Explosive enrollment growth and overcrowded elementary schools have parents hot under the collar all over Lake Highlands, but some – Wildcat athletic coaches, for example – are looking on the bright side. Working to compete on the gridiron as student numbers have dwindled has been a challenge, and living up to Lake Highlands’ “glory days,” has become even tougher.
Now, as each kindergarten class has more enrolling students than the last, coaches are champing at the bit to welcome the potential athletes headed their way. They host football camps, follow the progress of young athletes and dream of a return to state championship contention.
The Wildcats earned the state title in 1981, and they were contenders often enough in the 90’s to cause the football faithful to clear their calendars until after Thanksgiving. No self-respecting Wildcat booster would miss a chance to pack up their red cowbells and cheer the Cats to victory.
As enrollment at schools in the northern suburbs eclipsed that of LHHS, Wildcat football had smaller pools of players show up on tryout day. Current enrollment at LHHS is about 2,760, with campus capacity of 3,270 according to Principal Frank Miller. UIL says Allen has enrollment of 6380, Plano West has 5648 and Plano High has 5480.
The rapid “re-greening” of Lake Highlands has taken even seasoned demographers by surprise, as homes once occupied by empty nesters are being sold to young families with school-aged children, filling neighborhood schools. RISD has added classrooms onto almost every LH-area elementary over the past few years, and they’ve recently committed millions to add on to White Rock Elementary and for construction of another LH-area elementary school to handle additional growth – growth by families likely to stay put and to participate in multiple activities, including sports.
“We are excited about the growing population in Lake Highlands,” says Coach Lonnie Jordan, LHHS head football coach and athletic coordinator. “We have young families moving in that are committed to the success of the community and the success of their children. All of our coaches are excited about the growing enrollment. Each program has to begin the process of planning for this growth. We need to expand the reach of our programs – there are a lot of future Wildcats ready to be involved and needing opportunities to participate. The football program has started playing 7 on 7 in elementary grades, and I can’t wait to see what it will grow into in a few years. With expanded youth programs and larger numbers in the high school, we will have a growing need for volunteers to make sure the athletic experience is one that is positive and meets the needs of all of our athletes.”
“With larger numbers comes competition,” continued Jordan, “and there is no greater motivator than competition. When our athletes see more people competing for their positions, commitment levels will rise. When commitment levels rise, wins start coming.”
Wildcat coaches aren’t the only ones excited about the prospects.
“We loved, and still love, Wildcat athletics for what it did for our two sons – learning of team, learning what to do and do it without lip,” says Beth Hanks, a former football advisor for the Wildcat Club. “The lessons are for students from all walks of life – you can walk down the halls of LHHS and see students who all look different from all different backgrounds. Wildcat athletics – all the different sports – build character in all of our kids. Anything we can do to encourage parents of little ones to participate in Wildcat sports is a great thing. I hope, with these bigger numbers, it’s going to translate into championships.”
The Wildcat Club supports the athletic programs of LHHS, LHJH and Forest Meadow Junior High by purchasing uniforms, equipment, team apparel, technology, training aids, coaching tools and facility enhancements beyond those financed by RISD. They support all 17 Wildcat sports – both male and female.
“LHHS is the cornerstone of our community and the very reason we moved into the neighborhood years ago,” adds Sylvia Bodell, former Wildcat Club president. “We love how the school’s athletic programs and activities bring families and neighbors together and we’re super encouraged with the new coaches and their leadership.”
“The most successful athletic programs start with a large funnel of talent,” agrees husband, Scott Bodell. “More competition and success yields school pride. LH already has a great sense of community around our schools and we’re hopeful for the future.”
Even as he looks to the future, Coach Jordan invites you to participate in today’s Wildcat athletics.
“The football players have been working hard in the off season and we are making huge improvements in strength and speed.” Spring Football is scheduled for May, and our annual Red/White game will be at the Boneyard on Saturday, May 20th. Pregame is at 1:30 and kick off is at 2.”