Galveston’s Ball High School may have a storied history on the athletic field, but it’s beginning to make bigger waves in the academic arena.

The school recently hosted 15 schools as part of a University Interscholastic League speech and debate tournament, the first time a UIL-sanctioned event visited the island since 2007. The event is a part of a larger plan by the Galveston Independent School District and Ball High School administrators to make the school one of the area leaders in academic competition. 

UIL academic competition is split into different categories made up from subjects taught in schools across the state, such as speech and debate. Students are challenged via tests, writing assignments and projects that take place through one or two days.

The Tors have always had a stellar speech and debate program, regularly producing students that go on to compete at the state and national level. But it lacked in entering other UIL academic events such as four journalism categories, science, social studies, accounting, spelling and vocabulary, computer science and more.

Enter Chad Flisowski, an English teacher formerly from Port Lavaca — Superintendent Larry Nichols’ old stomping grounds — tasked with building a program. 

Flisowski oversaw an academic team winning district championships seven times in eight years, a regional championship, two regional runners-up and two top 10 state finishes. Flisowski now oversees a youthful and growing program, comprised largely of sophomores and freshmen.

“Some students just want to belong to something,” said Flisowski about his team, who had two buses of students and sponsors recently travel to a meet in Needville. “There are students who are just hyper competitive. Then there are students who want to build their résumé for college.”

UIL academic competition is recognized by universities and colleges at the national level, with Ivy League schools accepting many former UIL academic meet participants. There are also scholarships available to those that go onto compete at the state level. 

“I have a number of students in speech and debate who wish to be lawyers or medical professionals and realize that communications is important,” Flisowski said. 

“I have students doing the accounting competition that want to be business majors already being exposed to very specific business language. When we recruit children, some are forward-thinking and see how UIL participation will help them get into college.”

Ball High School will be in a new district next year, up against Texas City and Fort Bend ISD schools. More experience and the capability to host more events on its home turf will make the Tors dangerous in the years to come. 

“Next year, we should be competitive for the top two spots in the district,” Flisowski said. “In two years, when this team is mostly juniors and seniors, I think we should be vying for the district title. 

“We’re going to host more tournaments, we’re going to be more successful, and we’re going to continue to make Galveston look better.”

Johnston Farrow is the communications specialist for Galveston ISD.

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