Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sports Talk: Holiday Tournament Memories

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Dec. 26, 2012. 
No matter who you are or how old you get, Christmas break is a thrill. Of course, as we get older, the profession we choose oftentimes shrinks the amount of time our “break” consists of and hopefully we at least get the 25th itself!
The break while in school, though, is always such a relief. No studying, no books, no class, or waking up early. However, as a basketball player, it usually meant holiday tournament time.
There are pros and cons to the holiday tournaments. It means your “break” is less of a break than that of many friends. Your schedule is still very much dictated to you: practice times, game times, bus departure times, etc.
I played for the Lady Rebels as a freshman and sophomore, sophomore year being the only season I was a member of the varsity team. As a junior and senior I chose to forgo my hoops career but stayed on as a team manager, so I was still traveling with the team through Christmas break.
There was a part of me that did not like it at all at that time. The Christmas season is full of so many fun traditions: present wrapping, cards, music, baking, shopping—the list goes on and on.
However, I look back now and realize that some of my most prominent high school Christmas break memories come from my tournament traveling.
Christmas is a time for family and tradition, but as a high school athlete, your team does become a family of sorts. The fact I stayed on as a manager for the Lady Rebels proves just that. Giving up the sport was difficult in its own right, but what made the decision hardest was giving up the time investment I’d put into the team: my closest friends and coaches. Wanting to still be a part of that family, I became a manager.
Christmas tournaments were always competitive. We won games and lost games. It was an opportunity to see some competition outside of the normal district and regional teams we played every season, but it was also extra time and fun with most of my closest friends.
The traveling oftentimes meant staying overnight somewhere and eating out. Oftentimes there was down time between games when parents would take us shopping or out for other fun adventures together.
The Lady Rebels competed in Gatlinburg, Tenn. last weekend, a tournament I remember traveling for during my time with the team.  Sure, I loved being home at Christmas time, but looking back the memories from the travel are irreplaceable. Lots of late night laughs in hotel rooms; ice skating, shopping and simply experiencing Gatlinburg at Christmas time.
What I didn’t consider during those years was that my teammates and I were not the only ones giving up our holiday time for the sake of a sport. The coaches and parents were also giving us, the athletes, their time. Because they were willing to spend their breaks on demanding schedules, me and my teammates—my friends—had the opportunity to compete while also creating great memories together.
Family is such an important and meaningful part of this time of year and not just those in blood relation: everyone from your parents and siblings to your coaches and teammates. No matter who you are spending your winter break time with, enjoy it, cherish it, and be grateful for those people.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sports Talk: Spin Around

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Dec. 19, 2012. 
I know this comes a little early, as we still have a week of Christmas goodie indulging to partake in (and might as well carry on until New Year’s), but the new spinning bikes at Back and Body Fitness Center are quite exciting—and just in time for anyone contemplating a New Year’s resolution!
Spin bikes are different from your standard stationary/exercise bikes. The spin bike has a “free wheel” that controls the resistance of the workout. The seat is adjustable and handlebars sit low. Basically, the bike is as close to a stationary road bike as you can get.
The lower handlebars can be found on a standard bike, but they tend to look less like real bike bars. These bikes also have more of a chair-like seat as opposed to a real bike seat.
Additionally, the spin bikes do not have digital settings to help an individual change settings and resistance in their workout. Because of this, spinning classes have became popular across the country, much like other group workout classes like zumba, yoga and pilates.
When still living in Louisville the gym I attended had spin classes; however, I never made it to any. I stuck with yoga and my own workouts that carried over from my previous Bellarmine training regimen.
The free weights, mats and medicine balls were just on the other side of the spin classroom, though, and I oftentimes heard the classes taking place. I would hear the instructor shouting instructions with the music pumping. I have to admit I was very curious about the classes.
While all of my friends who have used spin classes as their preferred workout method tell me of their love of the classes and how much fun their are, they never sugar coat the difficulty level.
But that’s exactly what any excellent workout or fitness routine should be, right? One that you thoroughly enjoy—partially because of the energy and power it demands. It should leave you utterly exhausted.
My hubs informed me of the gym’s new cycles last week, and I had the opportunity to test them myself.  Again, I have never myself been through a spin class, so the two of us guessed at our own style of a workout. I’m sure it was like a leisurely, afternoon ride in the park compared to what a certified instructor would put us through.
Maybe if he and I take a few of our ‘strolls’ we will still be capable of walking by the time we get the opportunity to partake in a real class.
It’s good to see Casey County’s gym continue to grow and bring the community new opportunities to maintain their health. If you are a member, be sure to stay tuned spinning classes are likely to be on the horizon. If you’re not a member, hey, there’s nothing like the new year to give you reason to join!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sports Talk: Finding and keeping a coach the fans love

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Dec. 12, 2012. 
Professional sports trades always generate interest and raise eyebrows in the same way college recruitment gets the fans excited; however, the past week has made me appreciate and come to further enjoy another type of trading/recruitment: coaches.
A coach’s tenure at a school may be long or short; more often than not, the verdict on that tenure is correlated with the fans’ feelings toward a coach.
Fans get excited when their team lands a top recruit, lands the number one draft pick, or signs a top athlete previously sporting another uniform. If the player does well for the team, we love it; if the player does mediocre, or, even worse, does poorly, we sometimes get upset, but usually just look to other players to step in or look to the next year of recruitment.
We also get excited with great coaches, but unlike with players, with poor coaches, we get very, antsy and usually are not happy until the coach gets the boot. (And they always do, eventually.)
Coaches on all levels are important, but I’d venture to say they are most important to us, the fans, on the college level. No matter how great a player is, any team will only have him/her for four years, max, and if they are that great, they are one and done. They are fun for a season or two and then we’re looking for that next recruitment class.
Great coaches, on the other hand, are something every fan base desires, and once you have one, you hope they can live forever, staying happy at your school. A great coach will bring you, your fellow fans and your team one exciting, worthwhile season after another.
In the past few weeks we’ve seen a lot of excitement in the world of Kentucky college football coaches. UK fans rejoiced in Joker’s official farewell(which we all saw coming…) and have put high hopes in a “next year” with Mark Stoops.
Just this week former Louisville coach Bobby Petrino signed to take on the coaching position at Western Kentucky University (giving any EKU alums whom are also Wildcat fans an extra reason to hate the Hilltoppers).
As some know, the company I work for outside of writing is based in Louisville and I spend two days a week working in-office. One of the three coworkers I sit with is a former Cardinal football player and the other two are both die-hard Cards fans. Let’s just say last Wednesday when Charlie Strong’s future was still in question, productivity level was at about the same level it gets to during March Madness.
Needless to say, all three were in high spirits Thursday morning with assurance that Strong would bypass a move to Tennessee and remain in Louisville.
The importance of a good coach really sunk in last week with the possibility of Charlie Strong’s departure. Much like my enjoyment in seeing strength in more than one of the state of Kentucky’s basketball programs, I would love to see strength in multiple football programs, especially since we’re not exactly known as a “football state”.
Louisville’s football program has had up and down years (up being with Petrino and down coming with Kragthorpe). I’m excited Strong isn’t jumping ship the first chance he gets. I like to hope that now is when he begins to build a true legacy for himself as a Cardinal.
Meanwhile, I really, really hope Stoops brings a positive turnaround for Kentucky. (Surely we cannot get worse, right??) I hope to hear UK fans excited next season and not already calling for a new hire.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sports Talk: Full cycle on the Casey County sports circuit

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Dec. 5, 2012.

Technically the end of January will mark the end of my first year of returning as a sports correspondent with The Casey County News, but with the beginning of boys and girls basketball season, I feel like I’ve finally come full circle.
And I couldn’t be happier about that!
There a multiple reasons for this.
First, while my full-time job keeps me actively writing marketing content, I have been away from my journalistic tone since my 2008 Bellarmine graduation. It’s good to be brushing up.
Second, it’s been a great way to reconnect with the county. With my job being in Louisville and making that trip two days of the week, if it were not for my sports writing duties, I would likely not very proactive about attending the local sporting events; therefore I would not have the opportunity to run into so many familiar faces on a regular basis.
Third, I can finally feel like I know a thing or two about our sports team! By beginning my writing mid-basketball season last year, I often times felt very lost as to what was going on with our teams and players. Having been away from the area for seven years, I was completely disconnected from the teams and athletes, minus the occasional glance through my parent’s copies of The Casey County News when visiting home.
Who were our top athletes? What kinds of records did we see in recent seasons? What coaches were new? What kinds of injuries or records had athletes experienced? How did we fair in the district? What teams are in our district??
I got used to covering college sports where a simple Google search or visit to a school’s website could give you all of the athletic information you can imagine. Rosters, game states, school records, season records, and, oftentimes, a press release regarding every individual game.
High school sports are not necessarily like this. Way to go Casey County for having our online edition of the newspaper with complete high school sports coverage. You might be surprised how difficult it can be to find out information on many of the state’s other teams both before and after games.
Finally, a year has passed and I’ve been through one season with all of our sports teams. I know names and faces and, sometimes even preferred jersey numbers.
It adds a new level of excitement to be covering a team I actually feel like I have a history with and know the troubles and triumphs of last year and the hopes and expectations of a fresh season.
I can remember, from my days as an athlete, the bittersweet end to any season—good or bad. The long months of the off season ahead were a blessing in that it was a time for improvement, but a curse in that you had such a long wait until a chance to out-do yourself again. If only there was just another week or another month or another game… If only you could get the next season started sooner rather than later.
I’m excited to now be able to share in the anticipation and hopes our teams have as new seasons begin and ensue.
Congrats Rebels and Lady Rebels on great starts. Two wins right off the bat for the boys and, what good news to hear Jasmine Johnson has not been sentenced to a senior season riding the bench after the knee scare! I feel like I can legitimately call myself a true Rebel fan once again.