In the past decade the Lake Travis High School football team has turned winning into a tradition. The Cavaliers are 8-1 this season and two years removed from an unprecedented run when the team claimed five consecutive state championships.
The ground work for that success – and the foundation for the future – all started with the Lake Travis Youth Association’s football program.
We had a chance to talk with Lake Travis High School football coach Hank Carter and LTYA football commissioner Shad Zapalac. Here’s what they had to say about the combination of the two programs and what it brings to Lake Travis football.
“I think the neatest thing is all the teams are wearing the LTs on their helmet,” Lake Travis High School coach Hank Carter said. “At the end of the day they’re identifying they belong to something and that’s pretty special.”
That sense of belonging is something the coaching staff at the high school helps foster each season. Carter and his staff run a coaching clinic before the season, showing the youth coaches – many of whom are dads – drills, techniques and football ideology to take back to LTYA’s teams.
In addition to the basics, many of the youth coaches will talk to Carter and his staff about specific plays and strategies that the high school team is running and try to implement them for the younger teams (which runs from 7 and 8-year-olds to 11-year-olds).
“A lot of the dads and coaches like to run (the high school’s) system,” LTYA football commissioner Shad Zapalac said. “They’ve always been very receptive if we want to run their system and they do their best to teach and explain it.”
While the youth coaches have the ability to pick Carter’s brain for ideas, Zapalac said it’s the kids’ access to the high school team that is the most rewarding. Many of the 220 kids in the program attend the high school’s game on a weekly basis and even have the chance to run on the field through the blowup helmet with the team during Youth Football Night.
“Those (high school) players will help with clinics and at practices, and for our younger kids those guys are their superheroes,” Zapalac said. “(Lake Travis running back) Shaun Nixon to them is as big a deal as any college or professional player you could name.”
The meetings have a similar effect on the high school players. “Our guys love it,” Carter said. “It’s a pretty neat deal for everyone involved. I talked to our players about, especially some of the younger ones. When they work with younger teams they see the community support and how they are held to a higher example.”
It’s not a main goal of the youth program, but winning has also linked the programs. The high school team is 8-1 this season and picked up a big win against rival Westlake last week, while the five of the nine LTYA tackle teams made the playoffs for their age group. Currently two of those teams are still in the playoffs and will play in the semifinals for their respective age group this season.
“It’s nice to see (the youth program succeed),” Carter said. “But the biggest thing is that it’s always a positive experience. We want the kids to walk away with that positive feeling that keeps them coming back (to football).”
Way to go guys! Keep up the good work.