For Shaylee Maddox, showing sheep is more than a hobby, it’s a way of life. From the time the now Thomas-Fay-Custer High School Sophomore could walk, she was hooked.
As the third generation born into her family’s Thomas, Oklahoma Southdown sheep business, Shaylee, a now well-known showman, appreciates the time and effort she and her family spend raising and taking care of their flock.
Although she was born into the sheep business, showing the animals didn’t click for Shaylee until the age of 12, Shaylee’s mother, Kelly Maddox, said.
“She finally realized that ‘Oh my gosh, I put this much work in, and I get this much out of it’,” said Kelly Maddox. “She just took off from there and off she went, and she hasn’t looked back.
It’s made her excel in not only livestock but she excels in sports, in school, her grades, where things really matter,” she said.
Showing is a family business for the Maddoxes and most important, a team effort.
“Myself and my sister Ashlyn, and my mom and my dad, we do it all as a team,” Shaylee said. “We lose some, we win some. We can rely on each other to help with the sheep and go to shows, and get along with our home raised sheep, which makes it even better.”
Even at a young age, Shaylee can appreciate the value and rewards of hard work and has created effective time management skills for herself. Alongside showing sheep and being involved with FFA, Shaylee plays basketball and holds school records in track and field.
“I kind of do it all, I play sports, I show sheep.” she said. “Showing sheep and playing sports is definitely a commitment,” she said of the balancing act.
“You kind of have to set your time equally,” she said. “You have to work with your sheep and then you can go practice basketball or run track.”
A great support system isn’t far behind. Her family is quick to step in and help with caring for her animals when she’s away at a game, and although not all of them show livestock, Shaylee’s friends encourage her when showing and playing sports. “They always have my back.” Shaylee said.
Goals of growth both in sports and showing are a common theme in both Shaylee’s sports and livestock showing worlds.
“Hard work, commitment. To make the next champion that’s really all it takes,” Shaylee said. “You gotta be dedicated to what you want to do and really put your time forward in it.”
Although Thomas, Oklahoma is considered to be rural, Shaylee says showing sheep is viewed a minority activity due to the small town’s heavy focus on sports. But she doesn’t let the fact she’s the only sheep showman in town discourage her, in fact, she uses her showring success on the road to introduce Thomas, Oklahoma to the rest of the country.
“I go nationally and represent Thomas and represent my FFA chapter,” Shaylee said.
Shaylee said being involved in FFA has given her a unique perspective, one in which her peers may not share. Thanks to the investment in Oklahoma’s agricultural programs and initiatives, students from rural backgrounds are afforded leadership opportunities in and out of the show ring year-round through livestock projects, speech competitions and officer positions.
“Leadership is a commodity that’s not going out of style,” said Justin Kliewer, Thomas-Fay-Custer FFA teacher. “We’re not going to import that leadership, we have to build it in the kids we have.”
Kliewer said students like Shaylee who show livestock enhance the growth of their leadership skills through their activities.
“I think people see the value in FFA, 4-H and the OYE because it’s one avenue where we can reach those kids,” he said.
Work ethic and time management aren’t the only things Shaylee has learned showing livestock and being involved with her FFA chapter. She’s also learned key speech and communication abilities, and has even gotten the chance to network.
“You learn to meet new people and interact with people around the barns,” Shaylee said. “It’ll help you in the long run, knowing all these people, they’d be great to have on your team.”
Shaylee’s plan for the future is to continue to help her family breed and raise the next champion from their flock of sheep on their family’s ranch, Maddox Southdowns, an operation Shaylee someday would like to take over.
From the show ring to the classroom and everything in between, Shaylee Maddox always gives 100% and understands it takes a team to do so.
– Written by Caroline Arendt
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