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It normally happens out of shock and is followed by an immediate interrogation.
For the most part, it’s the reaction of those who knew me in high school or extended family members who haven’t seen me in a while. As soon as they find out, they rephrase it as a question.
“Wait … you’re an advertising major?”
People have penciled me in as a sportswriter as far back as first grade when my “weekend reports” were essentially brief game stories. This was much to the dismay of my teacher who begged me to write about something I did, not watched.
Eventually, right before my sophomore year of high school, my parents pushed me to apply for an internship covering sports for my town’s online newspaper. It took a lot of convincing. My real dream at this point was to sit back and analyze sports, not go out and talk to sources. I ultimately decided to go for it only as a way to stand out to colleges.
My editor assigned me to write a preview of the varsity football team’s season. Pressing send on an email to the head coach made me nervous, and stepping into his office almost triggered a panic attack. My social anxiety at the time often felt crippling. It’s impossible to state how unconfident I was in my ability to talk to new people, not to mention I had no clue how to conduct an interview.
I stuttered through it, but the story turned out well (for a first byline, anyway). I was then tasked with covering a game and told to interview at least one player afterward. I wimped out. As soon as I got on the field, each player shot me confused looks. My face got red. I panicked at the idea of introducing myself and went directly to the coach I’d already met instead.
But each assignment pushed me to get a little more outside of my comfort zone. Before long, I got confident enough to regularly go up to players and coaches on both teams without apprehension. Not only did my writing improve, but the confidence in my people skills grew exponentially. I started to break out of my shell.
I did the internship for three years and became a sports editor for my high school’s weekly newspaper. Yet in my first weeks at Syracuse, I still knew that a career as a sportswriter wasn’t for me. I dipped my feet into the broadcast side, but that didn’t feel right either.
I wanted to write, but I realized I liked creative writing a lot more than journalism. That I loved watching and debating sports more than I did reporting on them. I still wanted to find and tell stories but in a different way. And so I decided to study advertising with an emphasis in copywriting. It’s proven to be a great combination for me, especially while pursuing a dual marketing degree.
And yet, with those majors chosen, I decided to become a beat reporter for The Daily Orange anyway. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
It almost didn’t happen. Everyone was producing work far beyond what I’d ever achieved in high school, and I wondered if it was even worth it to try as a non-journalism major. I felt like an imposter. But everyone at The D.O. made me feel welcome, especially my first sports editor Sam Fortier, who really gave me the confidence to believe in my own writing.
Of course, there were more on staff over my four years — far too many to thank here individually — that made coverages, Sunday meetings and everything in between all things I could genuinely look forward to. I considered it the utmost privilege to be able to tell people’s stories and interview those I never expected to, from the associate head coach of the Golden State Warriors to a D-III All-American punter who also excelled as a starting quarterback.
Of course, there were still days I questioned why I spent so much time in a field I wasn’t studying. One beat happened to fluster me at a bad time where I was struggling to balance all of my other commitments. Switching beats wasn’t an option, and for a minute I considered dropping The D.O. completely. That would’ve been a huge mistake.
Because, like sportswriting had done for me so many times before, it pushed me to challenge myself. To get creative and tell stories in different ways. With my time on that beat, I grew a lot — and certainly not just as a writer.
So it’d be silly to say it was only what I often felt: that it was just for fun or an excuse to pass time with the group who’s only ever called me “Storms.” Looking back, every minute I’ve spent at The D.O. — and as a sports journalist in general — has shaped who I am and what I do. It made the small things that were once hard — going up to someone and asking a question — second nature.
I don’t know where I’d be without my time as a sportswriter, and it’s bittersweet to say goodbye — well aside from my annual March Madness previews and rapid-fire terrible sports takes — follow me on Twitter for those!
But even back in high school, I knew being a sportswriter was not going to be my destination, but rather my journey. It’s been an immensely rewarding one. I’m thankful for that and to all of those who gave me guidance, or read even one of my pieces along the way.
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Eric Storms was a staff writer at The Daily Orange, where his column will no longer appear. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @eric__storms.