On March 7, high school basketball games were being played all across the state. It was that magical time of the year in Indiana, as the state’s most popular sport was on its way to crowning its newest batch of state champions.
And then the world came crashing to a halt.
It’s been 141 days since the last official IHSAA sporting event was played in this state, which was the state gymnastics meet on March 14.
There won’t be a day 142.
Monday brings the start of the high school girls golf season in Indiana, and with it is a sense of normalcy. While there will be numerous health protocols in place due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, being able to cover a high school-sanctioned sporting event will be refreshing.
Myself and thousands of others who call sports journalism their profession were thrown the biggest curveball in the history of our industry on March 13. Within six days after those high school basketball games, all sporting events in the country were canceled. High school, college, professionally; all of them gone in an instant. There was hopes they would come back by May 1, but deep down, we all knew we’d be in this for the long haul.
My first fear was for my job. I saw numerous people in the sports journalism industry get furloughed or laid off altogether because of the pandemic. What’s the point of having a sports reporter if there’s no sports to cover, right?
Immediately, my brain started thinking of feature stories to work on. What could we turn into a series of stories that will give us content for a week or two? Are there any stories I’ve put on the back burner that I want to pursue now? What news-type stories can we work on to fill the page? I spent numerous hours walking around Fiddler’s Pond, formulating ideas.
Initially, I thought I had created enough to get us through the end of May. I felt like that would buy us enough time for other stories to develop. The goal after that was to make it to the Elkhart County 4-H Fair. Once that was canceled, we knew our hopes were making it to Aug. 3.
I say “we” because this includes my boss, Goshen News Sports Editor Greg Keim. He has been so receptive to everything I’ve pitched his way the last five months. No ideas were off the table, and he allowed me to pursue some really cool feature stories. He has also written some fantastic stories during the pandemic, and his “College Connections” pieces have really stood out in my opinion.
With no sporting events to cover, I shifted my focus to people involved with sports who maybe don’t get the spotlight a lot. Everyone knows who Charlie Yoder is, but do they know about his teammate, Blake Egli, who helps mentor elementary kids in the Westview school system? Being able to profile the “Unsung Athletes” was the first big idea from me, and they were some of the more rewarding stories I’ve written during this time.
The coolest series, for me, was the “GC GOATs,” where I profiled the greatest athlete in each sport in Goshen College history. Everyone I contacted for these stories was so receptive and honored to be chosen for it. Being able to talk with these former players was a really cool experience, and it gave me more knowledge about a school I didn’t have much of before I started the series.
Somehow and some way, Greg and I have been able to navigate this part of the pandemic unscathed. In fact, I would say we’ve excelled in some areas. By not having any games to cover, we’ve been able to dedicate our time solely to features on athletes, coaches and anyone else involved with athletics in the area.
We’ve written a combined 232 stories since the first IHSAA announcement related to COVID-19 on March 12 (yes, I counted them for this column). If you had told me we were going to write that many stories in the last five months with no IHSAA sports happening, I would’ve called you a liar.
Through all of this, the support we’ve received from the community has been fantastic. From coaches, parents and everyone in between, we deeply appreciate all the support you’ve given us. We hope the content we’ve produced has been worth your time.
But now it’s time to get back to a sense of normalcy. High school sports are back for now, and that’s exciting news to this sports reporter. And while the feature stories won’t go away, it sure will feel great to be at Black Squirrel Golf Club bright and early for the Goshen girls golf invitational Monday.
I’ve never been more excited to type up girls golf results in my life.