Maybe more than any school district in Galveston County, Hitchcock ISD embraces its small-town backdrop when it comes to sports.
“Some of the best fans I’ve ever seen come from small schools,” Hitchcock ISD athletic director Craig Smith said. “We’ve got a great following, we’ve got a lot of loyal guys that I would put up to any big-time program. … A lot times, people get caught up in all those A’s, but it’s not about that; it’s about the love of the game. You can go find it on any Friday night in small-town Texas.
“I love and respect the small-town Friday night football fan,” added Smith, who will enter his eighth year as Hitchcock’s AD. “They don’t have to have someone that’s playing to show up; that’s their team out there.”
That small-town atmosphere is also reflected in the coaching personnel in Hitchcock ISD. Many of teams’ head coaches and assistant coaches are Hitchcock High School alumni and former Bulldogs athletes, Smith included among them.
“I see it as they are role models for our kids,” Smith said. “Sometimes other schools are going to be able to pay more, so the coaches aren’t just showing up for a paycheck; it’s a pride thing. They want to give back to the school and the community. They love being a Bulldog; it’s not just a place where they’re employed.”
As is the case with most small schools — the Bulldogs compete in one of the state’s smallest classifications at Class 3A — a major key to success in athletics is developing well-rounded athletes who can compete in multiple sports, something Smith said is certainly encouraged in Hitchcock ISD.
“That’s probably the thing we believe strongest in,” Smith said. “Our best athletes that we’ve ever had here have always been the best athlete in whatever sports they played in. … And, just like the kids, we all coach multiple sports. There’s no coach here that coaches just one single sport.”
The signature team sports at Hitchcock ISD in recent years have been football and boys and girls basketball, and that was no different this past school year.
All three of those teams reached the postseason, and each basketball team won a co-district championship in 2018-19. Other athletics highlights from the past school year include multiple regional track qualifiers, two qualifiers for the girls state powerlifting meet and one qualifier for the boys state powerlifting meet.
“Overall, it was pretty good, but we would’ve liked to have done better,” Smith said.
Starting Thursday, Hitchcock’s 7on7 football season will compete at the state tournament in College Station for the 11th time, Smith said.
In large part, that success for Hitchcock’s sports programs comes from having strong youth sports programs based in the community, such as the Hitchcock Red Raiders youth football program.
“It’s everything,” Smith said. “We’ve been strong in girls basketball now for the past five of six years, and I read the other day on Facebook that we’ve got 77 girls in our summer league program for youth basketball. And, I know our little league has grown a lot, so we’re hoping that’s going to pay off here in a couple years. … Our Red Raiders program has helped us immensely.”
Facilities-wise, Hitchcock ISD has been able to make major upgrades to the high school’s football field, field house, gym and baseball field, among other facilities, putting the school district in a fairly nice position in the athletics facilities category when compared to other schools of its size.
“Our facilities are a huge factor,” Smith said. “The bond issue passed in 2007 changed a lot of things with our infrastructure. Our junior high is just on the other side of our football field, and they practice on one half of the field and (high school teams) practice on the other half. And, that’s huge.”
Going forward, Smith said his goal is to be competitive in as many sports as possible and to try to mold as many upstanding citizens through athletics as possible.
“Our goal is to always go as far as we can, but, beside that, we’re interested in trying to build young adults with good character, and teach good work ethic, teamwork and learning to work with others,” Smith said. “A lot of times, those things are never talked about — just the final score. But, that’s ultimately what we’re trying to do here is make good people.”