Lessons learned in a high school gym

Published 8:52 pm Saturday, March 3, 2012

Ever since Andrew Giermak left his position at the Suffolk News-Herald as sports editor six weeks or so ago to take a similar job at a larger paper in North Carolina, I’ve found myself in a position that I never expected — standing in at the helm of our sports page.

In 25 or so years of newspapering, I’ve covered my share of high school sports. And in 25 years, I’ve learned one thing, which I shared with a publisher several years ago and meekly share with you right now: Nobody can drain all the excitement from a good athletic contest quite like me.

I enjoy sports and played football in high school. I’m also a decent writer at times. But combining those things has never been my forte. Which is fine. It’s good to know one’s limitations.

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Fortunately, I’ve had a few good correspondents to help cover the sports beat during these weeks while we’ve searched for the right replacement for Andrew, whose knowledge of and connection to the world of high school sports in Suffolk would be hard to top. You can thank me later for not subjecting you to my own version of basketball or indoor track coverage.

What I’ve been surprised to find, however, is just how much fun I can have photographing these events. Some of you might have seen me during the latter part of the basketball season, trying to make my not-insignificant body as small as possible along the baseline of a basketball court in one of our high schools.

I’ve learned a few lessons along the way:

4Cheerleaders can be very grouchy if you’re standing in the spot where they want to cheer. And a series of handsprings that ends with the cheerleader landing seven inches from your legs as you sit in your prescribed space on the floor at a tournament is pretty intimidating, even if she’s smaller than the leg you thought was about to be broken.

4Suffolk’s high schools get pretty good attendance at their basketball games, and those games can be fun to watch, even for a guy with a vertical jump of less than a foot.

4When two Suffolk high schools’ boys’ basketball teams share the floor, expect things in the bleachers to get loud, and don’t be surprised to see the level of play improve for both teams.

4If you’re looking through a long lens, and it looks as if the ball’s headed straight for you, you might want to duck. Objects in the lens move faster than they appear.

Thanks to all of Suffolk’s high school basketball teams for a fun season and a refresher course for what it’s like to cover high school sports. I’ll be glad when we’re back at full staff in our sports department, but I’ve enjoyed the chance to watch your games through the lens of a camera this year.