As a subscriber to the Field of Dreams mentality of philanthropic development, Energy FC co-owner Tim McLaughlin believes in building it first and letting the people come to it. The approach evidences itself in the 14 athletic fields he and his wife’s nonprofit, Fields & Futures, have already developed for OKC Public School students.
As McLaughlin outlines below, however, there’s still plenty of work to do. Thanks to generous donor support from community members who think like him as well as contributions gleaned from Energy FC ticket sales, Fields & Futures appears poised to bring the life-changing opportunities sports can offer to students across the metro.
The following Q&A took place over email, and responses have been lightly edited for style and grammar.
Your nonprofit, Fields & Futures, has made a large impact on the Oklahoma City community in only a couple of years. Has it grown faster than you expected?
First of all, thank you for recognizing the quick impact. It’s exciting to see rosters growing, coaches staying and neighborhoods re-engaging. It’s amazing the difference a new field can make. We tell people all the time, this is not really about fields — it’s about what happens after they’re built.
The short answer to your question is no, things have not grown faster than expected. We knew going in people would want to help once they heard and understood the state of the problem. We also knew we wanted to get all 44 OKCPS athletic fields built as quickly as possible so more students would want to join a team and benefit from that experience. For every school year that passes and those basic resources aren’t available, we’re missing a huge opportunity to help get kids on a better path to graduation.
To clarify, it has been four years since we built the first set of athletic fields at Jefferson Middle School in 2012. It just feels like a couple of years.
Where do things stand now? How many fields have you completed, what fields are currently under construction, and what’s your plan over the next year or two?
To date, we have completed 14 athletic fields at five complexes: Jefferson Middle School (three), Webster Middle School (three), Capitol Hill High School (three), Taft Middle School (two plus an outdoor basketball and futsal court), and Northwest Classen High School (three).
We have two complexes currently under construction at Roosevelt Middle School (three) and Star Spencer High School (three). Barring any weather events or other unexpected issues, we’re on track to complete those by year’s end, bringing our total to 20 fields and seven complexes.
That will leave 24 fields and eight complexes remaining. We still have a long way to go.
Fields & Futures just completed a pair of fundraising events. Tell us a little about those.
June is a big month for Fields & Futures. We just hosted our fourth annual Team Up to Tee Off Coaches Appreciation Golf Tournament at River Oaks Golf Club, where participants were able to play with — or provide a round of golf for — an OKCPS coach, spending a fun day hearing firsthand stories about why and how coaches do what they do. We’re happy to report a fourth-straight year of growth in net proceeds from this event and, like everything we do, it wouldn’t happen without caring sponsors and supporters. We’re looking now at dates for our 2017 tournament. Stay tuned for details.
Our second event last week was called Palapastock. Designed as an outdoor music festival with food trucks, fireworks, and silent and live auctions, this event is a chance for our donors, partners and supporters to see each other in a fun, social setting and be reminded of the tremendous difference they each make in the lives of those students and coaches we serve across the OKCPS district. This was our third-consecutive palapa party and concert and, like the golf tournament, it has been rewarding to see it grow from year to year. None of it would happen without great sponsors.
Our remaining fundraising event in 2016 will be our third annual Fields & Futures Bowtie Ball at the Chevy Bricktown Events Center on Thursday, Dec. 15. Designed as “a night to celebrate, honor and thank the coaches who make the world a better place — one athlete at a time,” this event includes a cocktail party, seated dinner, guest coach/speaker, live music, casino tables and great raffle items. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
How are you able to push forward funding-wise in a tough energy economy?
Funding is always a challenge, regardless of how the energy sector is doing. That money can only stretch so far. We have been blessed to receive funding support from a lot of different sources and are always looking for more. Almost everyone we talk to has a positive memory of a team or coach that made a special difference in their lives, and they want to help make sure every OKCPS student is given that same opportunity.
Many people may not know, but a portion of Energy FC ticket sales goes back into Fields & Futures, correct?
SUPPORT FIELDS & FUTURES: ATTEND ENERGY MATCHES
vs. Orange County
7:30 p.m. Saturday
Yes, $2 of every paid ticket is donated to Fields & Futures, and we are happy to say that adds up to a substantial annual donation. We use those funds to help pay for the maintenance of the new athletic fields while we work to grow a perpetual field-maintenance endowment that will eventually pay for all OKCPS athletic field maintenance. It’s always exciting to see big crowds at Energy games, but it’s especially exciting when we think of the impact for Fields & Futures.
How does the work your nonprofit has done on these athletic fields affect children?
Imagine going to school and walking around or across fields that don’t even look like athletic fields versus walking onto campus and seeing suburban-quality athletic fields that have transformed your school grounds. Or, imagine being that student whose parent can’t attend home games because you can’t have home games.
All of that to say, when young students see a community rally to rebuild their athletic fields, what they really see is someone saying, “We see you, we care about you, and we’re going to show you in very real terms just how much we care.”
It creates a renewed sense of hope. It builds confidence. It gives students a new source of pride and, most importantly, it gives them a resource, an opportunity to join a team and benefit from the oversight of a caring coach.
What has co-owning a soccer franchise in OKC taught you about this community? With so many international players on the Energy roster, what do you hear from them about Oklahoma and your organization?
I am constantly learning new things about our community, and with each new learning, I appreciate Oklahoma City more than ever. Being a native Oklahoman, this has always been home for me, and although I knew we were a culturally diverse market, now I get to see firsthand our different cultures come together around a shared love of the game and cheer on a team almost as diverse as our city. That sense of togetherness is one of the universal attributes of soccer I love most.
Our players say the same thing all new people to Oklahoma say, “The people are so nice!” They’re loving the fan support and are excited to play their part in growing the game of soccer in Oklahoma.
Finally, you’re sort of well known among Energy fans for looking a little more dapper than your average soccer hooligan. Are you going to be able to rock a scarf and blazer at July games?
It’s time to break out the summer scarf! I can’t promise a jacket in July and August …