Since Bria began teaching at Sparks High in 1990 she has volunteered her time to helping various Railroader athletics. Bria’s responsibilities range from running up and down the sidelines with the chain gang during football season to keeping the book for the basketball and baseball teams.
Bria’s first assignment with the chain crew came by chance. Attending a football game just to watch, Bria was asked to run chains in place of someone who had to go home sick. While she did not know what she was doing, she agreed and she’s been there ever since.
“I know for a fact she’s been at every home football game on the sidelines since 1990, working the chains,” Sparks High registrar Greg Shugar said. “She’s never missed a game. Rain or shine, she’s there. She’s there for the kids. She’s born and raised here. She went to Sparks High School. Not only with the football, but she’s been our bookkeeper at Sparks High as long as I can remember, too.”
The time and dedication that Bria puts in is recognized by others involved with the SHS sports programs.
“She’s awesome,” Sparks baseball coach Greg Vasko said. “You can’t say enough about her. She’s very helpful and she knows the game. She’s been around the school for a long time and she helps all the different sports. She is a dedicated Sparks High athletics backer.”
Sparks AD and football coach Rob Kittrell echoed the same sentiments.
“She bleeds Maroon and Gold,” Kittrell said. “Janice is one of the staff members here that graduated from Sparks High School. She’s one of our top caring teachers. She loves the students and the student-athletes and wants to see them succeed and see them win and have success on the field and on the court.”
Bria’s assistance at Railroaders’ games is so strong that Kittrell said he’s not sure what he would do if she were to leave.
“If Janice ever left here, I’d have to replace her with three or four people,” Kittrell said. “She’s the one that runs the chain crew. She’s in charge of them as far as who works and who shows up. If she were to quit doing that, it would be just another job I would have to do as Athletic Director, so she’s a great help to me.”
Besides being a regular presence on the sidelines, Bria, an English teacher at Sparks High, is devoted to athletics beyond the Railroaders’ playing fields.
“She brought back sports literature in school as an English class,” Shugar said. “She’s so into sports. A couple years ago she helped bring back the Block S Club, which is a varsity lettermen’s club here at the school. It’s open to anyone who’s earned a letter with a certain GPA, but they have to be nominated by their coach. They promote Sparks High athletics both in the school and out in the community. She’s been a real big part of that, bringing that back and getting those kids to work real hard.
“She puts the kids first all the time. She works tirelessly for the kids to make sure they get the best experience they can out of the school. She knows kind of what we know as coaches, that the kids that are active in their school that play sports seem to do better in the classroom and better out in the real world. She really understands that.”
For Bria, the benefits of sports are part of the reason why she is involved with SHS athletics.
“I think sports are so important because it keeps them outdoors and it keeps them active,” Bria said. “It’s part of a healthy lifestyle. It teaches them skills for life and friendships for life. There are just so many plusses to sports. In the school, I know there are a lot of people that say there’s too much emphasis placed on sports, but sports keeps kids in school. I think that’s huge.”
Aside from the gains that the student-athletes take from playing their particular sports, Bria also gets personal satisfaction from being at the games.
“It’s fun and I love sports,” Bria said. “I just love sports. I always have. I grew up with two brothers who were into sports and just got a love of sports from them. Baseball is my first love. When I was a little kid I used to always watch baseball games. Going to the games is a way for me to be involved with the sports teams. It’s a good way to get to know the students in a different setting, outside the classroom, which always helps. I enjoy the camaraderie and the atmosphere of being around the games.”
Getting a chance to connect with the students beyond the school setting is the best part for Bria.
“It’s a much more relaxed atmosphere than the classroom and that’s why you can get to know the kids better and form good friendships,” Bria said. “Some of my former students that I got to know better through sports are good friends of mine now.”
The Railroader student-athletes appreciate Bria being at their games, especially the Sparks baseball team.
“Well the baseball players love her because she makes cookies and brownies for them,” Shugar said. “Right there, she had them with that. They all know though that she’s very knowledgeable of the game and they know that she’ll be there for them. She’s just awesome when it comes to something like that.”
Although the team enjoys the baked goods, the players’ appreciation goes beyond snacks.
“I think that I kind of fill in because a lot of our parents aren’t able to get to the games because of work,” Bria said. “So it’s just somebody they know they can depend on to be there to watch them. They definitely appreciate it. They always ask me in class ‘Are you going to be at the game today, are you going to be at the game?’ so I think they definitely notice and appreciate it.”
With Bria having no plans of taking a break from keeping score or running the chains, the players will be able to depend on her support for years to come, along with her cookies and brownies.