LASA’s Athletic Recruitment Suffers Amid Split


photo by Emma McBride

Abigail Jackson, Staffer

Other high schools in Austin Independent School District (AISD) have the advantage of communicating with prospective athletes and planning for new additions to their athletic program because they know which middle schools their future students will come from. However, according to LASA’s new Athletic Coordinator, Bryan Crews, since LASA is a magnet school, there is no way of knowing what students will be coming to LASA and if they play sports or not. This poses a dilemma for LASA Athletics: recruitment.

“At other schools, coaches will go to the middle schools, they’ll go to games, and they’ll meet the athletes at their feeder schools,” Crews said. “We can’t do that, because we don’t have a feeder school.”

Because LASA has been with LBJ for so long, recruitment has not posed a serious problem, as both LBJ and LASA students contributed to the roster. But ever since November when the UIL split from LBJ was announced, LASA has needed to coordinate for the 2020-2021 school year so that there are enough students for teams that relied on LBJ athletes, such as basketball, football and more.

Junior Hobbs McAllister has played on the LBJ JV basketball team for three years. According to him, LASA’s admissions process is based more on academics, meaning that sports are not as large of a factor.

“LASA doesn’t draw in people based on its sports teams,” McAllister said. “We’re going to have to compete against schools, like Anderson, who actually have a really good basketball team.”

Other challenges besides player scarcity that will be faced by LASA athletics are time and space. LASA teacher and head girl’s soccer coach Chloe Cardinale said that a lot of LASA students are very ambitious academically and tend to fill their schedules with AP classes. Cardinale said that this doesn’t leave a lot of time for athletic classes, which are crucial for sports that need more time to run drills and practice skills.

“Other high schools have athletic classes, and so then you can develop that talent all year rather than just in season,” Cardinale said. “I think that benefits any sports program.”

Since LASA and LBJ will still share a campus in the 2020-2021 academic year, athletic programs for both schools will have to share the fields, gyms, and weight room. However, LASA is planned to move to the current Eastside Memorial High School campus for the 2021-2022 school year, meaning the school will have its own facilities to use for athletics.

“I think [practice space] is going to be a big issue, but hopefully over time that will be fixed,” Cardinale said.

Because LASA can’t recruit students based on athletics, Cardinale said coaches will have to do more when students arrive in the fall. There is no guarantee to coaches that they will have enough players to fill a varsity and JV team.

“Really until the students show up for tryouts, you really don’t know who you’re going to have,” Cardinale said. “We have to do a lot of recruiting in-house during the school year and convince kids to play and participate.”

Soccer, like many of the other LASA/LBJ sports, is a blend of students from both schools, so for some sports, the split will not only affect LASA but also LBJ.

“I think that [the split] is going to negatively impact the LBJ [soccer] team because the majority of the players are LASA,” Cardinale said.

There are currently 3 girls soccer teams: varsity, JV A and JV B. Once LASA and LBJ split, there won’t be enough players for either school to fill the three teams. On the flip side, LBJ/LASA soccer has always been competitive. According to Cardinale, the split might allow for more girls to try out.

“[The split] will hopefully give [LBJ] the opportunity for more girls to come out who maybe wouldn’t have before,” Cardinale said.

Although the split is going to come with many challenges for LASA, Crews said that the magnitude of LASA’s student body pool is beneficial for school athletics.

“The positive side for us, though, is that any student from anywhere in the district can come to LASA,” Crews said.

The connection between LASA and LBJ has created ties in athletics that will suffer after the split, both next year and at LASA’s new campus. McAllister said that he is sad because he won’t be able to play with the LBJ teammates he has bonded with after the split.

“I’ve made a lot of good friendships on the [basketball] team, and it’s going to suck not to play with them,” McAllister said.

Cardinale shared a similar sentiment. She said she will miss coaching the LBJ players who were previously on her team as well as the LBJ-LASA connection that sports brought.

“I am sad that I will not have any of my LBJ players next year, especially the juniors that have played for three years, that’s hard,” Cardinale said. “Not having that connection between the two schools is unfortunate.”

While the future of LASA athletics is unknown, Crews is hopeful that both LASA and LBJ will continue towards success and will continue working to promote LASA’s new athletic program and its goals alongside LASA’s coaches.