Ohio Valley Unsung Hero: Flannery still a huge River supporter

ATHENS — As an athlete and student, Joey Flannery was about as big of a supporter of River High School than anyone.

As an alumnus, his feelings haven’t changed.

Flannery made the short jaunt from the Ohio University campus– where he’s a sophomore — Friday night to brave the frigid temperatures with the rest of his brethren from Monroe County to watch his dad’s football team thump Sciotoville East in an Ohio Division VII playoff game.

It might have been a tad chilly, but there was no place Flannery would’ve rather been than cheering on the Pilots.

“It was a bit unexpected,” he said of the team’s postseason run. “And that’s the great thing about it. When it’s not expected is when it’s the most fun. It’s a great opportunity, not only for this group of players, but the community. It’s fun.”

It’s a good bet Flannery will be in the stands again this Friday night when River shoots for a spot in the state’s final four against Danville at Maysville High School.

In fact, there’s a good chance Flannery will be a familiar face at any event of importance at River High School, if he can make it.

That’s because, in addition to his full collegiate course load, the 2016 River grad is working in communications in the Switzerland of Ohio School District, focusing mostly on River at the moment.

“I was like, academics and athletics are one thing, but what kind of difference can I make outside of the classroom and off the field,” he said.

As a student at River, Flannery founded the school’s Student Union, which is devoted to community service, and helped reestablish the school’s pep club. As an alum, he’s organized a wiffleball tournament to raise money for the community’s benefit.

But in his new, 10-hour-a-week position (he said he puts more time in), Flannery is helping students learn about social media, marketing and advertising — all things he wished he would’ve had an opportunity to delve into while in high school.

“I asked myself, what could I do for the community?,” he said. “Even being an hour-and-a-half away from there, I’m comfortable in the fact I’m helping provide a platform for River student-athletes and athletic teams, etc.

“We didn’t have anything like that before at River. I have fun with it and we have something for the community that serves as a bridge to close the gap.”

Flannery, who’s studying journalism at OU, credited Superintendent Jeff Greenley and others with being proactive in promoting social media and the like and believes it will benefit the district, the state’s largest.

“What we’re doing is also educational,” he said. “People don’t realize that. We cover athletics, but it’s so much more.

“One of the misconceptions people have is that we just post a tweet and copy it to Facebook.”

What started as a simple Facebook page Flannery and a few others created has blossomed into an education tool that’s also a promotional vehicle for the district. And while carrying a full course load and working in the district can be challenging, Flannery relishes the opportunity to promote what the district has to offer while teaching youngsters at the same time.

“It’s a platform where people can celebrate the accomplishments of our athletic teams, our student athletes and regular students,” he said. “It’s also about getting people out. If there’s a play, we want people there. If there’s a basketball game,we want people there.”

Flannery said the communications efforts are always expanding. There’s even thoughts of engaging in video production, with hopes of live streaming events in the future.

And, the future, he said, is really what the program is about. While some young people dream of getting away from their hometowns, Flannery has embraced his and is devoted to providing a path of excellence for students in his district.

“With me, I don’t see the Ohio Valley or Hannibal or where I live in a negative light at all,” he said. “I see it as my home. I know some people dislike it and would love to get out and do get out.”

“There are a lot of stories that haven’t been told. I want to tell those stories.”

If you know of someone in sports in the Ohio Valley whom I could feature as an Ohio Valley Unsung Hero, drop me a line at rthorp@timesleaderonline.com or via Twitter @RickThorp1