Some may ask why I say a “world” without sports. I would say because what does a kid between the ages of 12 and 18 know of the world? High school — high school is a kid’s world. Next to high school, between 12 and 18, what else do they have? And throughout high school, I had sports.

Now, in small town New Bethlehem, what does a kid grow up doing from ages 4-12; peewee football, little league baseball, youth soccer and J.O. wrestling, to name a few. Imagine if a young child who enters junior high at Redbank Valley, who had played numerous sports during their young youth, now can’t continue to play. What do they do now? Turn to drugs or other criminal activity? Sports are needed at Redbank Valley High School.

I know that a study from the University of Kansas found that student athletes graduate at 98 percent — 8 percent higher than that of non-athletes. USA Today published an article in 2017 that mentions failure recovery, coach-ability, work ethic, leadership, and a team mindset amongst athletes. The article also mentions how when athletes look to transition to the next phase of their life (some straight out of high school), they can use the power of their experience in sports to get hired after graduation. Those skills that I just mentioned are just a few that a student athlete can take with them into their adult life.

Enough with statistics, I want to talk about me. Where would I, Alyssa Shirey, Redbank Valley High School Sports Hall of Fame member, be today? I wouldn’t be in the NCAA Division II Valdosta State University Athletic Hall of Fame, from small town New Bethlehem. I wouldn’t be two-time Police Officer of the Year for the Valdosta (Georgia) Police Department. I wouldn’t be an educator and coach at a highly competitive athletic high school in South Georgia. I wouldn’t have the relationships that I have built from small town New Bethlehem to the panhandle of Florida, to South Georgia, and all over the world.

Redbank Valley sports gave me an opportunity that I never would have had. I was an exceptional athlete in my young youth, but if the only high school that I could attend had no junior high or varsity sports, I would not be where I am today. Redbank Valley sports turned me into an employable, sociable and productive member of society. Redbank Valley sports taught me how to be the best person I could be. Redbank Valley sports created an avenue for me, and many of my classmates and family/friends after me. Redbank Valley High School sports gave me a sense of accountability and focus, maintaining academic eligibility throughout my high school and collegiate sports career.

I cannot sit here and think of a family member or friend who did not participate in some way shape or form in a Redbank Valley High School sport. I cannot think of a single graduating class who did not have a standout athlete in the last 20 years. What I can do is sit here and name several Redbank Valley High School athletes who continued playing collegiate sports in my lifetime alone: Skylar Smith, Brittany Hildebrand, Craig Hibell, Macy King, Logan Shirey, Brooke Hinderliter and Dan Jordan just to name a few. The list could go on and on.

So let’s come together as a community and support the tax referendum. Because without it, you will be eliminating Redbank Valley teachers, nurse’s aids, librarians, elementary music and art classes, electives, and all extracurricular activities, including sports. Thank you.

ALYSSA SHIREY

Valdosta, Ga.

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