The Austin Tigers football teams sweated out drills and scrimmages during a crisp fall afternoon practice this past Tuesday. On one side of Austin High School’s large practice field, the varsity team does suicide sprints across the grassy and dirt-patched surface.
On the other side of the field, the school’s other squad of fifth and sixth graders, and another team of seventh and eighth graders, run through plays. As with any practice, balls are thrown, kicked and caught. The players juke and run to perfect that game-breaking play.
But much of this hard work is shrouded in uncertainty.
Austin High School, 231 N. Pine, was among the Chicago schools forced to downsize as a result of Renaissance 2010. Austin was among the schools cited for poor performance. The school has not accepted freshman this school year and has seen its enrollment dip.
All of this change has worn heavily on the students, but especially the players of the school’s various sports teams, said Athletic Director and Varsity Football Coach Steven Tadlock.
“The transfer to a small school is really hurting us,” he said. “It’s brought the morale down and everything. The kids have little or no self-esteem when it comes to playing. We can see it in their faces. It’s made coaching very difficult this year.”
The difficulty may be evident in the varsity football team’s play this year. Austin’s record is 2-5 after suffering a brutal defeat to Crane last Friday, losing 36-0. The team will wrap up its season Oct. 15 at its Homecoming game versus Englewood.
The team’s status within the Illini Heartland Division is also up in the air as a result of the downsizing. The varsity team has 22 players left from a squad that has had as many as 30 in years past. The team has a coaching staff of four, down from six the previous year. Despite these hard times, the players and coaches instead will try to end their season on a winning note.
“The rumor mill is working overtime,” said Tadlock of the school’s future. “All I hope is that we can be able to continue the tradition that we started here.”
For more information about the school and Saturday’s game, call 773-534-6300.