High School Varsity Barbecue Teams are a Thing in Texas

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There are some things for which you can’t help but say, “Only in Texas.” But this is something you could say so with pride! Yes, there are such things as a high school varsity barbecue team. (Where were these when I was in school?!) And, yes, these are truly Texan. Only a very few north Texas high schools have barbecue teams, but the concept is fast gaining notoriety. Perhaps it’s because when the word “varsity” is spoken, it’s generally followed by the word “football.” And that’s just cool. Well, so is barbecue! And sometimes the two go hand-in-hand.

Last year the Ennis High School, developed its first ever competitive barbecue team with the help of Horticulture teach Tommy Copeland. After finding out that Burnet (in the Texas Hill Country) holds an annual state barbecue tournament with more than 100 competing schools, he felt it was a great opportunity for Ennis High. A group of its students proved that they loved the art of cooking nearly as much as they loved their football. They traveled to school cook-offs coordinated throughout the state of Texas.

High School Varsity Barbecue Teams are a Thing in Texas
Photo: 116 ACW

“When we tell people about it,” Copeland explained to, “they’re in disbelief at first. Then they say, ‘Wow, I wish that was around when I was in school–I would have been on that team.'” At Ennis High specifically, their barbecue team is a bit of a hybrid. The students are required to develop and weld their cooker which they’ll use in competition, mixing metal shop with home economics. The results are delicious…’er astounding and educational. Copeland has obtained the assistance of some of his counterparts to help the students learn their barbecue. In effect, they learn how to be pitmasters. During the cook-offs themselves, teachers aren’t allowed to help the students – like any competition.

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