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Covering sports provides insights into new writing field

Nov. 16, 2006

By ALLIE COOK

My friends laughed when I told them I was going to write sports this semester.

I haven't played organized athletics in almost five years. I rarely attend sporting events.But, for this semester at least, I'm a sports writer.

Really, I took it on as a challenge to myself. I figured I'd probably benefit now, as well as later, by stretching myself to write in an area I'm not as passionate or knowledgeable about.

Isn't that what learning is all about? Isn't that the best way we grow -- by getting out of our comfort zones and daring to try something different?

So the first day in the Lariat newsroom, I stepped up and signed my name on the line next to the sports beat. And an adventure began.

I used to think adventure was a term to describe world traveling and extraordinary feats that couldn't possibly be found on a college campus.

But a change of mindset has made me realize adventure is around every corner -- you just have to keep your eyes open for it.

This semester, I found my adventure in sports writing.

In most people's eyes, I'm not sports-writer material.

I think people sort of expect sports writers to be athletic, or, at the very least, to look like athletes.

I claim neither attribute.

I never made it past junior varsity tennis in high school.

I'm not competitive.

I don't think I've ever watched SportsCenter on ESPN.

Standing at an impressive 5'2'', I'm the epitome of petite. And you might label my clothing style as artistic, sometimes preppy, but not sporty.

To say the least, I stuck out like a sore thumb walking into the tennis center or soccer offices for my first few interviews. And more times than not, I had to ask questions I probably should have known answers to before I got myself into this whole deal.

But through it all, I've tried to stay positive.

At least I didn't have to cover football, the sport I probably know least about. I remember one time asking a guy friend why they called the guy who throws the ball a "quarter-pounder."

With West Texas roots, where high school football is king, I should perhaps be a little ashamed at my lack of knowledge. But sports have just never been my thing.

And at least I haven't had to cover men's basketball, further magnifying feelings of dwarfism by interviewing guys twice my height.

Despite the challenges, I've learned some valuable lessons.

First of all, I've had to force myself to put one foot in front of the other despite unfamiliar territory. I've decided to persevere, to prove people wrong who didn't think I could live up to the challenge. And I think I can say I've done it.

Secondly, perhaps my greatest gain has been a new admiration for our sports teams and everyone involved. Coaches have been so willing to talk to me, despite their busy schedules and my often fumbling attempts at interviewing.

Players have put aside their practice time and, for some of them, their disdain for media attention to answer my questions.

I've been reminded, once again, that athletes carry certain values and characteristics we all should aim for: hard work, perseverance, determination, teamwork and a willingness to respond to criticism.

Around this campus, I haven't met a single stuck-up, center-of-attention-stealing player. There's a certain humility about them that's admirable.

I have some new role models now. They're out there on the tennis courts, soccer fields, golf courses and football fields. They're working to achieve a goal, as a team, and more than anything, they want to represent our school well.

With one game left in the football season and all hope lost for a bowl game, I understand fans' frustrations and temptations to be pessimistic. Three months ago, I probably would have been among their ranks.

But this unlikely sports writer would like to extend a "job well done" to all student-athletes and coaches, regardless of what the fall season has looked like. So no bowl game, but since when have we gotten so close?

You've pressed on. You've hit the practice fields and courts again and again, win or lose. You've stood your ground despite criticism and sometimes-Herculean expectations from fans. You haven't dropped the ball.

As for me, I consider my adventure as a sports writer a successful one. And I hope fans and players alike will consider the hard work put in during the fall season for all Baylor sports as well worth their efforts and support.

And remember, there's always next season.

Allie Cook is a junior journalism major from Abilene.