WHEN LAKUNDRE THOMPSON PULLS INTO THE PARKING LOT OUTSIDE THE M.O. CAMPBELL CENTER, THE ATHLETIC DIRECTOR OF ALDINE ISD IS REMINDED ABOUT THE CHALLENGES HE AND HIS STAFF FACE EVERY DAY.
The parking lot to one side of the building is filled with cars but not for a game. Instead, hundreds of cars can be seen lined up at a time as people wait to be tested for COVID-19. “It’s a reality check,” Thompson said. “As far as for me and my staff, we know what’s going on right now. So, we just try and follow the rules and spread the message to the coaches and the kids. The pandemic is serious and I’ve never from day one taken it lightly.”
Aldine ISD has definitely not taken this pandemic lightly. For its five football teams, none of the programs played a single non-district game this fall. Instead, it was a district-only slate. Fan capacity has been kept at 25-percent for volleyball and basketball games. An investment has been made into live streaming. Concession stands have remained shuttered at all sporting events. Masks are required at all games for fans who must stay socially distanced from others not from their same household while in the stands.
“I feel like we’re doing everything as a district to make sure our community, kids, coaches, fans and officials leaves here safe,” Thompson said. It’s a lot for one’s shoulders to bear. “It’s stressful but you’ve got to stay levelheaded because you’re in a position where you have to have the best plan in place,” Thompson said. “You try and keep as many people as possible safe.”
As we sat in Thompson’s office in mid-January, the most challenging times could still be ahead for everyone in high school athletics. The spring season is busy. Track and field, baseball, softball, golf, and tennis will all ramp up their seasons in the coming weeks, meaning more athletes and more travel. But Thompson is optimistic going into this time of the year and for good reason. “We feel good about being where we are right now,” Thompson said. “We know nothing is 100-percent but I feel like we have a high percentage of buy-in from the coaches and the kids and even the spectators.”
The goal every year for any athletic director is that their programs win across the board. Winning on the field hasn’t taken a backseat by any means in 2020- 2021, Thompson said, but in an athletic year like none other winning isn’t just on the scoreboard. “Not that we’re not focusing on winning,” Thompson said. “We are competing and, of course winning is important, but that will never be more important than the health and safety of the kids. If it means shutting a game down and it may cost us a win, then the most important thing is shutting the game down.”