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The young journalists from Write on Sports were seated in a semicircle as Robby Howard, a sports writer with The Goshen News, began the interview with Gaby Romo, who starred in soccer for Goshen High School and just finished her first season at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne.
“I like to start with easier questions,” Howard said, addressing the students. “A lot of the time sources may be a little nervous. I want to put them in a position where they are comfortable.”
Howard turned to Romo and asked: “Have you been watching the World Cup games?”
Romo broke into a smile. She disclosed that her favorite teams entering the competition were Mexico and the Netherlands, neither of which advanced to the final match. But the biggest winner may have been soccer in the U.S., she said.
“Compared with earlier World Cups, this year in the United States everyone was watching,” she said. “In 2010 it was hard to find a television set with soccer on. Now it seemed everyone was watching. Soccer is becoming more popular.”
A few minutes into the interview, Howard turned back to the students. “Gaby’s answers are getting longer now, which tells me that she’s getting more comfortable,” he said.
For profile articles, Howard said that he often works chronologically, going back in time. He looked at his prepared list of questions and asked: “How did you get interested in playing soccer?”
Romo, who has four brothers, said that she started playing as a 6-year-old. “I played with guys,” she said. “I was the only girl. They played kind of rough. My brothers said to work hard, run, lift weights, and then maybe I could make the middle school team.”
Howard told the students that at this point he was leaving prepared questions to follow an interesting trail. “What was it like to play with boys?”
“They were way more aggressive,” she said. “I got used to more yelling.”
Romo finished her first season as a midfielder and forward at IPFW. She was a leading offensive threat for the Mastodons, scoring four goals in the Summit League. She is majoring in biology with plans to attend medical school.
Before the interview ended, Romo mentioned that she had traveled to Chicago this year to try out for the U20 Mexico team. She said the competition began with 160 young women, who were funneled down to 80 and then to 30. In the end, officials selected six players who qualified for the reserve team.
“They told us that they would give us a call,” she said. “So now I’m waiting for that call.”
Errick McCollum, a 6’2″ guard who scored more points than any basketball player in Goshen College history and went on to star on European courts, is now playing for a spot in the NBA.
At the invitation of the Denver Nuggets, McCollum is in Las Vegas participating in Summer League competition. Denver is fielding one of 24 teams (out of 30 NBA teams) made up of both signed players and others, like McCollum, who hope to earn a place on the roster for the regular season.
“It’s a great opportunity to play in front of 24 NBA teams,” McCollum said. “There are also a ton of European and Asian teams here. You get to put your name out there.”
At 26, McCollum is the second-oldest player on Denver’s Summer League team. McCollum, who used to dribble a tennis ball when walking across campus and always aimed to be the first player in the gym for practices, demonstrated his work ethic to Write on Sports students on Friday. He woke up around 6 a.m. local time for a video Skype interview with students, who gathered in a classroom at 9 a.m., Goshen time.
McCollum appeared on a large screen in the classroom. In Las Vegas, using his phone, McCollum was able to see students move to the front of the classroom and sit down at a table to ask questions.
When asked how he felt playing abroad, McCollum said that he had never traveled outside of the U.S. until he was invited to play basketball professionally in Israel. “I really loved living in Israel,” he said. “I was able to see a lot of history, like the Western Wall. I tried different foods, saw different people. It felt really special being there. It also makes you appreciate the U.S. when you’re away.”
Most recently, playing for the Greek team Panionios, McCollum led the Greek League’s top division in scoring, averaging 17.7 points a game. He was named the league’s Import Player of the Year. At Goshen College, he scored 2,789 points in his career and was the first Maple Leaf in program history to be named both Mid-Central College Conference Player of the Year and an NAIA First Team All-American.
Another student asked about “The Dunk, “ which came during a Goshen game against Grace in 2010 and was featured on ESPN’s Top 10 highlight reel. “It was kind of surreal,” McCollum said. “When you’re playing for a small college, you’re there to further your education and play basketball because you love it. You don’t expect to end up on SportsCenter.”
McCollum told the students, who are heading into seventh and eighth grades, that he knew when he was in fifth grade that he wanted to study business in college and play basketball. “I had it mapped out,” he said.
After basketball, McCollum envisions himself working in marketing or sales or maybe coaching. “I like to get dressed up in a shirt and tie and deal with the public,” he said.
McCollum’s younger brother C.J., who played for Portland this past season, is on the Trail Blazers’ team at the Summer League. Given the number of teams participating, odds are that they won’t face each other on the court. If they do, they’ll compete but leave the game on the court.
The only time they fought over basketball, Errick said, was when he was in ninth grade and C.J. was in sixth. “We were fouling each other hard, and I tried to bully him,” McCollum said. “My dad came over and said, ‘Your brother is your best friend.’ Ever since that time, we never fought.”
He encouraged students to work hard, listen to their parents and stay humble. “I would like to be a piece to the puzzle on an NBA team,” he said. “The older you get, the more you realize that you are not the puzzle. You’re a piece in the puzzle.”
Angelo Di Carlo, a sports anchor and reporter for WNDU-TV in South Bend, came to the interview dressed for work: a blue, button-down shirt, green tie, blue blazer — and then, below the waist, short pants, white socks and blue canvas shoes.
With that striking image, Di Carlo reminded 20 young journalists from Write on Sports that his work is for the camera, seated behind the anchor desk, in the the WNDU studios — and the shorts and canvas shoes will never make it on TV.
Di Carlo described a job with “a lot of perks” that would be the envy of any sports fan. He’s on the field to cover every Notre Dame home football game, and he interviews players and coaches afterward. He followed the Notre Dame women’s basketball team through Final Four action in Nashville in the spring.
But that opportunity comes at a price. “As much fun as it is to cover sports, sometimes it’s more fun to just watch sports,” he said. “It’s hard work. Except for four or five weekends a year, I’m working every weekend.”
Di Carlo said he became a sports reporter for the love of sports, not the money. He described poring over the sports section in the newspaper when he was growing up in Allentown, Pa., copying and memorizing box scores by the age of 4. If he were working for money, he said, he would have become a lawyer. Instead, he got his first job at TV 2 in Allentown when he was 16 (courtesy of his older brother, Al, who was also a TV reporter).
When asked to name his favorite sports, he said football and baseball (watching in person), football and NCAA basketball tournament (watching on TV) and soccer and baseball (when he himself is playing).
The chief meteorologist for WNDU, Mike Hoffman, entered the room just after a student had asked Di Carlo which word he would use to describe himself. After a pause, Di Carlo suggested “energetic.” Then Hoffman added, “He’s probably the hardest-working and best sportscaster I know.” Without missing a beat, Di Carlo said, “Let’s all make sure to write that in our stories.”
The students also had a chance to tour the WNDU studios, courtesy of Seth Conley, a Goshen College professor who worked for the station part time as a weekend news anchor and continues to fill in as needed. He reminded the students to keep their voices low while visiting the newsroom, where Maureen McFadden, a longtime news anchor, and other staff members were at work on the evening newscast.
Earlier in the day, the Write on Sports campers visited the University of Notre Dame, where they learned about the role of media relations for the university’s 26 athletic varsity programs, toured the football stadium press box and met with Jack Nolan, the longtime “Voice of Notre Dame athletics” and the director of media productions for Fighting Irish Digital Media.
Justin Gillette, a Goshen marathoner, ranks sixth in the world with 77 victories. His best marathon time is 2:25:44.
Even so, as he logs 100 or more training miles a week, he is usually a few steps behind his children — pushing a stroller. His children, Miles, 4, and Jasmine, 1, are along for the ride.
Gillette and Anthony Anderson, the assistant sports editor at The Elkhart Truth, returned to Write on Sports Goshen on Tuesday, once again serving as interview partners. The model interview that opened the session was actually more “real” than “mock” since Anderson said that he intends to publish a spot story on Gillette later in the week.
Anderson said that he was especially interested in Gillette’s quest to climb the list of most marathon victories. Gillette is only two victories away from a tie for fifth place. His personal goal is to reach No. 1, a position now held by Chuck Engle, with 173 victories. “I think I’ll catch him,” said Gillette, whose strategy includes eating oatmeal two hours before every race.
Gillette is still returning to top racing form after a bout with plantar fasciitis that forced him to rest in August and September and again earlier this year. “I’m healthy now,” he said.
Running is a family affair for Gillette and his wife, Melissa, who in May won the Kalamazoo Marathon in three hours, six minutes and 19 seconds. For the past several years, Melissa Gillette was earning a doctorate at Notre Dame, with Justin serving as the primary caregiver and wage earner through his marathons.
That prompted one of the Write on Sports journalists to ask how much he earns as a runner. Gillette said that some races may pay more than $3,000 and others only $500. A good year of running might yield $60,000.
He’s feeling less pressure to earn prize money now that Melissa finished her degree and recently became a director of cancer care at St. Joseph Medical Center in South Bend.
So why keep running? someone asked. “I’ve always wanted to avoid working,” he said, pausing before the smile.
LiAnna Overman took a turn in the high-backed interviewer’s chair today. Until now, when guests (athletes) came to be interviewed, we had other guests (professional journalists) there to ask questions.
Today we had only one guest, Jason Samuel, the general manager of 91.1 the Globe, which was named the best college radio station in the nation earlier in the year. With a notebook in hand, LiAnna agreed to serve as the opening interviewer.
Her first question: How did you get started in radio? Samuel told about traveling across Philadelphia with his mother to visit Q102 as a fifth grader. David Dye, the longtime host of World Cafe, was on the air that day. “It was amazing,” Samuel said.
Another question prompted Samuel to talk about how setbacks can become motivators, whether in school or in careers. “I had a professor in college,” he said, ” who told me that with my Philadelphia accent I should go into broadcasting management because I would never get a job on the air. That inspired me.”
“Losing is part of life, but I like winning best,” he said.
Determined to succeed as a broadcaster, Samuel worked for WFRN-FM in Elkhart, Regional Radio Sports Network in Crown Point and Hoosier 103.5 in Syracuse.
In 1998 and 2001, he was named Indiana Sportscaster of the Year, and in 1998 Best Sports Play-by-Play announcer.
Before the interview, Samuel gave students a tour of the radio station on the campus of Goshen College. Students had a chance to hear one of their own on the air. Days earlier Julia Giddens had recorded a promotional spot for the Kids Try-Athlon in Goshen. A staff member played the spot in the studio (not live, since the Try-Athlon took place a week ago).
Other Write on Sports campers had a chance to ask questions as well, including: what is it like to manage a college radio station? “I get to do two things that are awesome: work on radio and work with students,” he said.
Jep Hostetler, a past president of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, held up a copy of The Elkhart Truth on Tuesday. He paged through the paper, showing the campers that all of the sections were intact: full pages of sports, news, lifestyle.
Then Hostetler deconstructed the news. He pulled pages apart. He created strips. He tore strips in half. He shaped the pieces into a ball. Within seconds, The Truth was unreadable. With a quick movement of his hands, the stripped-down version of the news became whole pages, ready to be read.
The writer of this blog post has no idea how he did it — or how he managed the other tricks he shared in a half-hour visit with Write on Sports.
Hostetler, a longtime professor in the College of Medicine at The Ohio State University and a nationally known inspirational speaker, offered to make this stopover at Goshen College, his alma mater. Hostetler, who is known as Dr. Jep, brought along a briefcase of cards, stuffed animals, balloons, newspapers and other tools of the trade.
For the magic, he performed tricks both sitting and standing — within a few feet, and sometimes a few inches, of the campers, an invitation to decipher his method.
For the first trick, he placed two foam bunnies in the hand of Gracie Edmonds.
“He told me to close my fist really hard,” Gracie said. “I felt something expanding in my hand. I really wanted to open my fist, but I had to wait.”
When Dr. Jep gave the word, Gracie undid the fist. “Five bunnies jumped out of nowhere,” she said. “I started with two bunnies. All of a sudden I had seven. It was insane.”
Dr. Jep did not help the students magically finish their feature stories or their video reports, but sometimes when journalists step away from their desks for a little while, the storytelling is all the better for it.
It was like old times for a star pitcher and a local sports reporter, back together again to talk about softball for a story.
The pitcher, Natalie Newell, a graduate of Goshen High School, and the journalist, Greg Keim of The Goshen News, know each other well from the days when Keim covered Newell as a Redskin.
Newell now pitches for the Bethel College Pilots. As a sophomore this year, she set the strikeout record at Bethel while leading the team to the NAIA National Tournament (where she threw a no-hitter).
As guests of Write on Sports Goshen, Keim and Newell opened their visit with what was billed as a mock interview. But it was closer to an authentic interview since Keim said that he plans to write a column for The Goshen News later in the week based on the interview.
Then the young journalists of Write on Sports asked questions of the pair, including one question that prompted a disclosure about the serendipitous way that she became a softball player: someone from a local league called Newell’s mother asking whether she would sign up her daughters to fill out the roster. With that call, Newell, who had been a basketball player, also became a softball player.
When all the questions had been asked and answered, everyone headed out to the Goshen College softball field where Newell demonstrated her array of pitches, including a fastball, drop ball, screwball, riser and off-speed. She also showed campers the grip that she uses for each of the pitches.
The campers of Write on Sports Goshen began Wednesday by interviewing two Notre Dame football players in a university press room and ended by interviewing three players and a pitching coach with the South Bend Silver Hawks, who took questions on the field in between batting practice and the start of their game against Kane County Cougars.
The football players, Bennett Jackson, a cornerback, and Prince Shembo, an outside linebacker, were by turns serious and playful. Shembo said, “When I started playing football, I had a lot of fun. It’s a sport where you get to tackle people to the ground and not get yelled at.”
Both players talked about the impact of social media, emphasizing that you-are-what-you-tweet-and-what-you-retweet. “You create your own brand,” Jackson said.
In the digital media suite at Notre Dame, campers had a chance to check out the studio with a green screen and also interview Jewell Loyd, a basketball player who was the national freshman of the year, and Jack Nolan, the longtime basketball announcer.
Loyd disclosed her preparation ritual before a game: “I watch Kobe highlights, drink a bottle of apple juice, pray and then it’s showtime.” Nolan revealed one key factor in deciding to go into broadcasting: “I like to talk. I’ve always liked to talk.”
At the football stadium, campers visited the pressbox and the locker room and entered the field through the tunnel, passing underneath the “Play Like A Champion Today” sign.
Late afternoon, the campers entered Coveleski Stadium, home of the South Bend Silver Hawks, to catch the end of batting practice and interview the pitching coach, Wellington Cepeda, and three players, Jesse Darrah, a pitcher; Alex Glenn, an outfielder; and Fidel Pena, an infielder.
Glenn may have spoken for all four when he said, “Baseball is great. I get to be an adult playing a kid’s game.”
Before the game, the Write on Sports staff and campers headed outside to a grassy hill fo
r a picnic supper.
Pena was the only one of the four players interviewed to take the field for the game against the Cougers. The Silver Hawks were leading 3-2 when we left for Goshen in the middle of the fifth. The Silver Hawks won, 7-2,
with a flurry of runs in the seventh.
Write on Sports launched its first camp in Goshen this week, welcoming 10 promising young journalists (five girls and five boys, all of whom will be entering seventh or eighth grades).
On Monday, the first day of camp, we began with team-building exercises, including one activity in which students and teachers talked about the history of their names. Before long, we were focused on the writing process.
Justin Gillette, a Goshen resident who is one of the most successful marathoners in the world (ranked fifth in total victories), and Anthony Anderson, the assistant sports editor at The Elkhart Truth, joined us on Tuesday. After Gillette and Anderson engaged in a mock interview, students had a chance to ask questions both in a formal, seated setting as well as in a simulated locker room setting.
Gillette came prepared to run as well as to answer questions. Everyone sampled GU Roctane, packets of “ultra endurance energy gel” in various flavors (cherry lime won out over lemon). The group then headed to the college’s outdoor track for a lap with Gillette. (See “Student Blog” for various accounts of the visit with our first two guests).
On Wednesday, we leave late morning for a visit at the University of Notre Dame, followed by an evening game featuring the South Bend Silverhawks. As always, students will have notebooks and questions at the ready.