Vance: Looking back on the ups and downs of the 2022 spring season
All right. All right. I'll admit it.
I'm still stuck in the 2022 spring high school sports season.
Oh sure, I've moved on to summer stories in some ways — I covered the Oregon All-Star Series, wrote features about new coaches (including West Linn football coach Jon Eagle and Clackamas boys basketball coach Ryan King) and interviewed Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard.
But like I said, I'm still suffering from a bit of a spring season hangover. And please, no jokes about hangovers — physically, I feel great. No headaches, barfing or any of that.
Here's what I'm talking about. Work-wise, the 2022 spring season was the most difficult I've experienced in a very, very long time. For the five Pamplin Media Group papers I serve — the Lake Oswego Review, West Linn Tidings, Clackamas Review, Oregon City News and Wilsonville Spokesman — 2022 marked the first spring season where the 11 high schools represented by those papers were covered by a single person.
Pre-pandemic, we had 100 hours per week of sports personnel dedicated to those five papers, along with a fair bit of "crossover" help from other PMG papers. This spring, it was just me trying to represent the 97 varsity teams that played for those 11 high schools (Lake Oswego, Lakeridge, West Linn, Clackamas, Oregon City Nelson, La Salle, Milwaukie, Putnam, Wilsonville and Gladstone).
I'll be honest, a lot of it didn't go well. With so many teams in so many different classifications (three), so many leagues (four) and so many cities (eight), I knew there would be a bunch of teams that I just wouldn't get to see. That fact, more than any other, made this the hardest spring of my long career covering high school sports.
Beyond that, the weather made things much, much worse. While much of the country suffered through high spring temperatures and drought, Northwest Oregon went the other way weather-wise, struggling through the coldest, wettest spring season in memory.
While the adverse weather led to inconvenience — the need for rain gear, camera cover, umbrella, hat and waterproof notebook — the seemingly constant rain (and wind, and cold, and hail — lots and lots of hail) also had a negative effect on my spring season coverage.
With my game coverage schedule mostly limited to Wednesdays through Fridays — due to some inside baseball stuff related to press schedules and print deadlines — it meant that hitting doubleheaders (covering multiple events on the same day once or twice a week) was of utmost importance.
The weather, however, had other ideas. Over the course of the spring season, I can't count how many events I went to cover — tennis matches, baseball and softball games, and even golf tournaments — that were ultimately postponed or canceled. Each one of those was a loss that kept additional teams out of the paper (and off our website) and kept additional athletes from getting photographed and interviewed.
Despite all of the challenges to my work world, I still got to see a bundle of those 97 varsity teams during the spring. During the 76 days that stretched from my first spring event (Oregon City at Mountainside baseball on March 24) to my last (the West Linn vs. Canby baseball state championship on June 7), I covered almost 70 games, matches, meets and tournaments, and shot literally tens of thousands of photos of the best athletes from all over Clackamas County.
And now for the best part, over those 76 days of spring, I conducted more than 180 interviews with the great high school athletes from Lake Oswego, West Linn, Clackamas, Oregon City, Happy Valley, Milwaukie, Wilsonville and Gladstone.
Here's why that's important. When I was hired as sports editor for the Lake Oswego Review and West Linn Tidings back in December of 2016, I wrote this in an introductory column:
"I love interviewing players. Coaches are extremely important and ought to be interviewed — they offer perspective in a way that players often can't. But coaches often stay in their jobs for years and sometimes even decades. Players' time in the spotlight is much more limited.
Many players, if not a majority, don't find regular varsity playing time until they're seniors. If they're really good, they'll get a couple years as a varsity regular. If they get three years under the bright Friday night lights (or whatever day their team plays), they're extraordinary. And if they see varsity time for all four of their high school years, they'll be remembered for a very long time.
In any case, most athletes' time to shine is limited. To get interviewed for the newspaper, they'll need to shine on a night that I'm there, and with three schools to cover, I'll often have as many as six choices of which game to cover on a given night. Add all that together and you begin to understand just how rare and important those chances to interview players are."
At least on that front for spring 2022, mission accomplished.
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