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Trendsetting Nixa athletics program rises to Christian County No. 1 sports story in '23

NIXA'S COLIN KELLEY is mobbed by teammates during the Eagles' Class 6 District 5 championship celebration.
NIXA'S COLIN KELLEY is mobbed by teammates during the Eagles' Class 6 District 5 championship celebration.

The top sports story for Christian County in 2023 has actually been years in the making and culminated in 2023 in undefeated runs to COC championships in basketball and football, a Final Four berth in baseball, two individual state championships in wrestling and an individual state championship in track.

What Nixa has done on the field and, just as importantly, off the field makes the Eagles’ athletics program the Headliner’s choice for 2023’s No. 1 story.

There’s quality and quantity in Nixa’s overwhelming success stories. Nixa takes up the top three spots in 2023's top 10 list. The Eagles and Lady Eagles have both finished first in the COC All-Sports Standings two straight school years.

All the while, work behind the scenes spearheaded by AD Brandon Clark has wholly enhanced Nixa athletes’ experience and instilled increased pride among the Eagles and Lady Eagles.

Onlookers often reference Nixa athletics as operating similar to a small-college athletics program. But the likes of Evangel and Drury pale in comparison to Nixa.

Nixa athletics has put itself on a pedestal throughout SWMO with its trend-setting efforts.

“I work with a great team and a superintendent and school board that allow us to dream big,” Clark said. “A lot of ideas have been (from) years of dreaming and experience as an AD. I’ve had the privilege of visiting many states and schools across the country and have tried to bring back the best ideas to Nixa.”

The gray turf at Eagles Stadium hasn’t been copied anywhere, but Nixa has shown plenty of ingenuity that has already shown up at other schools and is likely to continue to do so. They include:

—The Eagles and Lady Eagles were the first in SWMO to move the start of their practices to the final period of the school day in place of P.E. credit. Practices can begin as early as 1:30 p.m. and sometimes end at the same time other schools are starting practices.

“We started viewing athletics no different than many of our other co-curricular activities, like music, theater, etc.,” Clark said. “I believe it has become a core belief that athletics is vital to the success of many of our students. The ability for students to miss less class time when leaving for games, as well as get them home from practice at a reasonable time, allows them to focus on academics, as well as working a part-time job.”  

— Nixa has been at the forefront of streaming its games on YouTube.

— Nixa is unique by having job titles within its athletics program that include a director of football operations and a sponsorship coordinator.

— The Eagles’ football team travels in charter buses.

— The captivating video board at Eagles Stadium is only rivaled around the COC by the video board at Joplin’s Junge Stadium.

— Locker rooms at the high school have been remodeled to the "nth degree." The Eagles and Lady Eagles have spacious lockers and carpeted locker rooms that include leather chairs, a big-screen TV, elaborate lighting, and door and wall designs featuring the school logo.

“Our school puts us in the position of putting our best foot forward,” football coach John Perry said.

Sponsorship money has played a vital factor toward funding the athletics program.

“The sponsors we have in our community have made a huge difference,” Clark said. “They allow us to not have to spend budget money and taxpayer dollars on many of our large endeavors. All of our video boards, indoor and out, and our turf have all been paid with sponsorship money. We have also been blessed with many generous donors, who have allowed us to redo our locker rooms and update equipment and other facilities.

“(Sponsorship coordinator Tricia Chapman) has been such a huge asset to my department,” he added. “She is able to take a huge burden off of my plate and go out and advocate for all of our programs. I know many districts are jealous that we have her working in this capacity.”

Clark doesn’t take for granted the support Nixa athletics receives and couldn’t be prouder of the product he has helped the Eagles and Lady Eagles put forth.

“We are blessed to be in the Nixa community, where I have felt nothing but support for our students and all of our programs,” Clark said. “This type of support from the community, school board, administration and on down the line is what has enabled us to dream big and become trendsetters in the state.  

“Proud does not even begin to describe the feelings that I have toward our department, programs and school district,” he added. “I have always prided ourselves on being the tip of the spear and hoping to inspire other schools to follow suit. I believe we are giving our students a one-of-a-kind experience that they can hopefully take into the next phase of their life and be inspired to great things.”