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Looking for a little feedback

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by nate41, Feb 8, 2011.

  1. nate41

    nate41 Member

    ...on this story I did for my weekly notes column. Most of the prior ones had been on news and trends around the league, pretty standard stuff, and I wanted to break away from some of that and then this fell into my lap.


    College Hockey:
    Salve Regina player gives back

    • ECAC Northeast/MASCAC Columnist • Thursday, February 3, 2011

    For many, sports provide a release in which nothing matters outside of the field of competition.

    For Salve Regina sophomore Isaiah Carlson, athletics have provided an outlet for his talents to be used to reach out and give back to others.

    Carlson was one of the record 25 players nominated last Wednesday for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, which is presented annually to college hockey’s top citizen spanning both men’s and women’s Division I and Division III.

    The desire to help others started with his parents, Reed, and Jan, who pushed Isaiah to use his pleasure in playing sports as a conduit for volunteer work.

    “They just really encouraged me to use what I like to do to help people and make other people happy,” Carlson said.

    “He understands that he is privileged as a college hockey player,” said first year Salve Regina coach Andy Boshcetto, who nominated Carlson for the award. “[His mentality is] how can I help others around me while I’m doing the thing I love?”

    Carlson grew up in Kenny Lake, Alaska, and started working as a co-counselor and on-ice instructor at the Hockey Ministries International Camp in Soldotna, Alaska, his senior year in high school after attending the camp while growing up.

    “It’s Christian camp for hockey,” Carlson said. “They always get some college and pro players to come.”

    As a youth,Carlson accompanied his parents on several mission trips, going with a church group from Anchorage to help build churches in Mexico. He also went to Cuba through a baseball mission trip he found online.

    “I basically searched the Internet for an opportunity to use sports for something I enjoyed doing,” Carlson said of his trip to Cuba, which he took with a group of college and high school players who came mostly from the Virginia area. While in Cuba, Carlson said the group engaged in mission work and also played several local baseball teams.

    He continued his service work at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, where he spent two years before being accepted in Salve Regina’s nursing program at the start of last semester.

    “I was involved in a Bible study at Gustavus Adolphus,” Carlson said. “We were able to go to Nicaragua over spring break and help some local churches that our leader had connections with down there. It was a really cool experience; I’m interested in doing more of it in the future.”

    The trip to Nicaragua left some indelible memories in Carlson’s mind.

    “It was refreshing to see people and kids who don’t have the same material possessions that we have in the United States, but that didn’t really matter,” he said. “That’s what stuck to me the most about the trip, was people’s ability to be fully satisfied even though they don’t have the material possessions.”

    Carlson isn’t the only one in his family putting their athletic talents to good use. Growing up in rural Alaska, he spent countless hours on the ice with his six siblings.

    “We were basically a whole hockey team,” Carlson said. One of his older sisters, Sarah, played at Boston College and was the recipient of the 2005 Humanitarian Award while a senior at Boston College. Another, Hannah, played at Bethel College, while two younger twins, Naomi and Mary, could have played collegiately but instead took scholarships to row at Syracuse.

    “When I was young, I was frustrated I couldn’t beat my older sisters in a foot race,” Carlson said. “That helped push me a little bit.”

    While his older sisters pushed him athletically, they also inspired Carlson off the ice.

    “I look up to them a lot,” he said of Sarah and Hannah. “Both of them are in nursing and they are a big influence for me trying to get my nursing degree,” Carlson said. “I’ve enjoyed seeing what they’ve been able to do with their [degree].They’ve both done different types of mission trips using their medical knowledge.”

    While he said he hasn’t been able to volunteer as much as he would have liked to since transferring to Salve Regina, Carlson has already played a big part in many of the community outreach programs the Seahawks have been doing.

    “We did the Samaritan 5K Run in Boston,” Boschetto said. “He helped out with that, organizing and setting everything up.”

    Carlson and the Seahawks have dedicated time to Newport youth hockey leagues and helped shovel out elderly housing as well.

    “He’s always doing something,” Boschetto said. “He’s got a lot of depth and he’s a diverse kid. He’s always willing to learn and grow. The kid is not shying anyway from anything, which is good to see. With video games now, a lot of kids stay to themselves socially, but he makes it a point to really work at doing things.”

    On the ice, the Seahawks only have one win on the year, but have slowly improved, hanging in against Nichols, Wentworth, and Curry over the last week and a half.

    After starting the year as the fourth line left wing, Carlson has worked himself up into the mix on the top two lines, and is currently paired with Curry transfers Jacob Hutt and Mike Cenisio. He’s played in 14 of the Seahawks’ 17 games to date, posting three assists.

    “He’s a great PK guy,” Boschetto said of Carlson. “The kid motors. The three of them have been meshing well together; they each bring different things to the table.”

    While he’s still got a lot of hockey left, not to mention finishing his nursing degree, Carlson said he’s planning on working in rural Alaska after graduating.

    “I’m open to whatever, but I’d like to go back to Alaska and do some medical work, some type of public health service in a village,” he said.

    In the meantime, Carlson will keep plugging along, balancing his school work with hockey and volunteer time.

    “He’s finds a way to do all this stuff and on top of that, he’s a nursing major,” Boschetto said. “He doesn’t sell himself short, I’ll you that much. He keeps me motivated when I’m not feeling motivated.”
  2. TheHacker

    TheHacker Member

    Hey nate ...

    You've got some good stuff here about this guy, and this is definitely the sort of stuff you should be looking for when you're on a beat. Like you said, you can easily get caught up in news/stats/trends and when you do that you end up not telling stories about people. Write about people, not about games, whenever you can.

    I think a lot of the best stuff is buried in the middle where it takes too long to get to it. The meat of this is that he has done a lot of volunteer/missionary work and it's important to him. So lead with that. Have him describe what those experiences were like and take the reader there from the top of the story.

    The fact that he was one of 25 people nominated for an award probably isn't newsworthy enough to use it as high in the piece as you did. If he wins, then yes. But it might have been better to lead with his background and some color/description about his involvement in volunteer work, then tuck that info about the nomination a little further down.

    The other thing you might have done is talk to a member of his family for some insights about him, and about how this element of his life is important.

    Couple other nit-picky things ... you have someone named Boschetto quoted in the story, but I didn't see a first reference to that person.

    Also, avoid passive voice. For instance, change this:

    For Salve Regina sophomore Isaiah Carlson, athletics have provided an outlet for his talents to be used to reach out and give back to others.

    to this -- active voice

    Salve Regina sophomore Isaiah Carlson is using athletics as an outlet to reach out and give back to others.
  3. ringer

    ringer Member

    I agree. This could have been organized much better.

    It took forever to figure out what his outstanding volunteer work was. Being a camp coach and a missionary, running a charity 5K, and shoveling for elderly?

    The award nomination is a fine hook, IMO, but I was never clear about the award itself. Who gives it - the NCAA? What exactly is it for? I have no idea what college hockey’s top citizen" means or how the organization defines it. Also unclear: does the organization pick one winner from the 25, or all 25 are the "top" citizen (which doesn't really make sense)?

    Then, it could have used some pruning. I'm not sure what his sisters beating him in footraces has to do with his volunteerism, so that could be axed. It was also kind of funny to keep this in his quote: "I'm open to whatever..." Lastly, some things were in quotes that could have been stated as fact: i.e. "We did the Samaritan 5K Run in Boston,” Boschetto said. “He helped out with that, organizing and setting everything up.” Double check it with the kid, and if it's true, you can just state it. Also, find out what he did and how many people ran so you can asses how large the project was. Otherwise it sounds like no big deal.

    Overall, I wasn't particularly impressed with the kid, and I don't think that was the effect you were trying to achieve. The solution: interview him like crazy about the 2-3 pieces of work that seemed to be the most impressive and try to give readers a sense of the impact he made on people through his efforts. Talk to the people he helped. Front-load some of the good stuff so readers are riveted.

    Hope this helps.
  4. copperpot

    copperpot Well-Known Member

    There is one thing in the story that drives me crazy: Don't use transitions and quotes that just repeat each other. You wrote:

    The desire to help others started with his parents, Reed, and Jan, who pushed Isaiah to use his pleasure in playing sports as a conduit for volunteer work.

    “They just really encouraged me to use what I like to do to help people and make other people happy,” Carlson said.

    End that first graf after "Jan," and you solve the problem, plus avoid the awkward phrasing "pleasure in playing sports as a conduit."

    That said, I agree that you do a nice job looking for a story beyond stats and such. Keep looking for them, and your writing will only improve.
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