Still Football: The Misperception of Valwood Football
October 9, 2019
In South Georgia, especially in Valdosta, football is king.
It’s part of the culture.
No, scratch that. Football is the culture in the city known as Titletown USA.
It’s cherished here. Local high school teams are showered with immeasurable love and support from their community.
Valdosta and Lowndes high school is the heartbeat of the city. They’re public school powerhouses in football and the rivalry between them is unlike any other.
Those two are tradition here, and playing in their shadows is Valwood. A private school in Hahira, isolated just a few miles away from Titletown.
Granted, they’re not near as historic to the area like Valdosta or Lowndes, they’re just the small 3A private school team outcasted from Valdosta.
When it comes to Valwood football there’s a stereotype, a stigma even. Especially when the 6A and 7A public schools are playing “real football”, as locals in Valdosta would like to call it.
Playing at Valwood is perceived as inferior because they’re in the Georgia Independent School Association league. The talent level in the private school league “isn’t the same” and it’s “not as competitive.”
But tell me what’s more competitive than teams of maybe 30 kids playing a full football game?
Yeah, talent level is clearly different. But look at the serving size –– Valwood is a private school that enrolls about 500-600 students while Valdosta has over 2,000 students and Lowndes is pushing more than 3,000. Not everybody wants to go to private school and not everybody can, that’s understood.
But just because you probably won’t see as many highly-recruited athletes on the field at a Valwood game doesn’t diminish its competitiveness. About 30 players make up their roster, and every single player is playing more than one position.
You’ll see a receiver catch passes, play corner on the best player, all while cramping for three quarters and rarely missing a snap because there’s no true backup. You’ll witness a left tackle that can barely lift up his arm after a shoulder injury come back in a big game to block with one arm, and block effectively at that.
They’re tough, willing and having fun. That’s “real football.”
The players still practice and play the same game just as hard. There are just fewer people, not as much fanfare or politics –– just kids playing a sport they love while not getting buried in a depth chart.
It’s a little different from the big public schools, but it’s still football.
Now time to address the elephant in the room, or in the story for this case. Some players transferred from Valdosta and Lowndes to Valwood. Being that Valwood is the outcast private school, it was unheard of for players to leave Titletown’s most beloved programs for them.
Especially when the transfers are good players. But it happened, and they’re still balling.
Some folks weren’t a fan of the personal decisions players and families made so some of the belittling shade towards Valwood football sort of stems from this. But they came for a reason.
Valwood’s coaches are well aware of the stigma and stereotype that the football program has, but it doesn’t faze them because they know their value. They also know the significance around Lowndes and Valdosta football as some of them were once players and even coaches there themselves.
The coaching staff is prideful about what they work on and that’s building a complete person along with coaching a good player. They have a wisdom about the game of football and life that they pass on. They know football isn’t everything, it comes to an end at some point.
They focus on prepping their players for that inevitable end of playing football just as much as they focus on getting ready for game day, maybe even a little more.
As a young teen in Valdosta, it can be easy to get caught up in the ball is life mentality. Wanting to play in front of this community, get recruited and make it to the next level is just about every kid’s dream that plays for Lowndes or Valdosta. It’s like that for many athletes in general and too many fall victim to not being prepared when football is all over, ending up back at home or struggling to get by.
Coaches at Valwood have seen that all too often. That’s why they emphasize education and character to their players.
They also have a close-knit, family-like environment. It’s like having a family of 30 relatives instead of 100. You know all their names and actually have a relationship with every one of them. You can see that with the coaches and players on the team.
Don’t get it twisted. Football is still imperative, but it’s just a part of life when it’s all said and done.
Over the years, Valwood football has won three state titles, had players get recruited to college, and will have even more in the coming years. Sounds like the same thing public schools do right? So what’s the difference?
Valwood plays in the shadows, and that probably won’t change because of the deeply-rooted history of Lowndes and Valdosta. But what should change is the stigma of it limiting your chances of succeeding in football.
Instead of Valwood football being demeaned, it should be acknowledged as an opportunity for players to get exposure and improve as young men.