BY RUSSELL HUFFMAN
It’s apparent Three-Way ISD football coach Troy Sparks likes a challenge because when the high school offered him a job, it was a “ground-level position” even though he was going to be the head coach.
You see “the ground” of the football field was all Sparks had when he arrived at Three-Way last year after a successful stint at Lingleville. There was no locker room or weight room, and if somebody needed a quick change of clothes, it was probably easier to jump the fence and hide behind a mesquite tree than find a place in the school.
That’s all been changing over the last year as Sparks, and Three-Way superintendent Paul Ryan can attest to, and both were hard at work this week as construction moves along. Neither man is just supervising, and as Sparks sets down to talk about the progress, he nearly knocks off a tape measure dangling from the side of his shorts.
‘I’ve always liked a challenge,” Sparks said. “I’ve got one here, and it’s been just great!”
Sparks is overlooking the only green patch of grass on campus, and for the first time Three-way is gearing up to play a varsity schedule after performing at the junior high level the past few years.
What makes Sparks’ job particularly challenging is there will be no junior and seniors on this year’s football team so it will be an uphill battle that might have a few lopsided scores along the way.
Lots of coaches have been tasked with establishing a high school football program, but few would want the job if you told them they would be without 11-12th-grade talent.
After having coached Three-Way’s junior high team last season, his athletes already know what’s expected of them. For fans of Sparks’ potent offensive schemes, they are probably going to see things a little more spread and wide open.
“We are going to be young, and normally I like to run the offense a little tighter,” Sparks said. “This year I think that’s going to have to change so we can take advantage of the skills we do have.”
Sparks and Ryan have been doing a lot of using people’s skills, materials and donations as they establish a new high school (with a tornado shelter inside), new home stands, a press box and more. They even organized a crew when they found out a college football stadium was getting rid of some seating and spent a solid week taking it apart and moving it to Three-Way.
It’s not just sports that are growing as Sparks has used his Ag teaching connections to get donations of seven head of cattle for students to work with and his aquaponics program is starting this year as well.
“This is exciting to be a part of this and to see things coming together like they are,” Sparks said. “I am so grateful for the people I work with and the people in our community who have stepped up to make us better in every way.
Sparks leads by example when it comes to helping and hard work, and it drew the attention of superintendent Ryan who saw his new football coach dirty, tired and sweaty as he was taking care of some football business last summer.
“Troy wasn’t even on the payroll, and he was already here working,” Ryan said. “I asked him if he always worked that hard?”
Sparks’ response was that’s how his father taught him to work and it was the only way he knew how.
Ryan is in his sixth year at Three-Way and has seen the student population swell from 50 students to 174 last year and the number is expected to go over 180 this year. It’s been a case where people have started to notice this little school, and it’s approach to teaching technology and accepting nothing but the best for students.
Every morning all students meet in an assembly to start the day. It’s a little like Star Trek meets Little House on the Prairie as students are introduced to the latest learning the world has to offer while maintaining a family feel.
“You might say that Troy and I share the same vision and we are dreamers,” Ryan said. “This community has taught us not to be surprised at its generosity, willingness to work and to donate materials.”
Both men went knocking on doors when the weight room project went from drawing plans to needing materials (there was no money in the school budget). That project is nearly finished and will be ready for football season, and the entire $28,000 needed to build the weight room came from the local community.
“Troy and I are long-range planners and dreamers,” Ryan said. “He has taken up this challenge and used his vision to us forward.”
When students, parents, family, friends, and fans stand on the field and look up the hill this football season, they are all going to see that vision has come to life.