April 23, 2021

ESPLOST keeps Heard County athletics competitive

(Franklin, GA) — The coaches and athletic personnel of the Heard County School System have worked to expand the number of sports and student participation in athletics over the past several years.

The addition of fishing, volleyball, and junior varsity/B-teams have allowed far more students to be involved in athletics in the last five years.

Research has shown that students who are involved in extracurricular activities have a greater likelihood to graduate from high school, improved social skills, and an increase in self-confidence.

“Ultimately, we want all of our students to be involved in some form of extracurricular activity,” said Heard County superintendent Rodney Kay. “Whether it is band, chorus, drama, Future Farmers of America, or any other school organization or activity, we just want to get our students to reap the rewards of being plugged into the school and our community.”

Not only have Heard County School System athletics aided those students involved, but they have additionally been a source of pride for the entire Heard County Community.

In the past five years alone, Heard County High School (HCHS) athletic teams have been incredibly competitive in the West Georgia area, as well as the entire state.

The HCHS softball team won the state championship this past fall, while also earning a spot in the Elite Eight in four of the past five years.

The football team has earned a spot in the state playoffs in sixteen consecutive seasons, and won the state championship in 2018.

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The boys and girls basketball team both earned a trip to the state playoffs this year. In the past five years, the Lady Braves have won two region titles and earned two trips to the Elite Eight. The boys won their first region title in more than fifty years, and made it to the Sweet Sixteen during the same time period.

Other sports have seen success during the past five years as well. Wrestling has had more wrestlers place at state in the past five years than they placed in the history of the program up to that point.

Additionally, Heard County has soared in weightlifting in recent years, winning five state championships since 2013. The HCHS weightlifting team has finished first or second in the state in the last eight competitions.

Both the boys and girls tennis teams have also earned state playoff berths and region championships since 2016.

However, no championship or program success is more important to the Heard County athletic department than winning the region Sportsmanship Award for four out of the last five years.

“When your opponents consistently honor your overall athletic program with this award, it means our coaches are doing it the right way,” claims athletic director Trent Bianco. “It means our players are instilled with the right values that puts sportsmanship over winning. The fact that we are also winning is a credit to the hard work put in by our coaches and players.”

Like any other school activity, financial resources are necessary to provide equipment to maximize student potential and success. For example, in order to have a tennis program, HCHS must have tennis courts where the team can practice and hold tennis matches. These courts have to be resurfaced every decade or so, and ESPLOST makes this resurfacing possible.

ESPLOST also makes it possible for the school system to add athletic programs, which can involve more students in extracurricular activities. Recently, the school added a volleyball team and were able to purchase all of the necessary equipment by using ESPLOST funds.

The softball team also needed money from ESPLOST to add railings and padding to dugouts for safety. Safety was also the reason why padding was added in gyms throughout the school system.

Insulating foam was added to the hitting facility for the baseball and softball teams to accomplish two goals. First, to deaden the balls that hit off the wall for the purpose of preventing serious injury. Secondly, to lower the cost of heating and cooling the facility.

ESPLOST also made it possible to purchase a new clothes washer for the fieldhouse so that athletic uniforms could be maintained. This helps multiple sports at the high school, and saves the $50 a week that was having to be spent at a laundromat.

In addition, ESPLOST has further allowed the athletic department to refit the track program at both the middle school and high school, while also providing funds for a shooting machine for the basketball teams. This machine, which is commonplace in most programs, allows the players to dramatically increase the number of shooting repetitions they take at practice.

Perhaps no single ESPLOST purchase has impacted athletics more than the purchase of an activity bus. According to head football coach Shane Lasseter, students benefit from the activity bus by spending more time in class, and athletic programs benefit by saving money on bus drivers.

“When a JV team has an early game time, we used to have to send the entire varsity with them because we only had the one full-size bus and one driver,” claims Lasseter. “Now the coach can drive the JV team themselves and save money, while at the same time allowing the varsity players to remain in their academic classes and leave for their game after school.”

The savings for each sports team is substantial. The boys and girls basketball teams alone save more than $3,000 per year, while the softball team saves $1,700 and the baseball team saves $1,500.

Lasseter also acknowledged that other types of extracurricular activities also benefited from the activity bus, including One-Act Play and literary clubs.

Heard County residents will have an opportunity to continue their support of ESPLOST, as it is up for renewal on Tuesday, March 16.

Early voting has begun and will continue through Friday, March 12.

Early voting opportunities will be available at the Heard County Courthouse in Franklin, which is open Monday – Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

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