Most of the varsity teams in American high schools involve sports that have been around for a long, long time. Baseball, football, basketball, wrestling, and swimming, among others, have all been around for decades. Now some high schools in Texas are introducing a new varsity team to the mix: barbecue.
The high school BBQ teams in Texas sound like a combination of vocational education, home ec, and shop class, with a little rah-rah school spirit thrown in. Students on the team build and weld their own metal barbecue cooker, design and create their own team t-shirts, and work with teachers to come up with recipes and techniques and develop their pitmaster capabilities in the competitive cooking categories. At cook-off competitions, the teams are judged on best beef brisket, pork ribs, half chicken, best beans, dessert, best pit, most school spirit, and best t-shirt.
High school barbecue teams sound odd, at first, but I think they’re actually a pretty good idea, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more schools in other states adopting the concept. The BBQ teams have got to be a lot of fun, and they offer a chance for boys and girls to be on the same school squad, competing together for their alma maters. The modern world is a lot more about inclusion, and a varsity BBQ team would have room for anyone who likes to cook — regardless of their physical condition, height, weight, coordination, or general athletic ability. And every kid who letters in BBQ will end up being pretty deft with a grille and smoker and probably can make a pretty mean sauce, besides. It would be a nice skill to have as you move into adulthood.
Varsity barbecue has been rapidly growing in popularity, especially in north Texas. One annual tournament drew teams from more than 100 high schools. I bet it drew a lot of hungry fans, too.