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How much community/youth sports is too much?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by ogre, Jul 12, 2006.

  1. Inky_Wretch

    Inky_Wretch Well-Known Member

    Within the past two weeks, I've gotten not two but three (3) calls from softball coaches claiming to have won "national" championships.

    Two of the teams are in the same age bracket (10&U) so how the hell can they both be national champions? I asked the coach of the second team about that when he called in asking for coverage. He said he didn't know, but e-mailed me a link to a Web site about the tournament his team played in. This "national" championship softball tournament featured teams from four states.
  2. PEteacher

    PEteacher Member

    Yeah, but high school athletes and their classmates often become our readers too.
  3. Mystery_Meat

    Mystery_Meat Guest

    I suspect (and you do, too) that the push for hyperlocal can be explained thusly:

    More contributed stories = happier readers, or at least fewer complaints since the smaller the event, the bigger the stink that gets raised over it (aka the Mystery Meat Hypotenuse of Journalistic Asscrap)
    Happier readers = justification for more contributed stories
    More contributed stories = justification for fewer paid freelancers
    Fewer paid freelancers = justification for still more contributed stories
    Still more contributed stories = justification for fewer editorial employees
    Fewer editorial employees = more money in the budget
    More money in the budget = publisher gets harder than Chinese calculus

    This sound about right?
  4. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

    The higher up in level of play you go, the bigger the readership.

    In T-ball and quite a bit higher, the only people who care are the mom and dad. That is if both parents are in the picture.

    In high school sports, the whole town becomes involved (at least deep in the hearta, and esp. in football).

    In pros, the whole circulation area is interested (colleges too if you're working in a one-college market).

    Do the math.

    Contribute all the stories you want. They're going inside, and we'll put a courtesy credit on it and the publisher is none the wiser.
  5. ogre

    ogre Member

    It's nice to know that Im not crazy. What sucks is that all of our opinions on this matter usually don't mean diddly when it comes to the decision making.
  6. Doom and gloom

    Doom and gloom Active Member

    Here's a prime example of how this crap can bite you in the ass:

    On a tight news day, you wedge a two column picture of an 8-under girls team in a spot. Three days later, amidst the all-star break with nothing going on, even locally, you toss a 3 column team picture in on the inside.

    The next morning, a Mom from Team 2 column calls to foam at the mouth about why her girl's team got a 2 column picture - "and we were in league with the (3 col photo) team and we got first and they got fourth. It was insulting to our girls."

    Furthermore, these are the people who send the photo, then ask what day the picture will run. Obviously, they aren't subscribers. One even called to complain about the small ad (they were referring to the 2 col picture). She was the same woman who called originally to ask about running an ad of their team's glorious run to a state title. I can't resist those - I forwarded her call to display advertising. Then they bounced her back to me - still thinking there was going to be a cost. "I think it's ridiculous that it costs me $200 to run a good news story and all you guys ever run is arrests and murders." I finally cleared her head about the photo running free and asked her if she really had ever seen a murder story on the sports page.

    They have to be the parents driving around with the bumper sticker, "My kid beat the crap out of your honor student on the softball field."
  7. Bamadog

    Bamadog Well-Known Member

    Are you sure that you don't work at my paper? God, the same thing has happened to me twice this summer. Thank God this crap is coming to an end shortly. At small newspapers, the summer is the most abysmal time.
  8. Cosmo

    Cosmo Well-Known Member

    Football Bat put it right. Unless you're hosting a big Little League event (LLWS, Dixie Youth World Series, etc., etc.), your community at large DOES NOT CARE ONE BIT about how the local LL teams are doing. That changes if a LL All-Star team gets to the national level and is playing for a berth in the LLWS. Communities don't get behind random LL teams. Parents from those teams do, but that's it.

    High school sports, specifically basketball and football, are much different animals. High school football games are community events that draw people who may not have any sort of affiliation with the players on the field. For the same reasons that we don't staff every prep tennis match, we shouldn't staff random little league games because the only people who would read about it are already at the game. They know. Run submitted results and agate. That's fine. But your staffers have a lot better things to be working on during the summer than covering drab Little League games that offer very little payback to your readers.
  9. Cosmo

    Cosmo Well-Known Member

    Oh, and Inky, I feel your pain on the "national" championship teams.

    Back in Flagstaff, we had a NJB basketball team that was made up of sixth and seventh graders win several "national" championships in a row. The problem was that only four states were represented in NJB, so calling it a "national" championship was a hell of a stretch. It got my ME's panties all up in a bunch, though, that we weren't paying more attention to our local "national" champion basketball team, and no amount of reasoning with him would make him understand that this wasn't a "national" champion team. All he heard was the parents bitching.

    Said "national" championship team did spawn one of the most eloquently written pieces of copy to ever appear in our rag, though. (I hope donnie23 gets this ... haha).
  10. Bamadog

    Bamadog Well-Known Member

    The problem is that these parents are a very, very, very squeaky wheel. They go bananas and always go upstairs to the editor/ publisher level, thus sending stuff rolling downhill your way. They act like they number in the 10s of thousands, yet their bark is all out of whack for their bite. I just wish I could tell them "Submit your box scores and thanks for stopping by."
  11. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    Some time ago, I coached in a very, VERY competitive junior-high girls' basketball club league. The supposed aim was to prepare the girls for high-school play, but a couple of the teams in the league took it very seriously -- they wanted to go to the national championships in Tennessee.

    One guy, most of all, wanted to go -- he was a big cheese in youth baseball coaching and every year he was off to a half-dozen national baseball tourneys -- every game, his team shouted "We're going to Tennessee" or some such inspirational battle cry.

    Most of the teams were composite teams from several school districts, but his team was a complete, intact, starting team from one of the area's better suburban girls' programs -- they had practiced together as a unit, literally, for years. The word was that the 8th graders (i.e. the oldest players) on his team had never lost a game for their school team. Ever. Supposedly they had a 60-game winning streak as a starting five.

    OK, the season is being put together. I get my players -- three or four really good players, including my sister (a pure passing point guard) and a couple girls she knew from playing on various travel teams (including a 6-2 center ;) ) and 6-or-8 other girls I knew from the youth rec leagues -- girls who weren't quite good enough to make the three super-duper all-star teams in the metro area. They were role players -- I picked kids I knew could run, rebound and play defense. The 3-point shot had just been legalized, and I made sure I had one kid who could really drill it. Other than that, I just wanted athletic kids who could run.

    So it's time for the first game. Communications being what they were, our team had not yet had a single practice. We don't even have our uniforms -- we have to wear spare t-shirts I had sitting around in the closet. Some of the girls' didn't even know each other's names yet. We're playing Mr. Tennessee-Or-Bust in the first game. The team that has played and practiced together for four years.

    And they run the score up on us like a SOB. Just plaster us from buzzer to buzzer. Full-court press from the get-go. He's ranting and raving on the sidelines. "Come on, deny that pass! Hit the boards!!," etc etc. It was 28-3 (I remember it specifically) at halftime. Getting a big hoot out of our disorganization and chaos, they run the ole switcheroo play to open the second half -- warm up at the wrong basket, line up backwards for the throw-in, then score a wide-open layup at the other basket as our whole team runs in circles at midcourt. Mr. Tennesee is on his feet shouting and fist-pumping the whole time. "Nashville, baby!! Here we come!!"

    Final score is 47-17. They press until the final buzzer.

    The season went on, and it turned out that Mr. Tennessee's team was not really the best in the league -- they were at best maybe the third best team. There were two absolute juggernaut teams made up of players from the big city schools in the area, who were way better than Mr. Tennesee and everybody else. Mr. Tennesee lost to the two powerhouses by double digits in all four games they played.

    I made sure we got four or five practices in before the next game, and it turned out we weren't bad either.

    I figured the things the girls would need to learn to play in high school would be to: 1. Run, 2. Pass, 3. Rebound, 4. Shoot, 5. play high pressure man defense, so the more they did of that, the better, so we adopted a UNLV/Loyola Marymount run-and-press style, pushing the ball upcourt like it was on fire, swarming switching defense over every inch of the court, and teams hated to play us. They knew they would have to run like hell for 32 minutes, and we'd keep bringing fresh players in at every buzzer, until the opponents wilted in the second half.

    We averaged 50 points per game, an astronomical figure for that level. We also got snazzy new uniforms, reversible mesh jerseys that looked just like the local college team. Sharp. We played the two juggernaut teams, and made them sweat -- lost to them by 2-5 points, and had a shot to take both of them into OT. Juggernaut One beat us 52-50, their first game in single digits all year, and the coach said, "Goddamn, I hate playing you, and I love it too."

    It's late in the season, a couple of months later. Next-to-last game of the regular season. We're gonna play Mr. Tennesee again, this time on OUR home court. He's like 12-4, and we're 11-5.

    We come out for pregame warmups, in our rag-tag T-shirts from the first game. Mr. Tennesee waltzes over, all condescending and jovial. "You guys look a little better than the last time we played you." I give a tight-lipped grin, and say, "Oh yeah, we might be a bit better."
  12. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    And now, the RRRRReest of the Story:

    It so happened that the league had to decide which teams got berths to the national tournamnent in Tennessee, and a coaches' meeting was scheduled after the game. Accordingly, every other coach in the league was sitting in the stands, along with about half the players, and parents. The place was packed.

    Every other coach in the league amazingly enough, hated Mr. Tennessee's guts, for his sheer joy in RUTS on everybody he could get his hands on, and even the coaches of the juggernaut teams hated him too, because he would just NOT SHUT UP about going to the national tournament -- he wanted to run league fundraisers, raffles, etc etc to finance the trip, while the two powerhouses really didn't care that much about going (they considered it a big waste of time and money, and counterproductive to the goal of preparing the kids for HS play).

    We warmed up in our ragtag T-shirts, and I told the girls to make sure to miss a few layups, badly. You could see Team Tennessee casting glimpses down to the other end of the court in warmups, and chortling behind their hands.

    Just before the buzzer, our team rushed back to the locker room, and switched into our snazzy monogrammed, GAME uniforms, and burst out onto the court, as the "Darth Vader Theme" thunders out of the loudspeakers. At the other end of the court you could almost hear it:
    "Uh. Oh."

    Lineup for the opening tip. Our 6-3 center against their 6-0 center. Our girl tips the ball to our point guard, who slaps the ball behind her head to our best SF, in full sprint to the basket. Layup, and we IMMEDIATELY spring into our "Black Press" -- full-throttle fullcourt man-to-man, with our 6-3 center looming like a redwood tree over the horrified inbounds passer. The nuclear weapon in our arsenal. (So named because the 6-3 center, with her arms extended, 'blacked out the sky' for the inbounds passer.) :eek:

    Their inbounds passer tries to throw it over our tall kid, and she gets a hand on it and deflects it. Loose ball, our PG grabs it, and immediately kicks out to our designated 3-point bomber setting up just outside the arc. Bingo bango, and it's 5-0, about 10 seconds into the game.

    They try to throw it over our tall girl again, she deflects it again, and it's 7-0, about 20 seconds in. They try it AGAIN, our sharpshooter gets another open 3, it's 10-0, 30 seconds into the game, and Mr. Tennessee rockets off the bench shrieking "Time out! Time out!" :eek: :eek:

    Mr. Tennessee's coaching wizardry can't figure out how to make our 6-3 kid any shorter, our PG any slower, or our 3-point sharpshooter any worse of a shooter, so we pump our lead out to 20 in short order. ;)

    The game goes on from there. We end up winning 59-42. For the last minute of the game, we go into a DELAY game. Four Corners. Dribble in, kick out. The final jab of the needle. :D ;) :D

    After the game, I am literally mobbed by every other coach in the league. Mr. Tennessee mutters something like "rassin-frassin fricken fruckers," and we convene for the coaches' meeting.

    OK. Our league gets TWO bids to the Nationals. Juggernaut One and Juggernaut Two are the logical teams to go. But wait. Both coaches get up and say, "Ahhh, ya know, I don't really think we wanna go all that much." Juggernaut One, in fact, says flat out, "We're not going. Some of our kids have PSAT tests and stuff like that, so we can't go. Let somebody else go if they want." ::)

    Mr. Tennesee, of course jumps right in. "We'll go!" he blurts out instantly.

    "Hang on a minute," one of the other coaches says. "We should send our next-best team, and right now that looks like Starman's team." The coaches vote, and OUR team is offered the bid.

    I knew already that none of our parents were particuarly interested in going, or paying for, a trip to Tennessee. Our kids had no delusions of national glory when we formed the team -- we just wanted to play hard, have some fun, and improve skills for high school play. (Maybe even learn to "Play The Right Way." ;D ;D ) Also, I couldn't get the 10 days off work the trip would require. So we turned down the bid too.

    So it's settled, then. Mr. Tennessee is going. Big Wow. Good luck, dude. ;)

    A couple weeks later, I'm working at my job as an agate grunt, low-level stringer, and coffee boy at the Local Hornhonker. We get a mailed-in item, dateline NASHVILLE:

    "Mr. Tennesee's Junior-High Superstars, the national tournament representative of the Area Club League, has captured the National Championship!! Coach Tennessee's team won the title in an amazing 44-37 win over a team from Los Angeles, dominated all competition in an amazing 8-0 run through the tourney, etc etc etc. 'We deserve it, it's been a great season,' said Coach Tenneseee after the game, yadda yadda, blah blah."

    The same brief was sent to every paper in the state, including the major metros. So Mr. Tennessee's National Champions are plastered all over the place, and get featured on local TV.

    A couple of the other coaches in the league called me. "Hey, did you see the thing about the national tournament?" they asked, chortling. "That must be a hell of a national tournament, that the fourth-best team in our league can win it," I said.
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