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So, this is “sports”

Greetings sports fans! I started writing sports during the winter of last year, in January. Basketball was in full swing, wrestling was happening and ski season was just about to start. Having finished off that first winter, spring, summer and lastly fall, I now return to the sport season from whence I began.

Coming from the crime and news beat, I thought the sports scene would be a nice change. I liked the idea of focusing on photography, being outdoors and writing about young people participating in healthy activities across the county.

I can be kind of a cheerleader for community anyway so it seemed like there was a good possibility the change would be a nice fit. I actually have a strong foundation in sports from personal experience, although in many cases, different sports.

I attended Catholic school where there were a considerable number of days off in celebration of various saints. St. Joachim’s gave all of us kids passes to the roller skating rink for those days off and, as a result, my primary sport from first grade past high school was skating. Dance and speed skating competitions didn’t play a part until I was in high school. I remember quite a few marathon skate sessions where we actually would skate for 18-24 hours straight.

I learned to water ski the summer between seventh and eighth grade on Trinity Lake while visiting my sister who lived in Arcata. It was a great couple of weeks on the lake and I kept skiing throughout my life.

My first real competition sport was track where I was a high jumper. I started in junior high and continued into high school where I became distracted by springboard diving, swimming and tennis.

After joining the swim team I noticed the boys team had divers and that looked really, really cool. I began to practice with them and learn the primary dives for competition. Once I had those down, I became the sole member of the girls diving team my freshman year and began to win regularly by the end of that first season. I also competed in backstroke and relays. The dive team grew to eight winning girls by the time I graduated.

I tried out for the tennis team as a freshman, but when they put the ball machine on me, I hit zero of the 10 balls they sent my way. I had been going to the tennis courts with my family since I was a little tyke. My brother and sister were 12 and 14 years older than me and with my folks making an even four … I was always the odd one out, but I just assumed I could at least hit the ball.

I practiced all summer every day with my Dad and my brother and picked up games with anyone who would play me, often three times a day. The courts were next to the high school pool where I spent summers taking synchronized swimming, assisting teachers who taught little tykes to swim, and eventually worked as a lifeguard.

I tried out for the tennis team as a sophomore and I did much better. The number one doubles player had lost her partner to graduation and she chose me as the replacement. We won that year, often. We were awarded most valuable players for the year and even won a series of tournaments in Hawaii, all pretty big stuff for a 16-year-old who couldn’t even make the team the year before.

I was certified as a scuba diver that same year and worked as a safety diver for the company that brought classes to the high school. I taught CPR and earned an advanced diver certificate.

The summer after my sophomore year I got involved with a huge theatrical production at the Irvine Bowl in Laguna Beach with the Lyric Opera. They brought in professional choreographers and directors and hired a few stars, including professional lead dancers. They worked us hard. We would rehearse every day for seven weeks intensely.

That dancing and those performances were perhaps the most intense athletic experiences I have had thus far. I was in “Annie Get Your Gun,” and the following year, “The Wizard of Oz.” Both were huge performances on the same outdoor theatre bowl as the world famous Pageant of the Masters.

On the side, I was the quarterback on our powder-puff football team my junior and senior year and, like all the other girls my age, I played basketball, volleyball and softball through junior high and high school. I was a real little mountain goat of a hiker and played a mean game of badminton.

I graduated high school early and spent a year water skiing and skirting trouble, barely. The “barely” part instigated a decision to join the U.S. Army. It accomplished two goals I had for myself a year after graduating high school, get a job or go to school. The Army was both.

My permanent duty station was Hanau, Germany. I had one chance to go skiing and the fact that there happened to be a blizzard that day, including whiteout conditions, definitely wasn’t going to stop what I considered a solo opportunity.

I continued playing tennis and won a military tournament at our base on the Fleigelhorst Kaserne. That win in Germany and a couple in Canada sometimes motivate me to jokingly tell people I was once an international tennis champion.

Is pool a sport? I played a good deal of billiards before and after the Army.

As an adult, I played on the Orange Coast College softball team a few years and have played on numerous adult leagues and a few bowling leagues starting at work and later with a group of friends.

Those have been my primary sport interests to this point.

The reintroduction of sports in my life from the perspective of  a writer and photographer has been fantastic. I love supporting choices of healthy activities, especially in youngsters who are in the process of shaping the balance of their lives.

My career path and volunteer work have exposed me to the consequences of a variety of unhealthy choices, lives destroyed by substance abuse. I would much rather spend a couple hours watching a kid in a play and cheer at their sporting event than go visit them in jail and put $20 on their books.

My life has improved this past year just by spending most of my time recording the positive achievements of young people who are making healthy choices. I fully support that. I completely appreciate the parents who come to games and the coaches who, in many cases, are donating their time for the good of the community.

Local sports are such a different topic than television sports.  It was easy to become disillusioned with million dollar contracts and giant stadiums built in impoverished neighborhoods. But watching kids play for the love of the game, to achieve their personal best, these are things that inspire me daily and I am oh, so grateful for the opportunity.

I will continue to work on the “lingo” and do my best to write stories that convey the highest lights of the games. I have greatly appreciated the wonderful comments and helpful tips from those sports readers in the know. I appreciate the wonderful contributions of photographs from away games and the willingness of folks to make comments “to the press.”

Please feel encouraged to continue sending me your pictures, your comments, and your suggestions at [email protected].

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