One of the issues sports writers have is getting high school athletes to speak.
Some just aren't great speakers, but for most, it just comes down to being nervous. I can't blame them. Had I been interviewed by a reporter when I was in high school, I probably would have stuttered and stammered my way out of the article.
It's really like anything else in life. Talking to the media (sports or otherwise) can only get better with experience. We see this all the time in dealing with coaches, more often with those who once coached a small-town school but are now coaching in Minot where they'll be interviewed on a regular basis. Halfway through the season, the interviews come much easier.
For prep athletes, however, they get a little more excited/nervous with the media. Not every athlete does, and that's the subject of my list. I have unveiled my 2010-11 all-interview team. If there's one thing to keep in mind here, it's that most of these kids excel in a certain sport. Hence, they're talked to more often than not. However, a great athlete isn't always a great speaker and we run across that quite a bit.
-The captain of my girls team is Crystal Hovland, who was a senior at Rugby High School. She especially excelled in basketball and track and field.
Hovland is as good of a speaker as I've ever encountered in high school athletics. She's extremely articulate with a keen ability to rattle off her feelings - good or bad - without saying something off the wall or having to run to me later and say, "Hey, don't print that." She has a speaking ability that many grown adults don't possess, including myself.
-The other members of my five-person team are Katie King of Kenmare, Alyssa Anderson of Leeds, McKayla Haugeberg of Watford City and Quinn Harmon of Bishop Ryan. King's strong speaking skills probably come from the fact that she's been asked every question possible as she was a multiple all-state selection in both volleyball and basketball.
-The captain of my boys team is Jacob Hagler of North Star. The silky smooth point guard just finished up his sophomore season, and he's already played in two state tournaments. Why do state tournaments matter? Because that's where green athletes become gold in the interview process. They're surrounded by multiple newspaper reporters not long after they're asked to do television interviews. Hagler can sometimes speak faster than he plays, which is hard to imagine. But he answers the tough questions well, which goes a long way with reporters.
-Other members of the team include Bishop Ryan's Ben Magnuson, Our Redeemer's Luke Sorum, Watford City's Brady Lund, Velva's Jon Mack. Honorable mentions go out to Velva's Ty Bruner and Bottineau's Justin McCloud and Mark LaCroix and Berthold's Dan Yale.
Speaking with the media can be difficult for a high school athlete. Here's a few tips:
-Take a deep breath and think about what you want to say before you speak. I'm not looking to entrap athletes into saying something I can blow up and sell papers with (the more rich or famous you become, the more that goes by the wayside, and I also won't speak for everyone in my profession). I just want my questions answered, and along with that, elaborate as much as you like. Part of my job is to bring your words to your fanbase (my readers).
-Develop your own voice. Sure, you can say things like, "We need to step up and play hard." That's fine, but say them how you'd say them - not how your coach said them. One thing that all the players mentioned above have in common is that they have their own unique style. When you talk to them, they may say the same things as their coaches, but they use their personality as a vehicle to drive those points home. Each sentence is different, meaning we writers can avoid the one monster that haunts all of our nightmares - the cliche. Play hard, step up, team effort and anything in volleyball about momentum are some of the most common cliches.
-Have fun with it. Stay loose and try not to lock up. If you find yourself completely tensed up with your eyes bulging out of your head, just relax. I won't be doing major surgery or anything, just an interview. Don't be afraid to be enthusiastic. The first thing I expect of all players is that the outcome of the competition should reflect their mood, so I try to mirror that when I can. So if by chance I'm talking to you after a loss, I won't come bouncing and giggling down the hall looking for you (now, that's a scary sight). Just breathe easy, the interview will be over soon.
Chris Aarhus is the Class B writer for The Minot Daily News. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.