Last night was a historic night for Gator sports as the new lacrosse team began its inaugural season and broke in the the Donald R. Dizney Stadium. It was a historic night for me as I sat in the press box for the first time.
The program’s been two years in the making. Lacrosse is not as popular in the south as it is up north. Twenty-four of 29 players are freshman and most are from New York or Maryland. Last night’s game was against another new program, Jacksonville University, and they hadn’t won yet. I thought all of these factors made the game newsworthy so I suggested to my editor that we cover it and offered to do it.
I was excited about covering the game, but nervous. Not a big sports person, I’ve written maybe one sports story in my life and it was a feature on the cheerleading team at my high school (but it won an All-Florida Award from the Florida Scholastic Press Association!). And while in high school talking to coaches and players is easy and no big deal, the University Athletic Association is a bit more guarded.
When I contacted UAA communications about the game, I learned the press meeting with the coach and athletic director had been a week earlier. I was, however, offered a seat in the press box. I took it.
I got to the game 45 minutes but it was already packed and parking was hard to find. I asked someone where the press room was and I was pointed to a door. No one was at the door checking press passes, and people seemed to be coming and going. I took a deep breath and walked in.
No one addressed or even noticed me. The box doubled as headquarters for the film coverage of the game. I moved past the production people and saw the press seats that looked out over the field. And there on the table I saw my name.
(I took the picture with my phone to avoid looking amateurish around the more seasoned press.) I also ran into the INsite photographer and it eased my nerves to see a familar face.
During the game, four other reporters were in the box. There were two who were young/college-aged and then two middle-aged men. I was seated between the latter and took the opportunity to take quick glances at their notes to see how they were doing it. One spent more time on his iPhone looking up college basketball scores.
The communications team provided printed team information before the game and then gave us printed statistics after each half. A few minutes left in the game, we were told where the interviews would take place and asked with whom specifically we’d like to speak.
As we filed over to the interview site, I grew nervous again. How would this part work? What do I ask? What if my questions sound stupid? And why didn’t I think to bring my tape recorder?
Turns out it’s an aggressive free-for-all where everyone (but me) sticks their microphones under the player’s/coach’s chin and the most vocal get to ask their questions. Okay, so this might a bit of a hyperbole because like I said, there were only five of us, but lesson learned: think fast and speak up.
I started to wonder if sports would be a beat that I would like to cover. Answer? No. While I found that I am more capable of covering sports than I had imagined, I also found the other reporters to be so passionate and knowledgeable. I think journalists who genuinely care and naturally have an interest will inherently do a better job. So other than possible profiling athletes, I think I should leave the sports reporting to someone else.
I am, however, proud of my coverage from last night and will post the link once it’s uploaded to the INsite blog.