When I was in middle school, I was an athlete. I know, that is hard to believe, but some will tell you I was the original “Hefty Lefty,” playing basketball, football, and baseball at Warfield Middle School and the Martin County Little League. #GoRedDevils
For a variety of reasons, I chose to not play sports in high school. It was a decision I regret to this day, but an opportunity of a lifetime presented itself a few years later that truly changed the trajectory of my life.
At Sheldon Clark High School, the late Chad Fitzpatrick was my substitute teacher in my Spanish class. We were talking and he said the local newspaper (where he worked part-time) was looking for someone to write sports. I was an average student – and I mean real average – but something intrigued me about being a sportswriter. It was a way to get back into the game.
Well, let’s say it wasn’t easy. The first football game I covered was at the old Magoffin County High School and the owner of the newspaper’s son was an assistant coach at Sheldon Clark. He came over in the middle of the game and showed me how to load my film (yes, it was that long ago and some of you may not even know what film was). He rolled his eyes. I took me days to write the article (thank goodness the paper came out once a week) and the article was terrible, a blow by blow account that made a reader fall asleep.
I just above gave up. I’m sure glad I didn’t.
For years, I covered elementary school and middle school games and weeks after my high school graduation, I got a job at the Williamson Daily News as a full-time sportswriter. Not long after that, I became the sports editor (and covered Belfry’s first-ever football championship in 2003 and its second title the following year).
I was never a writer, but through the mentoring of many, I became a writer. I learned the craftsmanship of storytelling. I was taught the ropes of analyzing sporting events. I learned that no one cared about each and every point, but the critical moments within the game that led to the outcome.
I thought I would write sports forever, but something else was in store. Something I never would even imagine.
And that is where I am now, doing this work with an incredible team at SOAR.
Once I left media for good (some 15 years later), I missed writing games. I dabbled around and even offered my services to a small newspaper for free.
I joined Facebook and got a friend request from Mark Maynard. Mark is a legend. The former sports editor and editor of the Ashland Daily Independent and current editor of Kentucky Today asked if I was living in Johnson County?
I said, “yes.”
That was almost a decade ago, and besides the past year and a half, I have been writing games for the Daily Independent. I even did some sideline reporting for our Founding Partners at WYMT (I have a photo to prove not only did I do it, but that I have a face for radio).
I came out of retirement a few weeks ago, writing some district basketball tournament games, and this week, I’ve been covering games in the 15th Region Tournament at the Appalachian Wireless Arena, which happens to be the home of the SOAR Summit – and right across the street from our SOAR offices.
Never in a million years did I think I would be a writer. The lessons I learned as a teenager and a young adult, covering everything from grade school hoops, Little League baseball, and high school and college sports, paved the way to what I am doing today.
The narratives of Appalachia Kentucky are incredible, and I am blessed to have the opportunity to be a small part of telling those stories. I never take for granted the gift – and I believe it to be a God-given – to listen and share the stories.
And it has been fun to return to the sidelines over the past dew weeks to share the stories of triumph, some of disappointment (which I hate), and taking readers beyond the score of the games in the district and regional tournaments.
It’s also been fun to see so many friends from those early days.
There’s Belfry’s Bennett West, who has scored more than 2,200 basketball games in more than 40 years of service. I wrote a feature on Bennett when he scored his 200th game years ago. There’s mark Gannon, Belfry High School’s principal, whose daughter Abby I photographed in my very first game I covered for the Williamson Daily News. She was four when I took the picture. She is now 22.
Someone get me an Ensure.
There’s Phelps’ Marty Casey… And there have been constant reminders of my age when I find out I am covering players whose parents I covered in high school.
Yes, I’m old, but I am enjoying the moment. And these games are a reminder of where I have come from and the many people who believed in me along the way.