There’s an organized, collaborative effort taking place to improve the state of youth sports in Houston.
It’s called the Tiger Development Academy (TDA) and it’s being orchestrated by the Houston School District.
The TDA program is designed to enhance the development of athletes in grades 3 through 6. Day-to-day operations will be overseen by middle school physical education instructor Jeff Richardson, with guidance from Houston Schools superintendent Dr. Justin Copley and athletic director Brent Hall.
The idea is to build more continuity and consistency so athletes are around the same coaches and same teammates as they progress, rather than being passed to new people and new approaches year in and year out. The TDA will include instruction, training and competition in several sports offered at Houston High School, including basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball.
“We are encouraged by the potential benefits of the TDA,” Copley said. “We are looking forward to seeing developmental-focused instruction and increased continuity of learning and skill building.”
Currently, 6th-graders in Houston are only able to compete at the scholastic level in track and field and cross country.
“The goal is to give our kids a better foundation skill-wise,” Richardson said. “We also want to build better people, and for kids to learn what it means to be a good teammate and a good representative of our town.
“This is our way of developing the whole child through youth sports.”
Richardson’s qualifications include coaching baseball for 18 years and basketball for 10, playing college baseball and coaching college baseball for three years, coaching high-level club baseball for four years, and working with 10 kids who were drafted by Major League Baseball teams and three who are currently in the Big Leagues.
“Then since my boys were born, I’ve done a lot of research about what it takes for a kid to develop into an athlete as they grow older,” he said. “And I’ve been heavily involved in Long Term Athlete Development, or L-TAD, for about eight years now.”
After being proposed by Copley, the TDA is the creation of Richardson. It will be funded by the school district.
“I always try to find people smarter than me in each field when it comes to youth development,” Richardson said, “so that’s the route I’ve gone with this. I’ve just pieced together everything I’ve studied and liked, and this is what was born from it.”
Richardson is vice president of the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department’s Park Board. That organization will work with the TDA in some capacities, and Richardson said moving the third through 6th-graders to the TDA will allow the city to rearrange resources in a beneficial way that were previously focused on those age levels.
“Instead of going through parks and rec, third through 6th-graders will now go through the school,” Richardson said. “That will allow us to have more influence on them. And time and resources are often very limited in parks and rec; we’re going to be able to expand the actual training side and focus more on skills development over the number of games that are played.”
Richardson said that both school district and city officials see the TDA as a positive step.
“We view this as a partnership, not a split,” he said.
Richardson said that if the city’s plans for constructing a sports quadplex move forward, the TDA will be able to utilize it. He also said indoor TDA activities will not only take place in Hiett Gymnasium, but Tiger Fieldhouse as well.
As TDA director, Richardson will receive help from several designated volunteers, and HHS coaches are in favor of the project and will be involved in it in their respective sports.
“One of my jobs will be to facilitate things the way the coaches want,” Richardson said. “One of the first things I did with this was speak to each one of them about it, and they were very supportive. This is really going to help them build relationships with kids at a younger age.”
The TDA will launch this November with basketball.
“As we navigate through this first year, we will learn a lot and be reflective of best practice,” Copley said.
TDA participation fees will resemble those of current parks and recreation leagues. Richardson said that as the program grows, other sports could be added.
“There are so many moving parts,” Richardson said. “A lot of people think that youth sports is just putting teams and schedules together and going. We’ve had that, and now it’s about how we take it past that and find something that benefits our kids in many ways and helps them be successful in everything.”
For more information about the TDA (including how and where to sign up), email Richardson at email@example.com.
“I look forward to the year ahead,” Copley said. “I would like to thank Coach Richardson for bringing passion, Coach Hall for guidance, the Houston Board of Education and staff for support, the City of Houston for continued partnership, and the community’s student-athletes and parents for trust.”