Houston County Sharks
Christy Jones fell into the adaptedSPORTS® program by accident. A friend, knowing that she had officiated for school sports competitions, invited her to officiate a wheelchair basketball game. After a fast and furious training before the game, Christy was hooked. She has always believed that being involved in athletics helps a child develop confidence, self-esteem, socialization skills, and an overall physical and mental wellness. Christy had worked with Special Olympics since her college days and, like many people, assumed it covered all students with a disability. Becoming involved with AAASP opened her eyes to the reality that there was a population of students that was being left out in her school system.
After the first officiating opportunity, Christy decided she needed to learn about all aspects of the program so that one day she could possibly help begin a program in her county. During the ten years she officiated, AAASP provided opportunities for Christy to learn about adaptedSPORTS® from Paralympic coaches such as Ron Lykins and Barry Ewing, and to attend coaches and officiating training clinics lead by Leslie Sweatman. She was also able to participate in tournaments held in San Diego, Atlanta, and Macon.
In 2006, Christy’s dream came true. The Houston County Board of Education approved the funding to begin the Houston County adaptedSPORTS® Program. The program received the full support of the school system. Christy truly believes the adage “it takes a village to raise a child” and transferred that into “it takes a community to build a successful program”. With the help of a strong coaching staff, BOE, and community support, the Houston County Sharks have become a strong and successful program. In the six years the Sharks have been in existence they have won 11 state championships, been recognized by the Atlanta Hawks for strengthening their community, have their home games aired by ComSouth, and named the 2013 High School Team of the Year at the Disabled Sports Award Banquet.
Christy believes the Sharks have helped to bring a new awareness and acceptance for students with physical disabilities in the Middle Georgia Area. They have had two families move into the Houston County School System for their child to participate in the adaptedSPORTS® program. The Sharks hold one fundraiser a year called Sharks vs Guppies game. During this game the Sharks invite administrators, community leaders, and local media members to play the Sharks in a wheelchair basketball game. The community turnouts for the games are huge. During their first game they had over 800 people in attendance to cheer the Sharks to victory.
In 2013, Christy was named High School Special Educator of the Year by the Houston County Council of Exceptional Children Organization. Although she may be credited with helping to bring the adaptedSPORTS® program to her county, Christy knows that this program has brought many more blessings to her life than she can ever repay.
- Get your school leaders involved with your program. We host a Sharks vs Guppies fundraiser every year. The Guppies team consists of board members, the superintendent, local community leaders, and media members.
- Walk into the first practice with the same expectations for your athletes as you would for any able body team, such as mandatory attendance, be on time, and give 100% on and off the court. Emphasize they are representing you and their team even when they are not on the court. That pride should cover their behavior in and out of school and their grades.
- Be visible…in the schools and in the community. We take every opportunity to get our athletes in the public eye. We have done exhibition games at our local colleges, participated in community events, and attended able-bodied events to get recognition for our program. We require our athletes to wear their team t-shirts at these events. We also give anyone who donates to our team a plaque with our team picture to place in their business.
- Foster a sense of family for your players and their family. The support that the athlete’s families can provide for each other is invaluable.
All of our players who have graduated have gone on to further their education. We are extremely proud of all our graduates.
- Jeff Wiggins is currently working to complete his Accounting degree.
- Ben Masters and David Presley are both attending Middle Georgia State College and have returned to be community coaches for the Sharks.
- Jeff Sweeney is currently considering his collegiate options and is attending practices to work with our younger players.
- Min Soo Kim also attends Middle Georgia State College and is advocating for an intermural adaptedSPORTS® program.
- Jaque Billingsley is currently attending Pasadena Community College and playing able bodied football for the college. He also competes in Jr. Paralympic competitions around the world. He recently set a world record at the 2014 IWAS World Junior Games during the power-lifting competition. Jaque was also named to the Paralympic Track and Field High School All American Team.