On the hardwood at Sam Houston High School, Junior Varsity Coach Christopher Hampton leads his team in a series of drills. It’s the last practice of the year, and Hampton wants his players ready for their last game and for the varsity level next season.
A three-man weave drill is in full swing: The players rush down the court, quickly passing the ball back and forth, simulating a fast break. Hampton challenges his players to execute the drill with no dribbles.
He wants to end the 2021-2022 season with a win.
“Pass it Money, don’t dribble the ball,” he yells. “Work on your passing, start over and let’s do it again.”
Even though high school sports culture is a big deal in Texas, the state has a hard time keeping coaches like Hampton on the job. According to the Texas High School Coaches Association, 20% of coaches are hanging up their whistles within just five years of entering the profession, leaving some coaches to split their duties — Hampton divides his time between Sam Houston high and Patrick Henry middle school.
“It’s been challenging having to do one practice in the morning with the middle school, then one practice in the afternoon with the high school,” says Hampton. “It takes a lot.”
Some coaches say advanced training could help people stay long-term. That’s the aim of the THSCA’s ROCK Coaches Mentoring Program, which pairs young coaches across Texas with seasoned professionals to help keep them on the job. It’s the second year of the program and draws coaches from all over the state.
“Being that Texas is one of the frontrunners, if not the frontrunner, when it comes to high school football,” Hampton said, “it’s just going to help a lot to make sure all the talent and the coaches stay in the area.”
Key parts of the program address leadership skills, and diversity and inclusion opportunities. That’s an essential component for keeping coaches long-term in a profession long known for social bias and nepotism, according to Raj Kudchadkar with the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches.
“When you talk about equity and wanting an equitable system and what it takes to get us there, there are things we need to do,” Kudchadkar said. “I’m a civil rights attorney and we talk about the difference between equality and equity. Equality is when you treat everyone the same, that’s when everyone is on the same playing field. And we make it clear that not all coaches are on the same playing field.”
The ROCK program also helps coaches with things like time management, adequate funding, and sometimes, being on the front line of helping students in need.
Booker T. Washington high School’s head football coach Kelvin Chatham said that’s top-of-mind for him. He hoped his time with the program would help him coach his team through the socioeconomic setbacks they face.
“I feel like I will be able to meet people that have been coaching a while in this profession, and they can teach me some of the avenues they took with less resources,” Chatham said.
As the coaching carousel plagues all levels, Sam Houston coach Hampton said opportunities like these can be the blueprint for schools beyond HISD.
Hampton hoped going through the program would help him and other Texas coaches stay ahead of the game.
“I think it’s bigger than high school football, bigger than high school athletics,” Hampton said. “This is something we can build on as far as a culture and as far as the state of Texas.”