Tuesday, May 31, 2011

SPORTS >> Return feels like homecoming

Leader sports editor

“I’d like to see you go back. I think that’s where your talent lies.”

Those words were from a dear friend and were perhaps the final factor in my decision to return to The Leader as sports editor.

Many of you will remember me from the six-plus years I spent here writing sports. After a brief foray as managing editor, where I learned my first real lesson about doing something your heart isn’t in, I embarked on an entirely new career. I embarked on about two more after that, and had finally, about eight months ago, landed in a place I thought would be a long- term gig.

Then this opportunity sprang up once again, and truthfully, I missed sports. I took two days to mull over the pros and cons. I like sports and I love writing, but there were many other factors. In-depth conversations with my wife bore out that there were different pros and cons for each option, that seemed to balance out in the end. Then a friend helped make it clear to me that this is what I like doing, and this is what I’m good at (poor grammar notwithstanding).

So it was with a delighted heart that I decided to return to writing sports in, what I believe, is the best location and paper in the state for a local sports-writer. There is much diversity between the schools within The Leader coverage area, and also much success.

I developed some great relationships with coaches in the area, and very much look forward to renewing those old relationships, as well as beginning new ones with folks who have been fortunate enough to come in and take over one of these great programs.

It seems, however, that I missed a lot of major stories. But all the state championships that have been won since my departure were not cases of out of sight, out of mind. I was either there or listening as Jacksonville won the boys basketball and baseball championships. I was listening when Lonoke finally put it all together, when Beebe, my alma mater, added track and baseball titles.

Cabot is now a mainstay in boys basketball playoffs and brought home wrestling and bowling titles. North Pulaski and Sylvan Hills have each made the finals in boys hoops and come up just short. I know all of this. I enjoyed getting involved with all these programs and have never totally walked away.

I am looking forward to next season when the Bears finally bring home the banner.

Indeed there is a lot to look forward to.

My first day back felt like home and only helped to affirm that I made the right choice. Who better for the first phone call made by The Leader sports editor than Bob Hickingbotham?

If anything makes you feel like the sports guy in this area, it’s a phone conversation with coach Hick.

So here I am once again. Coaches at Jacksonville, Cabot, North Pulaski, Sylvan Hills, Beebe, Lonoke or Abundant Life, I’ll be seeing you soon, and glad about it.