly donated supplies for the breakfast and served the food.

While Coach Kowles addressed the parents, the players suited up for the team photos that will be in the 2013 game night program.

The meeting discussion turned to make-up photos for the players who were unable to attend the breakfast.

According to Kowles, the number of players in the program is down somewhat from the 195 who played football last season.

The coach explained that this year's senior class is smaller than the 41 who graduated, and the freshman class of 55 players is also smaller.

The 30-plus parents in the warm classroom heard a report on plans for the team-bonding spaghetti suppers that are held in the high school cafeteria the Thursday evening before Friday games -- home and away. Again, the Benchwarmers round up the supplies for the meals and cook and serve them.

The group purchases the meatballs. Parents are asked to cook them at home and bring them to the cafeteria. The parents also boil the noodles and bring them to the cafeteria. Others drop off milk and cookies. It takes a lot to feed 180 hungry high school football players.

A report was given about the food that was sent along on the team buses when the Raiders traveled to Stevens Point on Aug. 16 to scrimmage Point and Appleton North. Fourteen cases of Gatorade, 140 sandwiches and an unreported number of pizzas were sent along that day.

The food cost almost $1,500, Treasurer Barb Geissler reported. The money came from the Benchwarmers' fundraisers -- mainly sales of the Gold Card offering discounts at Hudson stores, sales of business ads on the game program, and profits from the Newton Field concession stands and the annual golf tournament.

The Benchwarmers also purchased 60 new helmets, 60 jerseys and 60 pairs of pants for the varsity team this year.

The group then talked about the logistics of sending freshmen and sophomore players home on buses after their afternoon games at Minnetonka last Friday. The players could stay for the evening varsity game if their parents were there to take them home.

Still on the agenda: player food before and after games, concessions, field painting, the website, the Benchwarmers' Facebook page, Parents Night on Sept. 6, Homecoming on Sept. 27, Senior Night on Oct. 18 and the annual banquet on Nov. 11.

"The Hudson Benchwarmers are an invaluable part of the overall football program," Coach Kowles said later when asked to comment on the organization.

"They do so much behind the scenes in helping the players and the coaches that it is difficult to even list all they do," the coach continued.

Kowles said the Benchwarmers allow him and his assistants to concentrate on their jobs on and off the field, while the organization takes care of the program's peripheral activities.

Nikki Meyer, a second-year member of the Benchwarmers, is its president for this season. Like nearly all the members of the group, she has sons in the football program -- two of them, a sophomore and a seventh-grader.

Lucia Bell is the organization's vice president, Karen Meinke is the secretary and Barb Geissler, the treasurer.

Geissler said the next goal for the organization is to raise funds for a turf practice field.

"There is absolutely a need for funds," said Geissler, noting that Raider football supporters can made a donation to the Benchwarmers through their website.

Wix said more volunteers also are needed to run concession stands and help with the spaghetti dinners. Sign-ups for those duties are available through the website, too.

Wix said the attendance at last week's Benchwarmers meeting was the second-best that she has witnessed. It's an encouraging sign, she said, but more parents of football players are needed to help out with the organization's activities.

Everyone who has a son in the football program is automatically a member of the Benchwarmers, a pamphlet about the organization says.

"If anyone wants to become involved, we would more than happily take more volunteers," added Wix.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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