There aren’t many things that get my blood pumping in sports more than watching it and covering it at the local, community level.
Okay, maybe the occasional missed pass interference call in an Atlanta Falcons game recently played in Seattle deserves an honorable mention. But by and large, I love to watch the middle school, high school and even small college athlete compete more than any other.
The community sports scene is competition and rivalry at its purest level.
It’s school pride and homecoming games. It’s Friday Night Lights and the hotly contested battles for county supremacy.
It’s the innocence of the region or state championship being regarded as the highest prize. But most of all, it’s the story behind the story that draws me into community sports over and over again.
Sure, I, like most other sports journalists, began my sports writing journey with dreams of having my mug plastered on ESPN, or a regular byline in Sports Illustrated. But perhaps many of you can attest to the fact that life doesn’t always turn out the way you drew it up as a 20-year old college student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Many times it works out for the better.
Yes, I’m a Cornhusker, by the way. Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, I’ve spent the last decade in the Atlanta area. I found myself a native Georgia peach for a wife, and together we have a five year old son who isn’t quite convinced that sports are about winning and losing, and not running aimlessly around a soccer field or basketball court, using his arms as imaginary super hero jet packs.
I love college football, particularly my Nebraska Cornhuskers. But I’ve grown to be a Georgia Tech fan and genuinely root for those Georgia Bulldogs — sometimes simultaneously (don’t ask me how). But make no mistake about it — my passion lies in community journalism from a sports perspective.
I spent about five or six years covering high school and college sports at two South Metro Atlanta newspapers before getting a taste of what it felt like to launch my own publication. I’ve covered state championships in football, basketball, softball, wrestling and gymnastics.
I’ve rubbed elbows with ESPN camera crews at National Signing Day ceremonies, I’ve had the chance to sit in press boxes at Historic Bobby Dodd Stadium, Turner Field and the Georgia Dome. And I’ve even been blessed to win a few awards along the way.
But more important than any of that, I’ve seen how local sports can rally a community, and I’ve seen how it can bring the best out of rival schools’ fan bases. I believe strongly in telling the stories of kids and coaches and community that go far beneath the stat line and box score.
Stories like how a high school senior softball player battled her way through chronic lyme disease to get a Division I scholarship, and the timeless lessons of life and strength it taught her and her family.
Or stories that tell of how the brotherhood of a football and basketball team literally turned a young man’s life around.
Even in times of sadness — like when I had the privilege of telling the story of a beloved high school football coach’s final days battling cancer—– I’ve seen the transformative power of stories bring people together to forget about their differences.
I’ve seen sports stories that make you realize that, for hundreds and thousands of athletes across this talent-rich state of Georgia, sports are more than just games.
Sports are caricatures of life. Embodiments of life lessons in winning and losing and team work that will carry these young athletes further than any eventual scholarship or professional sports contract alone can.
That’s why I do this. And it’s why I’m excited to be the new Sports and Digital Editor for The Covington News. I’m familiar with most of your high schools and teams already. I know you’re a community full of passionate parents, fans, coaches and players, and it is my hope to bring you the kind of sports coverage that can come alive for you beyond the routine stats sheet.
And I don’t want you to just read my words and opinions. I want to hear from you. Tell us how we can do sports coverage better. Tell me when you agree with my analysis. Tell me when you think my thoughts are idiotic (Trust me, it won’t be the first time). Tell me the best places to eat in Newton County also, as I love food almost as much as sports!
All of this is what will make our already great newspaper and community sports scene even greater, and it will give me the chance to get to know you, the reader — the very reason why we journalists even exist.
Thank you for welcoming me into your sports family, Covington.
Gabriel Stovall is the Sports and Digital Editor for The Covington News. He can be reached for tips and story leads at email@example.com or (770) 728-1413. Follow him on Twitter @GabrielStovall1, and our comprehensive sports coverage @CovNewsSports.