— Gainesville High is back.
Well, the Leopards are on the right track if nothing else.
The proof is in the pudding. Eight teams made the playoffs, Leopard and Lady Leopard athletes filled all-district teams in each sport, track sent 24 athletes to area and football enjoyed its best season in eight years.
Things are looking up on F.M. 1306.
As with any successful enterprise, this all goes back to great leadership -- both in coaches and administration as well as among the students.
I attended the Rotary Club meeting last fall that introduced football coach Keith Hall and included a speech from athletic director Eric Johns.
The focus on the speech from both Hall and Johns could be summed up in one word: Accountability. That’s something that was missing in the past.
Without accountability, student-athletes could do as they pleased with little consequence. This is not only bad for athletics in terms of wins, but it’s also bad for crafting a productive citizen - the ultimate goal for any teacher or coach.
What Johns, Hall and all Leopard coaches did instead was instill discipline in their teams while still making athletics fun - it is a game after all. Cussing is gone, being late to practice is not acceptable and missing a team meeting is just as bad as being called for holding on the game-winning touchdown run.
The new discipline and accountability showed on the field routinely throughout the school year. The football team always stayed for opponents’ school songs, track athletes laughed it up with runners in the lane next to them and you would be hard press to attend a game without seeing a red jersey help an opponent off the field or court when they fall down.
While discipline and accountability will not directly lead to wins, it does help harness talent. Gainesville has always had talent, it’s putting the talent to proper use that is the key to wins. Credit the coaches for that.
While the coaches have helped turn the ship in the right direction, it couldn’t have been done without a great group of seniors this year.
While there are too many to mention, the number of seniors in boy sports almost directly correlated to a playoff berth -- look at the high number of seniors on both the football and basketball teams.
At my last gig, I covered The Woodlands High School - winners of six of the last seven Class 5A Lone Star Cup trophies. If The Woodlands didn’t win its district in any sport boys or girls, it was a disappointment. I only bring this up because I have started a lot of qualities at Gainesville that I saw at The Woodlands.
For example, last fall I was driving up Interstate 35 in the afternoon past the high school. Three months before the start of softball season, there were players on the field holding their own practice.
Nearly six months later, the Lady Leopards advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 1995.
I’ve seen it in almost every sport. Athletes running around the campus after school on their own, pick up basketball games being posted to Facebook and baseball players hitting on their own over the weekend.
It’s that extra work that athletes put in that will make all the difference -- camps, summer workouts and staying after practice. And that extra work goes back to discipline and accountability.
All this said, there is still a lot of work to do. I think the coaches will be the first to admit that.
The good news is, though, that things are heading in the right direction.
Keith MacPherson is the Sports Editor at the Gainesville Daily Register. He can be reached at email@example.com