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Gifts That High School Sports Continue To Give To Me

As a sports reporter, I've been fortunate to cover countless college and professional games. From the College World Series to the NBA All-Star Game, I've been to a number of big events.

Yet still, one of my favorite things to cover, is High School athletics. In fact, I thoroughly enjoy covering high school sports. There are many a time that I'm at a prep game, and think about how different sports are on that level, compared to college and beyond.

I think what I like most, is the dedication, and the heart. These are the athletes that truly give it their all day in and day out - that take great pride in what they do, and are doing, because it's what they love. They're not just doing it for the paycheck, there's no ulterior motive. They truly do it for the love of the game.

To date, I've seen high school sports from three angles. I find that each has its own unique way of being special - and different, from the collegiate and professional level.

1. As someone who participated in high school athletics - diving, gymnastics, and softball - I consider those days some of the best of my life. As an athlete, I excelled at diving. The winner of two Class LL state titles in Connecticut, I felt first hand what it was like to make my family and my community proud. Ill never forget the time at the state gymnastics tournament when the loud system music wouldn't work, and the fans started signing the national anthem. I felt like I was in a movie. Many of my closest hometown friends are those who were on teams with me. I'm in my hometown of Glastonbury, CT as I write this blog, and just last night, my friends and I found ourselves reminiscing about those days.

2. As someone who has covered high school athletics in both Louisiana and Rhode Island, there's nothing I enjoy more than seeing a local athlete excel or a local team win the title. While those moments are great, there are other moments that are big as well. This past year, I watched a boy almost bowl a perfect 300 in the state bowling tournament. I've spent Saturdays at the Lamar Dixon Expo center watching high school rodeo, and Saturdays in a hot sweaty gym watching wrestling and powerlifting. I've mastered covering the LHSAA State Track meet, where there's somewhat of an organized chaos with several events happening at one time. Yet everyone knows where to be and when to be there - except often times me! I've roamed the sidelines during regular season football games and during the playoffs. I've seen athletes leave it all out on the field, play through pain, win it all and come up short.

I also added another angle this year.

3. As the the girlfriend of a head coach in high school athletics, I've seen game from an even more personal perspective. My boyfriend Kade was a head baseball coach at a Louisiana school this year. Through him, I gained an insider's look at high school athletics, different from that of when I participated. I even had a chance to get to know some of the players. Their stories and where they come from provide many lessons. I met a number of young men who work very hard and take great pride in what they do. I saw the popular kids, brought to tears after their last playoff game, because of the loss, but also because it marked the end of an era, a part of their lives that they'll never forget. I saw a team that believed in itself, ralling to beat schools much larger than theirs by coming together when two of their teammates lost their girlfriends in a tragic car accident.

While they certainly don't know this, in a way they reminded me why it is so important to continue covering high school athletics and sharing their stories. There are countless stories out there waiting to be told; it's just a matter of discovering them and sharing them with the rest of the world. These are stories not just about wins and losses, but about perseverance, friendship and determination.

I'm not saying that on the professional and collegiate level, the athletes don't make their community proud or don't band together. Of course they do. I'm just saying that there's something about the high school level, where there's no money to be earned and (usually) no egos. Rarely has a coach been fired because the star player and he/she didn't get along. Rarely has a player quit on his team, bad mouthed his teammates to the media or stirred up any of the stories we see in the headlines day after day about the latest superstars. These are athletes playing for often nothing more than pride. Most won't play after graduation. They give it their all and truly do leave it all on the field.

P.S. Thank you - to a fellow reporter.

I will add that covering high school sports does have its challenges including issues that a reporter just doesn't face on the collegiate/professional level. I've called coaches asking for help identifying a player minutes before a newscast because the resources for such information are so limited. I've wished that stats were as easier to find, and more than once, been frustrated when hitting said obstacles, especially when it's on an athlete who deserves recognition for their accomplishment. Some coaches are great at keeping tabs, others...not so much. Such frustration must be what a newspaper reporter for the Rayne Independent newspaper was thinking, when they put into words what I - and likely countless other reporters - so often wished we could. Though it was said to be a mistake, thank you for that.

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I'm participating in the 2012 Run to Home Base. Please support our wounded veterans by sponsoring my run. To make a donation, click here!

 
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