11 Feb Celina ISD “Tackling” A New Sport BY JILL JOSEPH ROZA

In 2009, a small Tennessee university started an extracurricular fishing program for their student body. They were the first to offer scholarships for students excelling in the sport. Since then, the number of colleges and universities offering fishing clubs has grown from 125 to more than 300 across 37 states.

Seeing the opportunity this type of sport could offer to Celina ISD students, Jennifer White, with her son Tristan went before the CISD school board in February, 2015. They presented the steps to implement a team, needs and benefits of the program, and that the initial start-up could be separate from the school with the hope that the program would eventually be added to the sports offered through the school district. Board members approved the team contingent upon a high school staff member serving as a sponsor. AP history teacher and coach Dusty Hutson agreed to serve as sponsor for the new team.

First on the agenda was to form the team, which now has 10 two-man teams of students ranging from freshmen to seniors. Next they enticed sponsors and created the fishing  team  logo.  For  the  logo,  Jennifer contacted Julie Cook, whose design captured the essence of excellence and sets them apart from other sports. Jennifer then called upon Brian Roach, co-owner of Mystery Tackle Box, who was instrumental in pulling together the sponsors.

With two tournaments completed, the team is preparing for the remaining three tournaments: Squaw Creek on February 20, Ray Roberts on March 19, and Lake Ray Hubbard on April 9.

Those not familiar with the sport would be surprised by the amount of rules and regulations that must be followed in order to participate. Boats used for competition must be current on all safety standards and boat captains and students are required to wear Coast Guard-rated life vests. Teams risk disqualification if the required safety equipment is either not in working order, missing, or not being used as stated.

Boat Captains are adult volunteers who are cleared through background checks and must carry no less than $300,000 of liability insurance. Recently, two of our teams desperately needed boat captains to compete. Brad Merritt and Scott Thomason, who do not have children on the team, stepped in to help by using their own boats and personal time to support the team.

The Texas High School Bass Association does not assist with program start-up. Students, parents, and sponsors provide what is necessary for competition. Current team sponsors are all fishing supply companies, with the exception of Insurance Restoration Services of Texas, a local company that purchased the fishing team jerseys. To remain competitive, the team needs to secure more sponsors to help cover gas costs for the volunteer boat captains, food, lodging if necessary and other team expenses.

Jennifer hopes the program continues long after her children graduate and that it will create opportunities for those students who dream of competing on the collegiate level. With the examples set by our other Celina sports teams, we better make room for a new trophy case for our future champions!