Texas ReadsGlenn Dromgoole

>> archiveA behind-the-scenes look at Texas high school football

If you really like high school football, let me recommend one of the best books I’ve read on the subject.

Gray Levy, a former high school football coach in Nevada, spent five months in 2012 going behind the scenes with 11 successful Texas high school teams and offers rare insights into how and  why they consistently win.

His new book, Big and Bright: Deep in the Heart of Texas High School Football (Taylor Trade Publishing, $27.95 hardcover), takes an in-depth look at football programs from different size schools in different parts of the state. He details how the coaches and players prepare for their upcoming games and focuses on the importance of administrative and community support.

The 11 programs profiled are: La Marque (near Galveston), Carthage (East Texas), Port Lavaca (Gulf Coast), Stamford, Abilene High, Throckmorton and Idalou (West Texas), Aledo and Cedar Hill (Metroplex), Round Rock Stony Point (near Austin), and Harlingen (Rio Grande Valley).

Throckmorton plays six-man football, Stamford and Idalou are smaller division programs, Carthage, Port Lavaca, La Marque and Aledo are mid-level divisions, and Abilene High, Stony Point, Cedar Hill and Harlingen play in what is now 6A.

Levy said he focused on Texas because “no one does high school football like Texas. I came because I’d become disillusioned with the changing priorities of public education and hoped to restore my faith.” In Texas, he found, “high schools are still the seat of community pride.”

After five months, 59 games, and 19,689 miles, Levy said he went back home convinced that Texas “has the best system of public school athletics in the country.”

However, he also found that “Texas is also the perfect example of what not to do when it comes to assessment and accountability. No other state has allowed assessment to overwhelm education like Texas. Teachers and administrators are effectively handcuffed into removing creativity or personal initiative from their curriculum.

“I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say that the excellent condition of the state’s extra-curricular programs saves Texas from having the worst educational system in the country. I saw this in my 11 schools. They do well despite ridiculous state mandates precisely because those communities and schools believed in something beyond test scores.”

Big and Bright adds to a growing collection of very readable books about Texas high school football, most of them focusing on one specific school. The best known is Friday Night Lights, but here are some other favorites:

  • Where Dreams Die Hard by Carlton Stowers, about a six-man team in tiny Penelope.
  • Champion of the Barrio by Gaines Baty, about his father’s El Paso Bowie team in the 1950s.
  • Twelve Mighty Orphans by Jim Dent, about the Fort Worth Masonic Home Mighty Mites in the 1930s.
  • Remember Why You Play by David Thomas, about the Faith Christian School Lions in Grapevine.
  • The Team of the Century by Al Pickett, about Abilene High in the 1950s.
  • Texas High School Football Dynasties by Rick Sherrod, profiling teams that have won at least four state championships.

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Glenn Dromgoole, co-author of 101 Essential Texas Books has teamed up with Jay Moore to write a children’s picture book, Abilene A to Z, about the city’s history and culture – published fall 2015 by Abilene Christian University Press. Contact him at g.dromgoole@suddenlink.net.

>> Check out his previous Texas Reads columns in Lone Star Lit

5th annual Dobie Dichos slated for Nov. 6 in Oakville

On Friday, Nov. 6, 2015, the 5th annual Dobie Dichos storytelling event will take place at the Historic Oakville Jailhouse Lodge in Oakville, Texas, from 6:00 to 9:30 p.m. The cost of meal and performance is $15; admission for the performance only is $10.  Tickets go on sale in September

Presented by George West Storyfest Association, Inc., this event honors Live Oak County’s most famous son, J. Frank Dobie, to celebrate Dobie’s works and contributions to literature, folklore, and storytelling.  >>READ MORE