For many Texas high school football coaches, the 2016 season unofficially kicks off Sunday in San Antonio at the Texas High School Coaches Association Convention & Coaching School.
Most area teams won’t begin workouts until Aug. 8, but the annual conference is the largest gathering of coaches in the country and attracts more than 10,000 to its four days of meetings, seminars and sessions.
It’s just always kind of the start of the year for us. It’s kind of the kickoff of the football season.
Aledo football coach Steve Wood on the coaches convention
This year, the association expects to draw more than 13,000 coaches.
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“It’s just always kind of the start of the year for us,” Aledo football coach Steve Wood said. “It’s kind of the kickoff of the football season.”
Missing for the second consecutive year are the all-star football and basketball games, which were once annual parts of the convention. An NCAA rule implemented in late 2013 prevents NCAA Division I coaches from speaking at events that hold all-star games.
College-level speakers are a key part of the THSCA coaching school, so the association reluctantly shelved the games. The football all-star game started in 1935; basketball began in 1946.
“I’m old, I’m a fossil, but it was always a big deal to me. I didn’t like it when we lost [the all-star games] because I always enjoyed it,” said Wood, who also admitted that attendance and prestige of the games had dwindled in the past few years.
Last year’s attendance at the convention was down 17.4 percent from 2014.
New to coaching school this year is the continuation of a character initiative that partners THSCA, UIL and the Dallas Cowboys. THSCA executive director D.W. Rutledge is enthusiastic about inclusion of the Texas High School Character Education Program.
I think we’re doing a lot more things at coaching school now.
THSCA Executive Director D.W. Rutledge
“We’re excited about a deal we’ve got with the NFL and the [Dallas] Cowboys on Sunday that’s a good character initiative for the whole state,” Rutledge said.
Rutledge is also proud of the emphasis sessions are putting on some of today’s most relevant coaching topics, especially health and safety.
“I think we’re doing a lot more things at coaching school now,” Rutledge said. “We’ll have over 90 lectures and meetings over a four-day period and about 60 of those are X’s and O’s lectures that address every UIL sport, both men and women. Then you have a lot of the stuff we’re doing beyond the X’s and O’s that is, I think, really critical to the coaching profession right now.”
For Wood, the sessions and speakers are always an attraction, but there’s also an additional benefit to attending the convention.
“I think coaches exchange ideas,” he said. “We will have sit-down meetings with other staffs and just talk X’s and O’s. It’s just a great opportunity when you have that many minds there and it’s always a chance to pick their brains.”
Registration figures for recent Texas High School Coaches Association state conventions:
2005: 11,197 San Antonio
2006: 11,283 Austin
2007: 11,682 Fort Worth
2008: 12,652 San Antonio
2009: 12,901 Austin
2010: 13,327 San Antonio
2011: 10,862 Fort Worth
2012: 12,672 San Antonio
2013: 12,185 Fort Worth
2014: 12,517 San Antonio
2015: 10,336 Houston