Joe Martin

Joe Martin

Last month, millions of Texans watched the 6A high school football championship game and heard broadcaster Craig Way speak about the first-ever championship, played in January 1921.

A hundred years later, the tradition continues because the University Interscholastic League (UIL), school districts, administrators and coaches have done tremendous work to keep everyone safe and to navigate through 2020, a year that tested us all but also made us stronger.

As our nation undergoes unprecedented change, coaching is more difficult today than ever. The 23,000-member Texas High School Coaches Association (THSCA) shines the spotlight on the coaches across our state in all sports who are going above and beyond right now to help lead, mend and unify our communities and classrooms.

Texas is one of only a few states where high school coaches must also be certified teachers. With the astonishing statistic that 6,000 out of 36,000 Texas coaches leave the profession every year, THSCA is initiating its ROCK (Rare, Outstanding, Compelled, Knowledgeable) Mentor Program, to pair our best and brightest young coaches with a seasoned mentor in hopes of keeping newer coaches involved.

If you can build up and grow a leader, he or she can influence so many others. Supporting first-year through fifth-year coaches statewide, the program will provide tools and support to 19 initial “mentees,” giving them what they need to be successful in the worlds of teaching and coaching young people. In its debut year, ROCK addresses diversity and inclusion, and includes ISDs in Denton, Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, Lubbock and McAllen. We are planning to grow the program tenfold within the next three years. To achieve our goal and continue to expand across the state, we’ll need help — from corporate partners helping to underwrite the curriculum, as well as from impassioned supporters of students, schools and coaching.

Bringing together hundreds of Texas high school coaches and administrators, THSCA annually hosts a Leadership Summit (this week in Arlington’s Esports Stadium). The Leadership Summit gives current Texas coaching leaders (and mentors) wisdom and motivation to take back with them to their communities, which are dealing with social and political change as well as going through the pandemic.

Coaches influence many people in a community, and the Summit delivers not only material from peer coaches but also from professional leaders in all areas of society. Actor Matthew McConaughey tops a list of motivational speakers providing life skills and key principles that attendees take back to their communities and their young athletes.

THSCA has assembled these people to spend time together at the Summit so that an attendee receives practical, useful information to share and implement later. At the event, we also recognize one coach who has gone beyond the X’s and O’s in his program and present him the “Coaching Beyond the Game” award. For more information, visit www.thsca.com/summit.

With the final snap of the Westlake-Southlake Carroll football championship game Jan. 16, the UIL had overseen the completion of 95% of all fall sports. The result: In five, 10, even 50 years from now, those student athletes will be able to look back on the fall 2020 season because ISDs, students and their families, and in particular thousands of Texas coaches, were willing to endure.

Here’s to safer, healthier days that are approaching, and to the return of crowded bleachers, and the joy that high school sports brings to us all.

JOE MARTIN is the executive director of the Texas High School Coaches Association.

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