All posts by Andrew Smith

Digital Sports Journalism – Semester in Review

In reflecting on this semester’s Communications 370 Digital Sports Journalism class, I found the course to be enjoyable, and there were many parts of the course that I benefitted from. Writing became less of a chore and more gratifying, and I feel that my writing has improved overall. We had the opportunity to meet several interesting people in the industry. Finally, I learned some things about myself as well.

First, writing a weekly blog which entailed having a Thursday night deadline to meet every week was beneficial to me. After getting into the swing of writing on deadline during the first week or two of class, the weekly blogs were something that I found myself looking forward to writing every week. Sometimes it was mentally challenging to find a topic to write about every week that people would enjoy reading. Nevertheless, it turned into an intellectually stimulating activity to turn out 500+ words every week on a topic related to sports. I would not mind continuing the blog on a weekly basis. However, I would turn it into something that was more along the lines of what I feel and experience on a weekly basis and not necessarily have it always revolve around sports.

I did learn a lot about myself in this course as well. People say that by taking classes, you might discover something that you would be interested in doing for the rest of your life. Other times you will find something that you most certainly would not be interested in doing the rest of your life. This class was the latter. Although I enjoyed this course, I learned that I couldn’t be a sports writer for the rest of my life. Personally, the amount of content that sports writers produce daily, whether they are in their off-season or during the season is mind-blowing. I have tremendous respect for the writers who can turn out that quality content for a living; however, I am not one of them.

Over the period of this semester, Dan Connolly brought in some interesting guests that were friends of his in the sports writing field. We were able to have intellectual conversations with the people that visited, and in my opinion, Connolly’s guests were a welcome addition to the class. They gave us further insight into the sports writing and reporting field. I feel that they were important in the context of the class, and it was interesting to have their perspective on the industry in addition to Connolly’s perspective.

I do believe that throughout the semester my writing skills have improved. Through repetition and writing in different ways and in different formats, I have become more confident in my writing ability. I do admit that sometimes my writing is not the best, but it has developed from where it was at the beginning of the semester. It proves the old saying that practice makes perfect, and high-intensity, diligent, consistent writing over the course of a semester will, in fact, make you a better writer. In my opinion, this class although challenging at times, was worth taking. I learned many things, not only about myself during this course, but also about my skills and improving as a writer.

Sports Injuries

 

 

With the blood-curdling sound of bones snapping, ligaments tearing and tendons popping, the quarterback dropped to the ground in excruciating pain.

“When I drove my helmet into the center of his chest, my neck absorbed the majority of the impact, fracturing two vertebrae at the base of my neck about parallel to my shoulders,” said Mike Smith the second-string quarterback and special teams player for Hufford Junior High School in Joliet Illinois, describing the moment when he broke his neck, back, and collarbone.

“I initially did not realize my neck was broken and played the next day in our homecoming game,” Smith said. Unfortunately, it was too late, not only for that season, but his football career was over also. Many weeks of painful rehabilitation were ahead of him.

“I wore a neck brace for six weeks and avoided all contact sports for the rest of that school year… I was out for the rest of that season; my injury happened about halfway through the football season. I did not play football after that. My doctors advised against it,” said Smith. That’s the reality of playing sports; injuries happen. It is not intentional, but it happens at the most inopportune times.

From a young age, players are taught that there is a difference between being injured and being hurt. When players complain about being hurt and not wanting to participate in practice, their coaches will undoubtedly ask them if they are hurt or if they are injured. It’s expected that a player will hurt; it’s expected that a player will be sore. You’re expected to be banged up; you’re playing sports.

If you are injured, coaches will tell you that it is imperative that you seek professional medical help as soon as possible. They will also inform you that you will not be allowed to participate with the team until they receive a doctor’s note saying you are cleared for physical activity. After being presented with this lecture from coaches, players will often admit that they are hurt, not injured and proceed with practice for fear of not being able to compete.

Being an athlete demands a lot from the body. Off-seasons are just as important as regular seasons. Practices are just as important as games. Time spent in the weight room, conditioning during the off-season and focus during practice will translate to results on the field. To be an athlete that can compete at the highest level you have to dedicate your life to the game.

According to Stanford’s Children’s Health, “Thirty million children and teens participate in some form of organized sports, and more than 3.5 million injuries each year, which cause some loss of time of participation, are experienced by the participants.”

Over nine percent of the population participate in sports in the United States as a child and 12 percent of those who do participate become injured with loss of playing time. These numbers are troublesome considering the advancements that have been made in the interest of player safety, especially in youth sports.

Many sports are violent by nature, and even proper equipment cannot prevent improper technique in sports where physical contact between players is necessary. Some injuries are inevitable regardless of the equipment and safety regulations provided. However, learning the proper procedure for contact from a young age can prevent injuries.

StopSportsInjuries.org says, “Children ages 5 to 14 account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated in hospitals. On average the rate and severity of injury increases with a child’s age.”

With the advancements in sports safety, the number of injuries to children should, in theory, be decreasing with age not increasing. The science behind sports medicine has become increasingly accepted, but that does not deter from the fact that sports injuries are unavoidable.

“The injury’s severity usually increases based on skill and age,” said Director of Sports Medicine for the Legends Football League, Jeremy Fisher. When athletes begin to compete at higher levels, the likelihood that they will suffer a significant injury also increases.

“During this past season,” Fisher recounted, “concussions were my number two injury to ACL tears; my third most common injury was ankle sprains… since athletes are becoming bigger, faster, stronger, you do see other injuries you may not have seen previously based on the amount of force athletes can generate.”

As is the case with any injury, the timelines for rehabilitation vary depending on the injury.

According to Fisher, “ACL’s with surgery take six to nine months to heal, concussions vary from a few days to indefinitely and ankle sprains can vary from no time missed to three months. The worst ankle sprain I had seen … the athlete was out for 18 months.”

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the top five most injury-prone sports are: basketball, with more than 170,000 injuries; baseball and softball, with nearly 110,000 injuries; bicycling, with more than 200,000 injuries; football, with almost 215,000 injuries; and ice hockey with more than 20,000 injuries. These injuries are all related to children ages 5-14 who were treated in hospital emergency rooms for their injuries.

The rehabilitation process for almost all sports injuries is the same.

Fisher says, “For all rehabilitation, you go through a specific pattern no matter the injury. Decrease pain, increase the range of motion, increase strength, increase stability, return to sport specific exercises … finally, return to the sport.” The length of the process may vary depending on the severity of the injury, but the principles behind rehabilitation stay the same.

No matter what age you’re competing in when participating in sports, injuries are inevitable; the best thing that you can do is receive the proper training before competing. If and when you receive an injury, take the appropriate time to recover, follow the trainer’s recommendations and don’t shorten the recovery time for the sake of getting back to competition. Recalling the high school career-ending injury of Smith in a final comment to our conversation, Smith reflected with humor that.

“I think the wisest and safest course of action is playing some highly intense and competitive games of chess, a sport designed to improve, not harm the brain.”

The Art of Coaching

“Try doing it this way; put your hand here; shoot the ball like this. No, that’s not quite right, try it this way.” “I can’t do it like that. I can’t do this at all. This is too hard for me. This is dumb.” “I’m just trying to help you get the basics down so you can build from them.” “It’s fine, I’ve got it. Just leave me alone.”

I’m sure this sounds familiar to all parents who have ever tried to teach their young son or daughter how to play sports. Or as a matter of fact, tried to show them how to do anything when they were young. It’s hard, it’s annoying, and it can be troublesome. Young children don’t want to listen to what ‘coach’ has to say; they think that they know everything there is to know about anything.

I was no different. It was hard to get me to listen to any criticism or get me to be attentive long enough to listen to directions when I was young. Coaching me at a young age was a challenge. I thought I was the best at everything. I thought that I was something special. The truth was that I was not.

My biggest problem when playing sports was the fact that I was too nice on the playing field. I was not aggressive enough. When playing basketball, I didn’t compete with the bigger physical kids for the rebounds; I wasn’t tough enough during a box out to prevent the other player from getting the ball. When I played football, I was flat out not aggressive enough to play the sport. My tackling was not strong enough, and my blocking was mediocre at best. This lack of aggression when playing football is part of the reason I quit the sport just before high school.

It took years of growing and maturing before I realized that those adults who were coaching us were also teaching us life lesions. Coaches do not only have an impact on you while you are playing sports, but they also have an impact on many different aspects of your life. Teachers, mentors, family and friends are all there to help you succeed in life. They, believe it or not, are your coaches.

Looking back on my childhood, I wish I had listened more and taken more of the advice of the people that I now look back on and consider to be my mentors. I now realize that I value their input and words of wisdom. I understand now that when I was young I thought I was a hotshot. I thought I was invincible. I thought that I knew everything, but that is not the case. Today, the number of times that I ask for advice or ask for someone’s opinion daily is incredible. I value people’s opinions and their feedback. I use it to help me to improve and make better decisions regarding my academics and in my day-to-day life. Even though I did not grasp it when younger, I thank all of my mentors and coaches for the wisdom they have given me then and now.

CHECKPOINT

Previously, it was against Elizabethtown’s alcohol policy for minors to be in the presence of alcohol. However, the Committee on Alcohol and Regulation felt like this policy conflicted with the SWAG’s responsible drinking messages. SWAG encourages students to drink with a designated driver or sober student. Therefore, Etown’s policy changed to accommodate alcohol-free minors. To keep up with the new policy, the campus has implemented Checkpoint Alcohol Tests. However, many students are unaware of the new system.

“Um I don’t know my guess would be like sault crystals.”

Checkpoints work by breaking a glass container and blowing across white beads. If you have been drinking these beads will turn a blue green color. If you have not been drinking these beds will stay white. If the checkpoint test proves you have been drinking, Officer Powell warns that there will be consequences.

“So if the test shows up positive it’s because there’s been alcohol in your system. So really only ask for these tests if you know that you haven’t had anything to drink that night or even that day. So if it comes up positive we will have no choice but to refer you.”

To take a checkpoint test, students can either raise their hand or approach a campus security officer. Officers will not give out checkpoint tests unless asked. Students 21 and older will not be given checkpoint tests because they are not in violation of state or school policy. Officer Powell explains how this test works.

For any further questions consult the student handbook or contact the director of campus security, Andrew Powell.

Reporting for The Beak I’m Andrew Smith.

Gary Smith Eyes of the Storm

 

“I love what I’m doing, and this is what I’m here to talk about, and you’ll pay attention while I’m talking or you’ll leave the room.” We have all had a coach speak to us in that manner while playing sports. Coaches are intense, demanding and forceful. No coach I have ever had has been as forceful as Pat Summitt, but some have been close. Coaches have motivation behind everything they do. They run practices so that the results show in the game. When games do not go as planned, there will be punishments at practice the next day. It’s a rhythm; it’s a cycle; it’s sports.

Summitt’s coaching style reminds me of my middle school football coaches and the way they ran practices and games. Preseason would consist of nothing but running, running and running some more until half of the team was eating their breakfast all over again. When the coach would address us as a team with any instruction, it was imperative that we listened and did what we were told. There was to be no messing around during practices or games; intensity was expected and considered a crucial part of the process. When a player would step outside of these boundaries and think they could get away with something, they were mistaken, and the entire team would pay for one player’s stupidity at a later time and place.

I played lineman on both sides of the football. When my teammates and I were participating in lineman drills, our coach would be on the ground with us looking at our stance, looking at how we released off the ball, and looking at how we hit our opponent, much in the way Summitt did with her players. When our coach saw a weakness in the way that we played, it opened up an opportunity for them to go one on one with us during the next drill to teach us what we were doing wrong. Nine times out of 10, this consisted of the coaching staff beating us off the ball and showing us in a physical manner what we were doing wrong. It usually ended up with us being embarrassed on our backs, looking at our coach and explaining what went wrong to everyone else. Much in the footsteps of Summitt, a long two-hour practice would conclude with us participating as a team in more back breaking conditioning, which involved our coaches screaming at us “We may not be the best team on the field, but we sure will be the most in shape team on the field.”

The story Gary Smith wrote about Summitt reminded me of a story about one practice right before Halloween. Our coach would always end practice with a lecture as coaches do, and as he would tell us to go get changed he would say, “I want a Reese’s cup from every single one of you next practice.” As a team, we all took this as a joke, considering our coach was a heavier individual. It wasn’t until the next practice that we would discover the rationale behind the Reese’s cup demand. He didn’t really want the Reese’s cup; he could care less about the cup; he cared about attention to detail and the unity of a team, much like Summitt did with her coaching style. That memorable pre-Halloween practice, when some players brought in their Reese’s cup and others didn’t, we quickly discovered what attention to detail and the unity of a team meant to our coach. As we found ourselves gasping for air before practice even started, we learned a powerful lesson about the importance of working as one unit to become a ‘team’.