November 20, 2015

Starting in December I'll be kicking off the drive to raise funds to ship Bibles to Lima, Peru. I've already received some support but my hope is that more will help in this important mission that God has placed on my heart. 
Every penny goes towards the cost of purchasing and the cost of shipping the Bibles to The Prince of Peace Church in Chorrillos Lima, Peru. 
The Pastor there is Israel Martinez. I spoke to him on the phone a few months ago to insure everything was legit. He works through Exodus House International which is readily accessible through any Google search.

My goal is to ship the Bibles in January.
Here is the link to the Pastor and location in Peru. 

A heartfelt thank you to Hillcrest Christian for taking part in raising funds to help in this endeavor.
For more information please email me at or call/text me at 985-750-3455.

Proverbs 19:17 
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.

God Bless

October 26, 2015

Is the MAIS Policing Open Recruiting?

By Darron Thomas
I spent much time last week conversing with MAIS coaches and athletic directors about the practice of openly recruiting athletes within the MAIS by member schools. All asked not to be named and I sensed that fear of retribution by the MAIS was the primary concern.
When word began to surface months ago pertaining to MRA being banned by the MHSAA from competing with its member schools I, like others, just shrugged it off as sour grapes from the public school system. Then The Clarion Ledger published a piece last week confirming that not only had MRA been banned but also Magnolia Heights.
Not long after that article was published I began receiving communications from MAIS coaches and athletic directors who had much more to add with regards to recruiting of athletes at the high school level.
The scope of their experience didn't focus only on the two schools mentioned in The Clarion Ledger and the MHSAA, rather the focus was on the recruiting practices of a handful of MAIS schools within the association that seemed to go unchecked and lacked any over-site from the MAIS.
One representative of an MAIS school told of a basketball tournament in which a AAAA head coach was asking players from a smaller school where they had planned on attending school the following year. The coach of the smaller school told the coach not to speak to any of his players or family members. It was later learned the players were offered "scholarships" to attend another school the following year. 
The representative claimed passionately that the MAIS would never dole out any form of punishment to what many call the "Big Three" schools in Jackson. The representative said the players were offered "free tuition" to attend the larger school the following school year.
One coach said, "There are really no rules pertaining to transfers receiving financial aid to play a particular sport."
Another said, "Everyone is cheating and honestly I don't think anyone really even knows the rules, it's just finger pointing and until an open discussion takes place about the matter nothing will change."
"One highly successful coach who had transfer students participating in athletics multiple years stated he had never seen any form regarding transfers.
Another coach told of a "sponsor" at one of the largest MAIS schools who was footing the bill for tuition and gear for several very highly skilled athletes for years until there was a falling out between he and the head coach.
One thing is clear. Either many coaches and athletic directors haven't been educated in the area of the AAC Handbook or the MAIS is not proactive in policing this area.
A coach for whom I have great respect echoed what he felt most coaches would do if they had an opportunity to land a prize athlete, take him or her.
One coach of a smaller school who had moderate success competing against large MAIS schools and claimed a state title not long ago said they were known as "transfer academy"  and felt they were targets for years until they started losing and only then did the focus on them cease.
Finally, one coach expressed his opinion as such: "The only time the MAIS doles out punishment or chooses to change language in the handbook is when a small school does the unthinkable and upsets one of the major powers in Jackson in an athletic event."
If this situation is in fact happening at an alarming rate as some suggest, perhaps the MAIS can avoid the fiasco that took place during tournament play a few years back when Central Private shocked the MAIS in defeating Jackson Prep for the Overall Basketball Championship. The whole debacle regarding the Australian transfer kids could have, and very honestly should have, been dealt with much earlier if indeed proper protocol had been adhered to and monitored by those paid to do so.
I will give credit to MAIS Executive Director Shane Blanton who has done solid work in advancing the MAIS into this century, specifically in the aspect of technology. The interactive athletic score reporting program has been a huge success in the area of football and with his foresight the MAIS will prosper in growth. His vision was much needed.
Below is language from the MAIS AAC Handbook:

The language in the MAIS AAC Handbook in section H, pages 43 & 44 - Financial Consideration states:
No student may be eligible to participate in inter-school athletics if he has been shown financial consideration by a school, or any of its associated organizations, on the basis of his value to the activity program of the school. A student shown financial consideration of any kind shall be so noted on the eligibility lists that are submitted to the Director of Activities.

An acceptable school supported financial aid plan should:
1. Be in writing and on file in the school office
2. Be approved by the school board
3. Be controlled and supervised by the school board
4. Contain details of the qualifying criteria for aid
5. Include all students in the grade structure of the school
6. Demonstrate through documentation, the application and approval process
7. Comply with MAIS athletic eligibility reporting, i.e., mark 'yes' on online Eligibility Form for students receiving financial aid
8. Show evidence of including non-athletes

Signs of Misguided and Faulty Financial Aid:
1. A pattern of transfers into an athletic program receiving financial aid, especially at the senior high level
2. Shear numbers of athletes receiving financial aid
3. Involvement of Boosters' Clubs with financial aid
4. Discovery of transfers receiving aid, but not listed on the MAIS Eligibility Report
5. Aid to athletes coming from one source, or benefactor, over an extended period of time
6. No evidence of inclusion of non-athletes
7. Consistent reports from other member schools that a problem exists with the competitions financial aid as it relates to recruiting.

Section P - Recruiting - Page 52
The recruiting and/or undue influence of a student-athlete of a MAIS member school by anyone directly or indirectly associated with another member school shall result in said school being placed on probation, and not being eligible for the championship in all sports for a period of one (1) year. In addition, a fine in the amount of $500.00 shall be assessed the school in violation. Further, such recruiting and/or undue influence shall cause the student-athlete to be ineligible for one (1) year if he or she transfers. Recruiting and/or undue influence would include (but not be limited to) a 53 student-athlete receiving merchandise such as clothing and equipment and/or moneys for the individual's expenditures.

Reporting Athletic Eligibility Data
The Academy Activities Commission has mandated that all schools enter the appropriate information on their eligible athletes into the MAIS online athletic eligibility database. The data entered should only include eligible athletes. Any students that were previously entered that have become ineligible or that have transferred to another school should be deleted.
After the information on each athlete has been verified and entered, both the headmaster and the athletic director are required to sign the Headmaster / AD Verification Form. This form is to then be sent to the MAIS Office via paper mail. The deadline for turning in this form is always the Thursday before the first varsity football game.
On the form is a check box that asks: Receives Financial Aid? YES or NO?
At the bottom of the form states:
The deadline for submitting your data online AND mailing in the Headmaster/AD Form by traditional mail is August 20, 2015.

My writing on this subject is not to be mean spirited, only a source of information for the readers to render their own opinions based on personal information I received. I was blocked by the MAIS when I wrote a critical piece a year or so ago and I must say it was done in a clever way. I quickly realized the method used to do so and the sources. My hope is that this piece is constructive and as a parent who sent two sons to MAIS schools from K-1 to 12th grade I feel I'm still a stakeholder, as many other parents are, in the MAIS.
I will never forget being told by an MAIS Executive Committee member that it wasn't the business of MAIS parents and patrons of matters discussed in meetings. The first thing that popped into my head was the thousands of dollars I spent for my sons to attend an MAIS school and the tons of money, mileage and the loading up of kids in my vehicle to travel all over to play sports.
The MAIS is not perfect but I'm thankful for it and may God continue to allow growth to take place.

October 24, 2015

WCCA Junior Primed for 2015 MAIS Playoffs

The WCCA Rams have flown under the proverbial radar most of the 2015 season but after rolling up 66 points in their win over Trinity on Friday night the Class AA 4th ranked squad sitting at 8-2 is anxious to quiet any naysayers whom have overlooked their six straight wins to close out the regular season.

 One critical component of the Rams success is junior tailback Caleb Poole who has amassed 1,397 yards on the ground and accounted for 2,095 all-purpose yards and 7 touchdowns on the season.

 Poole's success isn't limited to just the offensive side of the football. The junior has recorded 5 interceptions with two pic-sixes.
WCCA captured the Class AA District 5-AA Championship on Friday night in their 25 point win over Trinity in front of the Ram's home crowd. WCCA will host Greenville Christian (4-6) in round one of the MAIS playoffs next Friday night. The Rams will be seeking the school's second state title and first since 1988. 
Chris McGraw is the WCCA head coach.
"Since the loss to Ben's Ford every player has come to practice with the intent to get better," said McGraw. "That loss was the best thing that happened to us so far this year."

October 23, 2015

The Bible Project

After much prayer and planning I'm officially kicking off the "Bibles to Lima" campaign through The Bible Project.
I have set a goal of sending 200 Bibles to The Prince of Peace Church in Chorrillos Lima, Peru and I'm asking for your help in achieving this important mission.
The cost to send 10 cases (20 Bibles per case) was a stunner to say the least. Unlike the shipment to Lahore, Pakistan last Christmas this endeavor is more expensive due to Bible League International not having a location in South America to ship from.
One hardcover Bible which is in Spanish translation (Reina Valera 1960) Old & New Testament costs $10.04 each but the cost to ship that one Bible is an additional $8.86 for a total of $18.90 apiece.
In short, the goal of shipping 200 Bibles will cost $3,780.00 but God will provide the resources to send His word to an area of the world in much need.
I have already received $255.00 in pledges and I ask that the many good people who visit this site, follow me on Twitter and my Facebook friends consider contributing or contacting someone who may have the resources to aid in this most important outreach ministry.
If you're not familiar with the struggles of Lima please do some research, particularly with regards to the children of that part of the world.
If you're connected with an MAIS school board or in an administrative position I would love to speak to your students and share my testimony and the life struggles of those in Lima.
A big thank you to Hillcrest Christian Headmaster Dr. Tom Prather and basketball head coach Wes Prather for offering their support and giving me the opportunity to address the Hillcrest student body on December 2nd.
If you cannot contribute I plead for your prayers. 

God Bless, 
Darron Thomas 
985-750-3455 cell/text
The Bible Project

May 11, 2014

The Path has run its course
Southern Sports & Travel
Sometimes we get too emotionally invested in certain areas of our lives and when we arrive at a point in which the investment stops showing the fruits of our labor we either invest more or redirect our energy in another direction.
My passion over the past six years has been covering MAIS athletics. While the financial investment over the first five years was at times hard to justify, the emotional investment was just too great to waste. The goal was clear from the beginning, to give recognition to the many that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
I’ve been blessed to cover some special athletic events and witness the work of some of the very best coaches in the region.
Covering Bill Hurst of Centreville and Dale Watts while at Brookhaven was always an event worth attending as those two masters of their craft did what they did best.
I was blessed to cover Coach Hurst’s 347th win this past September and was at the 2011 Class AA South State Tournament in Columbia when Dale Watts led his heavy underdogs to a stunning 29-25 upset win over top ranked Central Private in a go home game.
Interviewing an elated Marshall head football coach Keith Wicker following his team’s 21 point fourth quarter comeback win over Leake in the 2009 playoffs will always be etched in my mind and the watery eyes of a young Michael McAnally who had just guided his East Rankin girls team to the school’s first ever Overall Championship in 2010 is another of the many memories that stand out.
While the past six years have been filled with special memories and the pleasure of meeting and making so many friends there have also been times of frustration in not seeing my energy matched by the MAIS.
I recently made it clear my disappointment in the direction the MAIS has gone in the area of promoting the entire association and its athletes. There are so many great success stories each year that go ignored and it’s clear that a remedy is not being addressed.
A great opportunity to promote the association passed the MAIS by last season when Porter’s Chapel head coach E.J. Creel became the first woman to lead a varsity boys team to a state championship in the history of the state of Mississippi.
Had Southern Sports & Travel not published an article this past June featuring Silliman track coach Sharon Kline’s many accomplishments during her term heading up the Wildcat track and field teams would the MAIS have made an effort to get her amazing story out?
It was also discouraging to see that only last week did the MAIS put any photos of last season’s state and overall champions on their site. It went blank for nearly a year.
There is a huge break in the link between the Jackson area schools and the remaining schools throughout Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas.
My hope is that the new leadership at the MAIS will look for efficient methods to promote the entire association otherwise stagnation will continue to fester.
My time and energy has run its course. Despite this year being the highest in sponsorship ads it’s time to direct my energy towards something else.
My hope is that new, creative minds push through their ideas in elevating the image of MAIS athletics as there are so many avenues that technology affords us all.
Thank you to the many (and there were many) coaches, athletic directors, administrators, AAC Committee members, parents and athletes from all three classes who called, sent Facebook messages, texted and emailed since I announced the site would shut down. 
I also want to thank the many same individuals who provided important information that was newsworthy so that the thousands who frequently visited Southern Sports & Travel each week could stay informed about the MAIS despite being told it was not their business to know. Many asked that they remain anonymous and I honored their trust in me by doing just that.
Finally, a huge thank you to the many friends and sponsors who made the site possible. More schools than ever supported Southern Sports & Travel in 2013/14 but a special "shout out" to the handful of schools who supported the site each year since the beginning. You know who you are, thanks.
Southern Sports & Travel posted its final score on Saturday. Once again, many heartfelt thanks to the many who participated in helping to promote MAIS athletes.
God Bless,
Darron Thomas

Lady Cougars take tennis title
The Brookhaven Academy Lady Cougars won the AA girls tennis championship this past week.  Pictured L to R: Macy Lea and Lindsey Winborne - #2 doubles champs.  Madison Warren and Marlee Watts - #1 doubles champs.  Also pictured BA Tennis coach David Misner.
Waldrip inks with ICC
North Delta senior, Ethan Waldrip, has signed to play baseball at Itawamba Community College.
Pictured with Ethan is his mother and father, Elizabeth and Mike Waldrip (seated).  Standing from left to right is his brother, Bobby Waldrip, Coach Rick Collier (Head Coach of Itawamba CC), and Coach Duke McCrory (North Delta head baseball coach).
Smith signs with Wolves
Presbyterian senior pitcher Lee Smith signed a scholarship to play baseball with the Co-Lin Wolves this past Wednesday. Pictured are: (front row) Susan Smith, Lee Smith, and Phil Smith. (Back row) Joyce Smith and PCS Head Coach Kyle Maxie.

May 7, 2014

Two Delta Academy athletes sign
Delta Academy's Cody and Clay Harbour signed May 5th to play Baseball at Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas.
From left to right: Cody Harbour, WBC Head Coach Frank Lee and Clay Harbour
Choate to play two sports at William Carey
Amite School Center senior Casen Choate has signed to play golf and basketball at William Carey University.
Shown above: Standing, Kellen Choate (Sister), Dell Choate (Mother), Eddie Miller (Coach), Ellen Jones (Guidance Counselor), Billy Jones (A.D.)
Tucker signs with MDCC
Canton Academy senior Kyle Tucker signed to play football next year with Mississippi Delta Community College. Pictured at the signing are Michelle Tucker, Kyle Tucker, and Randy Tucker. Standing - Coach Ron Jurney
Key inks with PRCC

Leake senior Mary Grace Key has signed to play softball at Pearl River Community College.
Her parents, David and Jenny Key are seated with her at the table.  Standing
behind her are Coaches Phil Shephard and Doug Jones.