Monday, July 14, 2014

My journey into writing

Being the night owl that I am, I always catch myself thinking about my path towards my future career. It makes me think about the reasons I chose this path; the path to be a sports journalist. 

When I came to college my hopes were to be a health teacher at a high school someday and hopefully get the chance to coach some high school sports. I took a few health classes and decided it just wasn't for me. I then considered being an English teacher as English was always a subject that came fairly easy to me and I enjoyed it more than other subjects. As much as teaching high school and coaching high school sports sounds awesome and rewarding, I found another field that seemed to be a good fit.

 I played hockey for 12 years growing up and it consumed much of my time. Getting to college I continued playing on the MSU club team and then got into coaching with the Mankato bantam program. Looking for a career path was different, though. There are casual sports fans, then there are those who are really passionate about it. Like Brad Pitt says in Moneyball, "How can you not be romantic about baseball?" But in my case, it's hockey. 

I started reading all these articles about the MSU hockey team written by Shane Frederick, a sports writer for the Mankato Free Press. Shane's main job is covering hockey in Mankato. He's an awesome writer who knows a great deal about the game and I love reading his stuff. I still read just about every article he writes. I just remember thinking "This guy has the greatest job ever."

So I switched to journalism. I've met Shane and been fortunate enough to work along side him a few times and see how he does things which has been extremely educational for me learning the ropes. He's written some books on hockey as well, furthering my thought that he has the coolest job ever. 

So as I embarked on this journey I didn't quite know where to start. I always read Shane's blog and figured a blog is a good way to start. I created this blog over two years ago, starting when I watched the Ted Brill Great 8 tournament in St. Paul. I was there to watch my younger brother play the last of his high school hockey, and saw all these great players and notable D1 college coaches in attendance.

I wrote articles about Minnesota high school hockey and about friends and former teammates who are now playing D1 hockey around the country. After a year of doing this on my own, I got in touch with the MSU Reporter, the on campus newspaper of the college I attend. I met with the editor and we talked a bit about my blog before he offered me a position on his sports writing staff as the men's hockey writer. Say no more, I'll take it. 

Through the Reporter I've been able to see another side to the game and it's been awesome. The sports editor Joey Denton has been incredibly helpful, giving me copies of my articles with things I need to work on or change. My position as the men's hockey writer led me to get in touch with Brian Halverson, the executive editor at Minnesota Hockey Magazine. Brian provided me with more opportunities to work events that really have fueled my passion for this even more. Like Shane, Brian has been a guy who I've learned from and taken tidbits of information to improve my work and how I approach what it is I'm doing. Certainly I have a long way to go yet, but I've enjoyed the ride so far. 

With the Reporter I get to watch D1 hockey and get paid to write about it. For a Minnesota kid, this is great. I get to interview players and coaches and attend press conferences. This past winter I was also able to attend the inaugural North Star College Cup between the Gophers, MSU, UMD, and St. Cloud at the Xcel Energy Center. Gopher legend Grant Potulny, now an assistant coach with the Gophers, sat next to me in the press box and chatted with me for an hour. He was one of my heroes growing up, which made it that much cooler that he spoke with me about old MSU/Gopher games in his playing days, and how the Mavericks are becoming a great program on the national scale. It was an incredible experience for me. 

If you haven't been to the Xcel, it's amazing. It's a top notch facility and my first time seeing the press box blew me away. Over 100 seats in a press box? Free food and soft drinks while you watch a hockey game, why can't I do this every weekend?

But aside from being in awe of the experience, I was able to come back again for the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament and the inaugural B1G Hockey tournament through MN Hockey Mag and work those events. Each time I learned a little bit more about what I was doing. What kind of notes should I be taking, what kind of questions do I ask, how should my article be written, those types of things. 

For me, I want to write my articles the way I enjoy reading a good sports article. If it's a recap, I want to be able to imagine the goal as I'm reading about it. So I try and be as descriptive as I can without rambling on about a goal for two paragraphs. I appreciate when a writer can be completely unbiased too. It can be hard writing for one team and not favoring them, but sometimes the truth hurts and honest writing is the best writing. 

Some people watch sports simply for the game, which is fair. When I watch a game I'm attentive to the game but I also enjoy hearing the analysis and what the color commentators have to say. It's the same way with when I read an article, and the same way I hope readers would read mine: with interest and respect for my opinions or interpretations of the game. 

I have a year left of college yet before I enter the real world. A year left of covering a great college hockey team. A year left before I look for a career. I'm unsure what will happen when that time comes, though I know what and where I want to be. As my passion rests in writing about hockey, the greatest game on earth, I hope I can stay in Minnesota and cover one of the five D1 hockey teams here and cover some high school hockey as well. Though I enjoy most sports, I don't think there's a greater state to be a hockey writer. 

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