All posts by Andrew Clark

COM 370 Recap

I have always been told that I was a pretty good writer. Throughout the several writing-based classes I’ve taken in high school and college, teachers would always say that I knew how to get my thoughts out in an efficient way. While that may have been true, I never enjoyed it. I still don’t. I’m not sure if I’m just lazy or feel that people don’t care what I have to say, but the whole process would just irritate me. With that being said, I didn’t exactly hate this class.

When I signed up for COM 370, I didn’t really know what to expect. I assumed it would be an easy class and that I would be able to breeze through it. I was wrong.

This class turned out to be one of my most demanding classes between the writing and other assignments that were due every week. Early on, I still felt that I could coast my way through most of the semester with my writing skills. I was wrong again.

Our professor, Dan Connolly, is pretty familiar with the field of digital journalism and sports writing. He tried his very best to mold us into successful writers. He would constantly tell us that if you could write well, you could basically do anything. Of course, making us into good writers came at a price. Our work would constantly be torn apart with every dropped word and cliché we included. It was tough at first, but soon for me, it became almost a personal challenge to see if I could write something that was completely up to his standards.

We were then introduced to a legendary sports writer named Gary Smith. We never formally met him, but we read a book that had some of his best pieces in it. It was interesting to read his stories, because that’s exactly what they read like. Stories. You forgot you were reading about sports for a moment as Smith expertly set scenes and forced the readers to feel what the characters felt. It was eye-opening to me. I realized that sports writing was so much more than play-by-plays or game stories. From that point on, I wrote every piece with Smith’s writing in the back of my head.

By raising my own bar so high, I feel that I actually did improve my writing, and with some minor corrections or style changes, I had some of my best work come out of this class.

At the end of the day, I’m glad I ended up taking this class. It was really interesting to see another side of communications that I hadn’t thought of. I never thought I wanted to be a writer at any capacity, but this class made it at the very least not seem as terrible as I previously thought. I am going to take the things that Professor Connolly taught us throughout the semester and continue to work on my skills.

Concussions: Every Athlete’s Nightmare

It was probably the hardest hit I’ve ever delivered in a lacrosse game. We were at a summer lacrosse tournament at UMass with my club team. These tournaments were huge events lasting a few days that drew in teams from all over. Because of the size, teams would generally play around five games per day.

The player I was covering was receiving a pass, but mishandled it and the ball was at his feet. He began to pick it up, so I saw my chance. I ran as fast as possible at him and hit him with my shoulder, knocking the ball free. As soon as I made contact, I could tell there was something wrong. I immediately felt weak as if I couldn’t walk. I attempted to run for the loose ball, but my legs wouldn’t allow it as I fell to the ground. I quickly scrambled my way off the field as the play continued, stumbling the whole way. As soon as I made it to the sideline, I went down. A few teammates were quick to come up to me, asking if I was alrigh, but I tried to brush them off as to not make a big deal about it. My ears were still ringing as the pressure behind my eyes started to build. I was in unbearable pain, but no one seemed to notice after I told them I was fine. I paced back and forth on the sideline as my balance began to deteriorate. It was clear I had a concussion. I’m not sure whether it was the tournament setting or that the hit didn’t look as bad as it felt, but no one offered me medical attention. After a few minutes, I was back on the field.

I don’t blame anyone for not checking on me after the hit. In those types of tournaments, a lot of similar things go unnoticed. I know that in any other setting, especially in college, I would’ve probably been asked to sit for the rest of the game and enter concussion protocol afterwards. However, if I did get hurt again in the game, there would be a good chance I could never step on the field again.

Concussion protocol is a term that no athletes like to hear. It is an agonizing time that seems like an absolute waste for the athlete. It usually begins with a few basic questions including the date and maybe a series of numbers to be repeated, but then usually leads to the dreaded concussion test. This process usually begins as soon as possible once the athlete is off the field.

“The first thing that we do is what’s called a sideline assessment,” Elizabethtown College Assistant Athletic Trainer Madeline LaCesa said. “Essentially, you’re asking them basic demographic information; where are you? Do you know what happened? What kind of symptoms are you feeling right now? One of the other things that I usually do on the sidelines because it’s easy is you have to palpate the neck, make sure there’s no c-spine tenderness, but also do a balance test. There’s also VOMS which stands for vestibular ocular motor screening. That’s following and tracking eye movement to see how their symptoms respond to that, so if their symptoms increase with VOMS, its typically the sign of a concussion.”

These tests use both verbal answers as well as forms the athlete is asked to fill out. This helps the trainers get an assessment on how severe the athlete’s condition may be.

“Once they’re inside, I’ll run them through more concentration questions, you kind of want to get them away from the scene and actually concentrate, maybe 20-30 minutes later in a controlled setting,” LaCesa said.

The return-to-play process is how the athlete recovers from the concussion, allowing the brain to rest as well as the body.

“For the-return-to play process, we’ll explain to them what they should be doing throughout this time period and what kind of things to avoid. Typically watching TV, looking at your cellphone, sometimes increased brain activity, like doing homework, can actually increase your symptoms. We explain all of that to them and we have them sign the at-home care instruction form saying what they should do such as taking Tylenol, not to drink alcohol, not to exercise, things along those lines. We’ll have them track their symptoms three times a day until they’re symptom-free. Once they become asymptomatic for 24 hours, we’ll have them take the ImPACT Test which is compared to their baseline. Once they pass their ImPACT Test, they can begin the return to play process.”

Tyler Newman, a teammate from high school, is unfortunately very familiar with this process, suffering around six concussions through his time playing lacrosse. The process is slightly different between high school and college, and Newman sees this as a problem area that could be changed.

“Honestly, I don’t like [the ImPACT test] at all, because I found it monotonous and honestly when I would take I, it actually hurt my head more because I had to do memory tests and think. A concussion is basically just a bruise on the brain so I think honestly just like waiting until they feel that they’re better, the person feels they’re better and can play, then you start acclimating them back into the sport. Rather than putting their mind through like all these tests  and stuff that can honestly just make them uncomfortable.”

There seems to be a stigma against injured athletes in today’s sports culture. When the injury is visible and tangible, it is very easy to see why the player is unable to participate. Concussions don’t allow that luxury of being able to see what’s wrong. However, LaCesa believes that awareness has made this issue easier to deal with.

“In my experience, most coaches are pretty understanding because they know that it’s an increased thing right now, especially with general awareness in the public and the media. There’s always those one or two incidences where they don’t really want to listen to that, but for the most part, the respect the healthcare providers enough to listen to their recommendations.”

Concussions are a serious problem in sports at every level. However, there are protocols in place to ensure that the injury is correctly diagnosed and attended to. Whether they are effective enough is up for debate, but a concussion is a difficult injury to deal with. With awareness for concussions in the media at an all-time high, it is important to remember that they must be treated for what they are; an injury.

Our Date with the Hershey Bears

It all started with a video game. After winter break of our sophomore year in college, I brought back the game, NHL 2017. My roommates weren’t exactly huge hockey fans, and at the time, I wasn’t really either. We weren’t very familiar with the sport, but it seemed interesting enough to learn. This is where NHL ‘17 came in.

We were terrible at first. The controls were hard to learn immediately and we were still learning the rules of hockey at the time. Even through the painful learning period, we were having the time of our lives. There was just something about us all hanging out taking turns on the controllers that brought us together.

Eventually, the games started to be more respectable and we knew all the rules of hockey. At any given time, there were usually at least two of us playing each other in my room.

Hockey very quickly became a popular sport between us, and we were hooked. Luckily for us, the AHL team, the Hershey Bears, play only about 20 minutes from campus. We found a night that worked for us, and bought tickets immediately. It was the most excited we have ever been our entire sophomore year.

The night of the game quickly approached and we got more excited with every passing day. We looked into buying as much Hershey Bears merchandise as we could find, but unfortunately for broke college students, we decided it might not be the best idea.

Finally, the day was upon us. We waited around all day until we could finally leave for the Giant Center. We hopped into a caravan and made our way to Hershey, nearly shaking with anticipation.

We got out of the cars and we were overwhelmed. We walked in circles around the stadium trying to find our seats and were blown away by the number of fans at the game. Eventually we found our section and we got the first look at the ice. Between the sounds of the sticks on the ice to the cool air, it was unlike any of us had expected. At least until we got to our seats.

As broke college students, we wanted to get the best seats possible for the lowest price. Luckily, they were at a great value as we were only a few levels up in the corner.

The entire game, we were laughing and making jokes about how it was just like the video game and we were still blown away by how close we were. Between the sights and the sounds, it was some of the most fun we’ve ever had together. I still look back on that moment as one of my favorite experiences with my friends.

Eyes of the Storm

Insane coaches are entirely too common these days. Unfortunately, in many cases, they can have a way of ruining a certain sport for their players. I’ve seen it happen all too often. Whether it is something wrong with the coaching style, a lack of experience, or even just a personal grudge, I have seen people quit because the coach was simply terrible. Pat Summit was not one of those coaches.

She was absolutely out of her mind, that part is true; she just had a very different way of filtering that insanity.

I’ll be honest, I have not had much exposure to coach Summit in the past, until I read Eyes of the storm, by Gary Smith. It is a very well put together piece about one of the greatest college coaches of all time. Pat had a certain presence about her that demanded respect, and that was exactly what she got.

The story opens in probably the most Pat Summit fashion imaginable, talking about a recruiting trip that the legendary coach was on. At the time, Summit literally could not be any more pregnant, as her water broke on the plane. However, she continued the trip anyway and met with one of her recruits, Michelle Marciniak. After a quick talk in their house, Summit seems to have had enough, and left while fighting back contractions. So naturally, the coach and her assistant skip the hospital, and instead fly back to Tennessee. This story introduces a line that describes coach Summit in such a way that truly shows just how important her players were to her.

“Here comes this lady into your life . . . You don’t know that she’s spitting Nature in the eye and Kicking time in the teeth.”

Summit was an entirely different coach, and a coach that every athlete would like to have at some point in their career. She truly was a hurricane and if you weren’t careful she would blow you away.

It’s a wonder why coaches like Summit are so rare. It would make sense that coaches would want the best for their players and to see them succeed by any means necessary. However, Summit isn’t even in the same conversation as many other coaches. Some names come to mind, and there are glimpses of that same tenacity, but few have what it takes to do what Summit did.

Being heavily involved with sports, it is inevitable that I will become a coach at some point in the future. I have no idea what age group I would want to coach, but I know that I want to teach lacrosse. With lacrosse gaining popularity, it only seems fair that I give back to the sport that has given so much to me. When I coach, I want to be a coach that changes lives. I have had coaches like that, and they can have a very heavy impact on every aspect of your life. Summit was one of those coaches, and will always be known for what she did.

Physical Therapy

There are often times in life where we find ourselves in a hole that we can’t seem to get out of. Whether it be mentally or emotionally, it can be suffocating, making it easy for these feelings to overcome you.

Last year, I was told that I was depressed by a counselor. I was having a lengthy string of nights where I couldn’t sleep and I felt miserable. I didn’t have an appetite, and my work was slowly beginning to suffer due to the lack of motivation. I tried my hardest to keep everything a secret from my friends and family, mainly just because I didn’t like to talk about these sorts of things. I would continue to put on a show around them and mask what was actually going on. When I was alone, I would do anything to distract myself from looking at my phone for hours or playing video games. Just anything to stop myself from being alone with my own thoughts.

Eventually, I realized how unhealthy this behavior was and finally broke down to my friends. Even with the support they gave me, it was tough to open up to them. They said they would’ve never known if I didn’t say anything because I would always act like everything was alright or crack jokes. I was just never really the one to talk about feelings in any capacity.

I saw a counselor for a little while, but that seemed to almost make things worse. Talking to my friends was one thing, but having a stranger try to understand how I was feeling felt alien to me. I quickly decided that it wasn’t for me and just stopped showing up. I very quickly almost fell into the same trap of faking it until I made it.

Until one day, I decided to play some wall ball. I plugged in some headphones and listened to a playlist I recently discovered. It was interesting music that was basically just beats, but they were oddly soothing. I sat there for a minute, adjusted my stick, and began to hammer the wall.

I did my usual warm up and routine, but then I just kept going. Between the feelings I went through and the music calming me down, I almost felt lost. I just kept finding a spot on the wall, hitting it and moving on. For whatever reason, it was probably some of the happiest I had been in a while.

Finally, after a while, I stopped. I just stared at the wall for a little bit, and took a note of how I felt. I wasn’t anxious or sad, I was just kind of there in the moment. This experience is one of the reasons why I enjoy playing wall ball so much. It was just me and the wall, and I finally felt comfortable being alone. It took in everything I gave it, and sent it right back.

Sports have a funny way of doing these things to you. They can bring you up to your highest moments, and drop you to your lowest. For a purely physical and mental activity, there seems to always be room for emotion.

To this day, I have not returned to a counselor and still find trouble in talking to people about these things. However, if I ever feel down, I know that I have the wall and my stick to work the feelings out.