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Re: I chose the early contest to avoid sports... didn't work.
It's because coaches are allowed by principals (often ex-coaches) to schedule an almost unlimited amount of non-district games or tournaments, yet they will frown and scrutinize a band director for going to ONE pre-UIL event. Then suddenly, they'll bark about kids being out of school and missing STAAR preparation. Shoot, I was at one school where kids actually missed the FIRST THEREE DAYS OF SCHOOL to play in a volleyball tournament. I don't know how big schools are, but I find what you described to be typical of small schools. I know not all of them, but quite a few of them. And the ones that operate like that don't really care how the band does at UIL. They just want them to go so they can say they went. All they really care about is the band playing the fight song, school song and Star-Spangled Banner at football games and "making noise for our boys" in the stands. And they want you to give a Christmas Concert (most don't care about spring concerts), march in the local nose picking festival parade and play for send offs for the basketball or baseball team. And after all of that plus no support and a low or non-existent budget, the kids make sweepstakes and there is no recognition for their efforts. Just crickets. I'm so glad I'm retired.