FRIENDSWOOD

After four years competing at the state’s largest classification, a drop down to its long-time home in Class 5A resulted in immediately improved levels of success for Friendswood ISD athletics this past school year.

“Those four years we spent in 6A were definitely a challenge, especially for the girls’ side, and I think we were rising to that challenge,” Friendswood ISD athletic director Robert Koopmann said. “You could see us getting better in 6A. So, then to drop down to 5A, you could see the culmination of all that.”

On the girls’ side, Friendswood won or shared a district championship in every team sport, with volleyball putting together a memorable playoff run all the way to the Region III-5A championship match. And, the future looks even brighter for many of these programs moving forward, Koopmann said.

“I’ve been here 25 years, and I’ve talked to people who have been here even longer, and we can’t remember when that’s ever happened,” Koopmann said of the district titles. “That’s just a rare achievement. We’re so excited and so proud, and we’re young on the girls’ side.”

For the boys’ programs, all but one of the team sports reached the playoffs — although that “one” is still a bit of a sore spot for the head football coach Koopmann. While realignment and the drop to 5A was kind to just about every other sport, football was placed in a district featuring state powers Alvin Shadow Creek, Richmond Foster and Angleton, as well as an always solid Fort Bend Hightower team.

Friendswood ISD’s athletics already has an inherent advantage as a perennially successful program with loads of tradition and history, but Koopmann said other factors have kept the program strong is a supportive community and administration, which includes high school principal Mark Griffon, who Koopmann calls “the greatest principal in Texas.”

“There’s a lot of things lined up for us to be successful; that was set up before I became athletic director, and we’re just keeping that tradition on,” Koopmann said.

While some athletics programs might struggle to keep its numbers up to an adequate level, Koopmann said Friendswood’s unique challenge is properly managing the high number of student-athletes who want to participate.

“We may not be in 6A, but we have a 6A athletics program,” Koopmann said. “We have over 850 kids involved in UIL sports. That’s just a massive amount of kids. How do you manage your facilities? How do you get 700 kids in the weight room in a week and manage that?

“Those are challenges for us, but it’s also a great thing that we have so many kids involved in our athletics programs across the board,” Koopmann added. “It’s exciting to see how well-rounded our athletics program is — strong tennis programs, strong golf programs, all of those programs. So many schools are good in one or two, and we’re competitive in all of them. We’re proud of that.”

Friendswood will bring back all of its head coaches next school year, with the only change being interim head boys basketball coach Caleb Marburger being promoted to head coach. When Koopmann does need to bring in a new coach, he said being great in the classroom is essential.

“If you’re a great classroom teacher, you’re a great coach because there’s not much of a difference between the two,” Koopmann said. “I’ve got football coaches who are teaching AP classes and humanities, and we’re the same way across the board.”

With the school district in the early planning stages of a bond proposal, Friendswood ISD’s sports are expected to play a prominent role in those plans. The bond would call for a new competition gym and new dressing rooms at the high school, among other items, Koopmann said.

Going into next school year, Koopmann’s goal is to see the various athletics programs continue to build on the success of the past year, and at this time next year, he hopes he can say that all of the team sports made the playoffs.

“I told our coaches that our challenge is how do we top this year, — more district championships on the boys’ side, and keep the momentum going on the girls’ side,” Koopmann said. “I told them that when we went to 5A, we’re the big dog now. Everyone is going to be trying to knock us off. That’s our challenge, to continue the success that we’ve had.”

James LaCombe: 409-683-5242, james.lacombe@galvnews.com or on Twitter @JamesAtGalvNews

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