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What I’ve learned

Caleb Suggs

Hartselle Enquirer

The 2017-18 school year starts  today and with it high school sport practices will be getting underway if they haven’t already. Games will start in a couple weeks and I couldn’t be more excited. As an avid sports fan, summer is the most boring time of the year for me. Being a writer only made it worse. By the end of the summer, I’m usually scrounging for stuff to write about. Thankfully this year has been easier than last year, because even on weeks where I didn’t know what I was going to fill the sports page with, something would always magically appear that would help me out.

As I enter my third year of covering sports, I’ve learned a whole lot. I was 19 when I started working here and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. A question I often get is, “So are you getting a journalism degree?” and the reaction I get when I say “No I’m getting an education degree” is often pretty fun. To answer your question of how I got this job, I was just a kid, who knew a lot about sports and had a decent writing ability, that was in the right place at the right time. Through these two years, I’ve picked up on several things, though.

Building good relationships is key.

When you cover high school sports that means that every week your dealing with a coach in some form or fashion. Having a good relationship with a coach is important, and what I mean by that is when you give them a call or an email you don’t want them to roll their eyes when they see your name. Most coaches at the high school level are very grateful for media coverage because it’s not a given like it is at the higher levels. There is no reason to give that coach a reason to dislike you.

Social media is an important tool.

In this day in age, social media is a sports journalist’s best friend. Being recognized when you go to a school you cover, or to one of their sporting events helps a lot. When I started, I struggled with that. Not necessarily at Hartselle, where I graduated from in 2014, but in the county they just didn’t know who I was. It was when I started updating my Twitter account regularly with game scores, story updates and sometimes play-by-play updates was when that changed. Now of course, being two years in the job also helps. However, regularly updating my Twitter has helped not just players and coaches, but parents learn who I am.

Take pride and have a passion for what you do.

I’ll admit this job is not easy. I’m one guy attempting to be at multiple places at once. I cover 5-6 schools on a regular basis and sometimes 9 when you count the Decatur schools, which I cover from time to time. It’s even worse for some writers at other places. It takes a real passion to do this job. You are gone usually about three nights during the work week and then also on some weekends too. However, if you have a passion for what you’re doing it doesn’t seem bad. I love sports and I love the opportunities I get to see the exciting games and athletes I do each week. With that passion, I take pride in my stories and putting out the best content, I can. Obviously, I don’t have as much experience as others and there are many people that can write better than me. However, if you work hard, you can still put out content people like. One of my favorite moments on this job came this summer when a Brewer mom took me aside and told my that I was that family’s favorite writer and she was glad of the effort I put into getting out and getting coverage for the schools. Now that could be the only mom that likes me, but I don’t have anybody telling me they don’t and at least one is better than none.