Winds of Change For This Year’s Fall Sports

Well sports fans, it’s once again time for fall athletics to take a good portion of my time. However, the move to Ritzville has brought some changes to my fall sports routine.

First off, I’ll no longer be covering the Cheney Blackhawks. I’m covering the Lind-Ritzville/Sprague Broncos. The towns of Lind and Ritzville are a cooperative school district. The Sprague School District entered into an athletic combine with Lind and Ritzville several years ago, hence the name and acronym LRS. This year, the Washtucna School District entered into a temporary combine with LRS, though the W is not included in the name.

This is an obvious change because Cheney and Wolf Point were both one school teams. When it comes to narrative, I can’t just refer to a kid by their city – i.e. Lind’s Joe Smith, Ritzville’s Jane Student or Sprague’s Alucard Vampire. Instead, I can just use LRS or the Broncos.

I’ll be covering Lady Broncos volleyball team and cross country squad, I won’t be writing about the high school football team.

I’ll admit I won’t get to be on the opposing team’s sidelines during Friday night home games and I’ll miss my conversations with head coach Bobby Byrd – though the last time I saw him was at Section 13 on St. Patrick’s Day after both of us indulged in adult beverages, so I’ll have those memories. Journal Editor Katelin will be covering the Broncos this year. If I ask real nice, I’m sure she’ll let me be her waterboy.

In all seriousness, I’ll attend a home game or two. Although home football games ate a good chunk of my Friday nights, I enjoy being in the atmosphere of a hometown crowd cheering on the local team – all the way back to when I was covering the Wolf Point high school team.

Even though I won’t be covering the football team, I’ll still get my gridiron fix from the Minnesota Vikings, Eastern Washington Eagles and my three fantasy football teams.

Covering cross country will be an adjustment – it’s been four years since I’ve written about distance runners. What’s interesting about this team is the Sprague School District put together the team and it doesn’t appear to have any Lind or Ritzville kids on it. Sprague also asked permission to use the Bronco track and field uniforms.

That brings me to volleyball. After three years of covering a successful Cheney volleyball program, it’s almost like I’m starting from scratch. Other than reading through the Journal’s 2016 archives, I don’t know much about the coach or her players. This year’s varsity lineup has 11 returning players – including six seniors – all of whom played last year.

The Lady Broncos are off to a good start. This past week they defeated Columbia Burbank, 3-1 and followed it up with a 3-0 sweep against Davenport. I’m looking forward to seeing them play in tomorrow’s Bronco Invite.

As a reporter, you have to be neutral in the way you cover local teams, but living in a small town where the high school is the only game in town allows you to give them more space when they win. That said, you can’t shy away from writing about the team’s losses.

One of the things I generate for the Journal is the “Years Ago,” section, which includes snippets from stories that hit print 25, 50, 75 and 100 years ago. So far, I’m enjoying looking back at the different sports teams and athletes from years past and putting them in print. I bet readers who look at that section reminisce about those days. Younger readers probably get a kick out of those blurbs as well.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t always someone who rooted for the local team. Part of me didn’t care about sports that much. As I’ve gotten older and met different athletes, coaches and fans, I’ve developed into a “homer.”

If you’ve got a hometown team – especially if it’s a high school – I encourage you to go out to a game and root for the team. If you don’t like football, venture to a volleyball game, soccer match or cross country meet.

If time doesn’t allow you to do that, maybe wear the team colors or if you see someone who you recognize as an athlete, give them some encouragement. You don’t have to buy them lunch or give them a free pass if they’re doing something illegal. Simply ask how their day is going or wish them luck.

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