The Olfen school district continues moving forward and making strides in all areas from academics to athletics. Last year they got their football program moving forward by playing pickup games with other schools around the area. Their team is a co-ed team with junior high and high school students so they play JV and can’t play varsity yet. Olfen isn’t in a district yet but as their enrollment continues to grow that will change. In an effort to bring all of their sports under one umbrella of responsibility, Olfen has hired their first-ever Athletic Director, Travis Tennison.
Tennison, “Coach T” to all who know him, stands head and shoulders above everyone else, literally. At 6’7” and 270 lbs, the former college basketball center is an imposing figure with a big heart.
Tennison graduated from high school in San Antonio before heading to Abilene where he attended McMurry University. Tennison graduated with a bachelor degree in multi-disciplinary studies and a minor in religion. He was brought into Olfen and given full responsibility for the athletics program, “The opportunity to start something new, to build something is incredible. I’m always about the underdog and want to ensure everyone has the same opportunities as everyone else. I want to try to put Olfen on the map. To me, it’s like coming back home. This is the area that graced me when I went to college.”
Tennison said that the hard work starts from the ground up and he’s got goals that he wants to reach during this first year, “I want to get into a district and be able to compete. We all want to win but we need to be able to compete. We want people to say, ‘We need to watch out for Olfen.’ We want to be the school on other school’s radars.
Olfen ISD superintendent Gabriel Zamora spoke about the hiring of Tennison, “The great part is that coach is coming in and he has a year where we’re still going to be in JV. He has the opportunity to build the kids up so that when we do get the opportunity to play varsity, the kids will be ready. That’s why the school board decided now is the time to bring in the game changer.”
Tennison’s family played a large role in his decision to accept the athletic director position at Olfen, “I want to add my experience to the school athletics program. The excitement I have, I can’t really put into words. My kids are excited and they’re the reason we came out here. We wanted to be in an environment where the kids can grow mentally, physically and spiritually. That’s kind of what is missing in the big city.”
Tennison has made a few stops on the coaching trail. He’s coached in Sweeney, Freer, Houston and Hamlin. Zamora spoke about some of the accomplishments that Tennison has made, particularly in the Houston ISD, “It’s incredible that we had the opportunity to add someone who was a college athlete. He was the assistant coach of the year in Houston ISD in 2014-2015. To bring someone of his caliber here, someone who can build on the fundamentals from the ground up, shows that we’re really blessed. We play other schools of our size but Coach T can make us the best.”
Being the first athletic director in the school’s history gives Tennison a lot of leeway, but his focus is always on the students and their future, “We want to play challenging teams. Steel sharpens steel. I hope we give the kids the same opportunity to go play college sports that I had, whether football, basketball, cross-country or whatever sport they play. It’s very exciting.”
The experience Tennisons brings is important but it’s one other aspect that Tennison brings that had Zamora and the school board determined to hire him, “One thing that stood out about Coach Tennison is his diversity. He’s coached everything. As a college basketball athlete in basketball, that is his specialty. But if you look at his resume’ he’s got the knowledge and experience to take our athletic program to the next level. He can coach any sport. He’s got that experience.” Tennison said that he wants to give the students something that they can carry with them forever, “We want to make their experience as memorable and special as possible and ensure that they’re as involved as possible.” Zamora added, “If they have that natural ability to go to the next level, we’re extremely proud to have that person who can help them and can teach them.”
Zamora says that the district’s plans and goals are always evolving and Tennison is a big part of the future, “As one district was falling out, we’re filling in. I expect we’ll be part of that district in the upcoming year. We put new lights up at the football field, the gym is fantastic and volleyball is going into its third year. We were able to take on teams and compete and sometimes win against teams bigger than us. Our kids are ready, they’re hungry and want someone to come in and lead them. I don’t know if could have found a better person to come in and nurture our students. We’re really lucky to get Coach T. Coach Mark Pittman and our staff was able to do some fantastic things with the girls volleyball program and I expect that they’ll still be involved in the team in some way. And one thing about coach T is that he’s just as interested in academics as we are.”
Tennison says that academics are very important to him and are the focus of the student, “Elementary, junior high and high school kids are all here. You want to give them the best opportunity to be successful. It’s academics and athletics. We concentrate on both. You have to teach the kids that they have to earn their way. We want to give them that confidence and teach them accountability whether they pursue athletics or other studies. Academics are very important.”
Zamora said that the district is working on building a new multiuse facility and that having Tennison here now gives them an advantage, “Coach T is going to have input on the new multiuse facility we are going to build. We don’t have a weight room and such so we want to have the facility up and ready by the end of the school year. He knows what we need and he’s going to have input in the design, construction and equipment we’ll be putting in there.”
When you have a conversation with Tennison you realize that he himself carries that confidence that he wants to impart to his athletes. The perspicacious coach has the experience to guide the program and take it to the next level. His focus is on the student first as a person rather than simply an athlete. His insight and understanding of all levels of sports and students, of bringing the best out of the athletes and building on their strengths will be a boost to a program that has never had an athletic director. His wife, Toni, and his children, Jayden, Janessa and Jackson will be by his side and will become woven into the fabric of the Olfen community.
The school board had a barbeque on Sunday, June 30th, to welcome Tennison and his family to the community. School board members, faculty, friends and anyone else who wanted to meet the new athletic director was invited to the barbeque and had the opportunity to spend time visiting with him and his family. In Olfen ISD, the family aspect permeates everything that happens at the school. Tennison and his family fit nicely into that dynamic, his approach to the students and the program similar to that which the students have grown accustomed to; family and teamwork.