For me, doing what I love means I can’t talk about what I love.
As you can probably guess, I’m a sports reporter for the Northwest Missourian. What you might not know, is that I’m also a proud member of Northwest track and field. This makes my on-campus job a little tricky.
Think about this for a second. You wake up, ready for a full day of classes, and after school is done, you head to possibly one of the hardest workouts you’ll ever encounter. Now add research, interviewing and writing on top of the homework that’s already piled on your desk at home. Welcome to my day as a sports-reporting student-athlete.
The title is a mouth full, and if I said my weeks aren’t synonymous, I would be lying to you.
I’m bearing a 16-credit course load this semester, writing for The Missourian and pushing my body every day on the track and in the weight room. When I really think about it, my normal days never have an open time slot.
In the morning, I wake up, scramble up some eggs and scroll through social media while I eat. Once I’m finished, I hop in my car and zip to Wells Hall, where I spend most of my time as a Sports Media major. I usually have a break between classes on my busy days that allows me to snag a headstart on my homework for the week.
After classes get done, I return home for a quick snack and scurry to finish all I can before I bolt to practice. Practice is not easy, and being split up from my teammates doesn’t make it any easier. Of course, I pass by some of my teammates, but due to COVID-19 mitigations, I only interact with eight of them each practice.
Now that practice is done, it’s time to get home and refuel my utterly exhausted cells. I’ve learned that cooking is much harder to do when you’re too tired to lift your arms and legs. Sometimes it's not even that I can’t lift myself physically, I’m just so exhausted that my brain doesn’t even want to think anymore.
Which brings me to what I’m doing now, writing articles. Honestly, most days I don’t stress over having a story assignment because I enjoy doing this so much. However, sometimes it’s stressful to scrounge for player interviews and muster compelling content when I have schoolwork and athletics to balance. To make time scarcer, I give a little extra time to work out all of the narrative kinks so readers can float through my stories rather than trek through linguistic deserts.
Even if it seems like I’m complaining about juggling school, track and sports reporting, I wouldn’t change my situation. I know that I signed up for this, and I’m beyond grateful that I have these opportunities. Although, I do have to say writing about sports while playing a sport is strange.
For example, I interviewed the cross country coach at Maryville High School and he talked about stride patterns, pacing and all the quirks of running. He was quick to dismiss the terms, and in-depth analysis, because they’re not something a normal person would understand.
However, I’ve grown up around track and field my whole life, and I’ve learned a lot about how runners should progress and the techniques that make runners faster. To have to sit back and act like I can’t have an in-depth conversation about running — it’s difficult.
It’s also difficult to put away my athlete persona. For once, I’m not supposed to be the athlete in this situation. I’m strictly the reporter on the outside of the sports world looking in.
Again, it's strange. I often wonder whether the athletes I interview know that I, too, go through physical hell in the name of competition. I often wonder whether knowing I’m an athlete would improve our conversations or prove insignificant in the quality of my interviews.
Here’s another thing: I can’t even write about what I know the best. Northwest track and field is off-limits for me. Rightfully so, conflict of interest hinders my ability to illustrate an unbiased report of their accomplishments or setbacks.
Personally, I think I could cover the team with great detail because I live and breathe it each day I come to campus. I really have to rein myself in when my colleagues cover Northwest track and field because I constantly desire giving them a complete rundown on how we feel before, during and after practices or meets.
My passion and experience in track and field makes me want to write about it. However, I’m a reporter, and that’s exactly what makes me unfit for the job. At the same time, as a writer, I think the world deserves to know how hard my team works to get where we are.
Eventually, I hope to get the opportunity to write about my favorite sport, but for now, I’m outside my realm of expertise. However, isn’t that exactly what college is for? I’m gaining the knowledge and experience now, so that I can excel in my career field. If that means I have to share my experience with my fellow reporters, so be it.
Something I’ve realized just while writing this is that even if reporters don’t play the sport they cover, they still have the ability to write a good story.
For someone who has played sports, it’s strange to cover something you actively participate in. Since I’m a reporter, I have to trade in my spikes for a pencil and notepad every week.