State of REL sports: Records show upward swing

Robert E. Lee High School football players celebrate after a 62-61 victory over Vidor at Stallworth Stadium in November. 

In just two-plus years, Tim Finn has become the dean of Baytown high school campus coordinators.

After arriving from Wharton High School in 2017, Finn immediately began the process of trying to improve the athletic culture at Robert E. Lee High School and the dividends are starting to show.

Starting with his football program that went 4-6 last fall – the most wins by the Ganders in a number of years – to other sports making their way back to competitive respectability, Finn has overseen a slow burn at REL and now he hopes to keep building on his work to date.

“The athletic department took a step forward and there is still a lot of room for improvement,” Finn said. “One of the big things across the board is getting the numbers up and I think going into next year, our numbers are going to be better across the board.

“It starts there: With having kids to coach.”

Finn noted improvements in his football program but also cited that even if not reflected in wins and losses, a number of Gander teams showed improvement in battling on the field and court each time out.

“That’s a step we took in a number of programs,” Finn said. “Coach (Brandon) Funderberg is doing a good job in tennis .. the program continues to have good numbers. The soccer team, boys, made the playoffs and had the first playoff win in school history. Girls soccer, we had a varsity and JV team and were in a very difficult district. There’s one that I felt we were more competitive, but didn’t show up in the win-loss column.

“Baseball was more competitive … and they were in a tough baseball district. Boys basketball were in the hunt for a playoff spot right down to the last two games. Softball won some district games and that hadn’t happened in a couple of years.”

Finn believes the programs are all heading in the right direction and would like to see more wins, but also has a practical approach.

“We want a championship attitude a little more and we are playing our sports with higher expectations,” Finn said. “Kids play with confidence and camaraderie. We also want to develop the young men and women to represent our programs. To give the best effort all the time.

“The expectations are three parts: That you are a very good citizen .. they are a good student … and to be the best athlete they can be.”

Finn wants kids to perform at a high level in classes and to get more involved in strength and conditioning to make this happen.

He also notes that the new turf fields that are going to be put in place for football/soccer and baseball and softball have already causes a cultural shift.

“We have over a hundred athletes in here in attendance in the summer workouts every day,” Finn said. “To see the construction right across the street is exciting for everybody. The turnout is double what we had last year. We have more kids buying in, more coaches buying in and the parents buying in.”

Finn also notes that the enthusiasm can help his football program continue to blossom as more bodies should be expected to participate. 

“We had an eighth-grade orientation the last week of school and we signed 70 athletes that are committed to come here,” Finn said. “If we can have 70 playing football, that’s how much a school like Baytown Lee should have. We had almost have of them here this week (at workouts) when we had only 25 last year when school was in.”

“I am all for multi-sport athletes and I want them to play in every sport they can participate in.”

Now it’s all about cashing in on the positive momentum.

“Has Lee athletics arrived?” Finn said. “We have to go out and prove it.”

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