One year of prep sports and I’m still learning |

One year of prep sports and I’m still learning

Ian Cropp

When I played my last high school game five years ago, I had no idea how much I’d miss the atmosphere. I also had no idea that four years later, I’d be starting another high school season … in Eagle County of all places. (Being from the East Coast, I heard there was snow in Colorado, and that’s about it.)I didn’t know what to expect when my editor, Chris Freud, sent me on my first assignment to write a preview of Eagle Valley football (or how to get to Hot Stuff Stadium). Now I can name just about every kid on the team, what position they played in baseball or what weight class they wrestled.Somewhere during the fall season I realized what it is that makes prep sports entertaining. It’s the people and their passion for the game. At just about every game I attended, it was evident how much the kids, coaches and parents care.When I see kids shedding tears after a loss, I know how much they care. When I see coaches doing the same, it’s even more heartening. And it never ceases to amaze me when parents make road trips that seem daunting to a recent college grad. I’ve got to admit, when I see how hard the kids work, it’s tough for me to remain unbiased. While I may not be cheering on the sidelines, I do enjoy it when the teams I cover do well. Let it be known that when Eagle Valley football lost to Steamboat Springs in the playoffs, I had to bite my lip in the press box and not say what I was thinking about the terrible field conditions. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I had a long ride home before I wrote the story.

Not just recordsYou’d be a fool if you thought just covering winning teams is fun. The Devils’ basketball and soccer teams may not have won a lot, but they knew how to have a great time. Little known fact: The best place to enjoy a Devils’ soccer game is right behind the bench. You hear some funny stuff, and we’ll leave it at that.Another interesting aspect of high schools sports is getting to know the coaches. I know that no matter what happens, Vail Christian’s Sheldon Kuhns will have the world’s biggest smile on his face (sometimes you need to wait two seconds). Vail Mountain’s Bob Bandoni will provide an in-depth analysis of his team’s synergy, and at that point, I need all four years of my college experience to understand what he’s saying. After covering college sports for a few years, I feel there’s something to be said about high school coaches, who should be given equal billing as educators. What is said before and after the game by coaches is rarely heard by those watching the game, but it’s often more important than what goes on in the game.And for all the flack the officials take, they love the sports just as much as anyone else. (If you doubt it, just chat with them. You’ll be surprised at how many compliments they hand out.)

The places you’ll goThanks to teams doing well and Freud’s car and arm problems, I’ve been to Denver and Colorado Springs to cover state playoffs. At the volleyball championships, which make a World Cup soccer match look calm, I learned strategically how to watch two matches at once while keeping statistics and suffering electrical shocks. The press box at World Arena in the Springs is so high it makes high school hockey players look like Mites.And although I’ve never been to Delta or Olathe, I know where they are. For now, that’s good enough. Montezuma-Cortez is also far away, and I hope there is never a state-playoff game there. If I’m ever up in Craig, I’ll know that the cell phone service there in is worse than in the Eisenhower Tunnel. Speaking of spotty cell service, Vail Mountain’s designers knew what they were doing when they made sure phones didn’t work indoors at the school.I learned a few other Colorado-specific sports facts. Spring sports don’t start when spring does. Baseball games, track meets and soccer games can, and will be snowed out. And it will hail during a baseball doubleheader in Gypsum.

There were learning experiences that were humbling, too. Like the time when I went to talk to the Aspen soccer coach after regulation, only to have him politely tell me, “I’d love to talk, but can you wait until the game is over?” So yes, there is overtime.And another time I was mistaken for a new Eagle Valley football player. “I told them you were a new stud player from Texas,” one of the Devils said to me. I think I’d fit well into the double-wing offense.I look forward to August, and not just to see if the kids at Hot Stuff recognize me as a Daily reporter. I’m ready for my sixth high school season.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or, Colorado

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