When I started the path of sports writing for Resident Press five years ago, I didn’t know a thing about sports. None of them. Sure, I watched a few games on television, but if you asked me what a first down or foul ball was, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Sports weren’t my thing. I was more of a Choir and Drama Club gal. And the only reason I had ever attended a pep rally was because a teacher would find me and my friends hiding somewhere in the school and force us to the gym. Fast forward to today and I know a lot more than I did. I know plays, penalties, and can almost tell you what every definition in the book is about each sport. Half of this knowledge came from the actual games themselves but the other half came from the incredible coaches I have come to know who took pity on me and my attempt to sound like I knew what I was talking about in my articles and took the time to explain their sport to me in a quick Sports for Dummies version.
My Resident Press journey got started because I was working at the hospital at the time and was ready for a change of scenery. It would allow me to stay close to home and be there for my kids when they needed me. It was something to earn a little cash and keep myself busy when the kids were in school. Nothing more and nothing less. What I didn’t count on was falling in love with EVERYTHING about small-town sports. I was timid in the beginning because I was a tiny fish in a big sea of sports writing that I knew nothing about. But as time went on, I got more comfortable and my writing started to suck a little less.
There is nothing easy about stepping away and saying goodbye. Honestly, the day that I put in my two-week notice was one of the hardest days of my life. I bawled like a baby. Then to make matters worse, I had to turn around and let all 30 of my coaches and co-workers know that I was exiting left. One of my favorite things about this job was the countless bonds formed with coaches, students, and parents over the years. They all knew my family and I knew theirs. We wished each other happy birthday, checked on each other when someone was sick and enjoyed conversations about life in general. My work relationships went well beyond the definition of a job. We became family. Every time a coach informed me that they were transferring out of my coverage area or I had to watch my seniors graduate, I felt it to my core.
Another favorite part of my job was giving the athletes, teams, and coaches the public recognition they earned when other sources didn’t want to give our small towns the time of day. Everyone knows that Mansfield is my town. But I also adopted Waldron, Hackett, Magazine, and Cedarville as my own and if an outside source messed with one of us, they messed with all of us. Yes, we were rivals during a game. But off the field or court, we stood up for each other when anyone would try to break us down. I felt as if each and every athlete in the five schools I’ve covered over the years were my own. I enjoyed taking their pictures, giving them nicknames, writing positive stories about them, and cheering them on at each game I could make.
This journey has truly been life-changing but all good things must come to an end. I first want to say THANK YOU to my coaches for putting up with my endless questions at all hours of the day. You never lost patience with me no matter how many times I bothered you during a 24 hour period. Your consistent support in my endeavor to shine a light on small-town sports means the world to me. THANK YOU to my husband Adam and kids Raine and Alex for putting up with my chaotic schedule. Sports writing is not a 9-5 job. At any given season I would have up to 20 individual teams I would have to cover. There are games almost every night of the week and they tagged along to every sport in every town including 6 hour-long trips to State for a school they didn’t even go to and they did it all without gripping. They helped with writing articles, taking pictures, and keeping me mentally uplifted when I felt like I was doing a bad job or was hard on myself when I couldn’t cover a game.
And last but not least. THANK YOU to my incredible Resident Press team! Jim, the love you have for sports writing is beautifully shown in your articles covering Paris and Charleston. You were the best sports partner in crime and I will forever be grateful for all of the help you have given me. And Tammy and Jason. We are the Three Muskateers! We have literally been through everything together. From the laughing until we peed (ok, maybe that was just me) to the bickering because we annoyed the heck out of each other at times, to being each other’s shoulder to cry on during difficult times in life. We sacrificed holidays and time with our families, money, and our sanity to build Resident Press into what it is today. But you know what? It was all worth it and in the end, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I love you guys more than you will ever know and will forever be grateful for the chance you took on hiring this sports illiterate girl almost five years ago. And with my final adieu, Hecox out!