Sports Facilities Fluctuate: Move to Eastside Brings Change to LASA Athletics

Ewan McInerney, Staff Writer

The structural and institutional shifts affecting LASA are a big change for a small school. 

Athletic facilities, schedules and structures are changing with the move to Eastside Memorial. Students and staff in the athletic department have varying opinions on the advantages and disadvantages of the move when it comes to sports.

In terms of scheduling, drastic changes have already been made to the sports programs at LASA and throughout the Austin Independent School District (AISD) because of COVID-19. Previously, several sports teams used the Delco Activity Center, an AISD sports facility, for practices and games. However, midway through the 2020-21 school year, the activity center was converted into a COVID-19 vaccination site. As a result, this year, some of LASA’s basketball and volleyball practices and games were moved to middle school campuses in the Austin area. LASA’s future site, however, contains athletic facilities on campus.

Athletic coordinator Bryan Crews is in support of the move and the effect it will have on the school’s athletic department. He said that the sports facilities becoming more localized will make it easier to organize and schedule events.

“Lately, we’ve been all over the place with practices,” Crews said. “In addition to the basketball and volleyball teams not being able to use Delco anymore, we’ve been spread out all year in terms of our facilities in general. Scheduling football and soccer practice has been very complicated, and the track team uses Nelson Field, so it’s going to be a great benefit to us because everything is going to be on our campus.”
Crews believes that the move will benefit LASA’s sports teams overall, but some students on sports teams have a different opinion on the matter. According to Hadley Wright, a freshman on the varsity volleyball team, issues could arise involving construction at the new campus, which may continue past the summer and stretch into next school year.

“The move is definitely going to make our events easier to coordinate in the long run, but there are a few short-term drawbacks that could happen,” Wright said. “I heard that the gym at the Eastside Memorial campus will be the last thing to be renovated for the next school year, so it’s possible that we could play the first few games, or even completely have the season, at Delco. The new campus is close to LASA, but it’s farther away from Delco, so we could end up with something resembling our current situation but even more difficult to coordinate since we’d have to bus between the two locations all the time.”

Hadley also gave a more in-depth explanation on how the volleyball team, specifically, was affected during the 2020-21 school year and how the logistics of practices and games will be changing next school year. She said that the Delco gym’s restrictions were detrimental to the team’s performance throughout the year.

“Even when the Delco gym was available to us before it became a vaccination center, it was still the only place where the volleyball team could practice,” Wright said. “This meant that volleyball practices had to be cut short, which made them only one hour instead of two hours. And in addition to that, we had three teams spread out over only two courts, which meant that the freshman team got even less time to practice. The season was cut short, so we immediately had a couple of games right after the preseason, and we definitely weren’t ready. The difference this year is that we’ll have two gyms, so all the teams will be able to practice at the same time, and we’ll have more time to prepare for games towards the beginning of the year.”

Major McIlvain is a sophomore on the JV baseball team. According to McIlvain, one of the bigger issues that the team experienced in the past school year was not related to logistics or scheduling but to the size of the team itself.

“This year was a tough year,” McIlvain said. “Every two years, UIL evaluates and redesignates the size of the school’s sports teams and what sizes of school we can play against. This year, the baseball team fell in between the 4A and 5A groups. The solution was to split the LASA and LBJ teams a year before we moved…On top of that, we weren’t even able to practice with the LBJ team because of COVID, and we really struggled because of that.”

In addition to having more sports facilities, the new campus is also larger than the LBJ building, meaning that more students will be accepted, each class size will be bigger and sports teams will get bigger. McIlvain said that the impact of the LASA move will vary across sports based on the number of LASA versus LBJ students that played on the teams originally.

“I get that there’s an advantage to having more space and time to practice, but whether the disadvantage outweighs the benefit really depends on which sport we’re talking about,” McIlvain said. “A lot of sports are already dominated by LASA students, which meant that when all the LBJ students separated from the teams this year, they didn’t suffer that much. It’s definitely going to be a long recovery for sports that had a lot of LBJ students before, though.”