There are some readers and others who may question the amount of media coverage and attention devoted to high school sports. Is it really worthwhile to focus so much on games and events involving a bunch of teenagers?
There are numerous reasons why there is nothing wrong with a lot of high school sports coverage when it is done right. There is a lot to be gained for a lot of people.
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One of the driving forces behind any coverage is interest and the level of what's happening in high school sports is high. On any given Friday night during football season there are hundreds of thousands of people attending games across the state and thousands of others tracking what's going on through newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet.
Beyond that, there were nearly 347,000 boys and girls in Illinois and almost 7.7 million across the country participating in high school sports in 2011-12, according to an annual survey done by the The National Federation of State High School Associations. That's a lot of kids running cross country, wrestling, swimming, hitting volleyballs and baseballs and competing in other sports. And they are producing remarkable achievements on a daily basis.
Since so many adults are quick to start in with 'These kids nowadays ... ' when something bad happens, covering high school sports is a great way to celebrate the kids who are working hard to help their schools, their teams and themselves make good and sometimes great news. The vast majority of the coverage is about a group of teammates working together on a game-winning play rather than their professional counterparts bickering and shoving each other after something went wrong.
There are so many stories that can provide inspiration or motivation. Stories of kids who have worked to come back from a serious injury. Kids who are high achievers on and off the field. Programs that have turned around their fortunes after years of struggling.
Even stories about kids who may have been in trouble and changed their lives can provide a great benefit. They are stories athletes and coaches can use to keep working and driving ahead at times when they might question if this is something still worth doing.
It's also a great opportunity for kids to talk not only about their own stories but those of their teammates. When they have the chance to be interviewed, they get to learn how to discuss good and bad things in settings that have been filled with a lot of pressure and emotion.
And the perspective and honesty many of these kids have -- particularly when things haven't gone well -- is not only amazing at times but also refreshing. It's not like the professional world of constant cliches.
For coaches, working with the media is an opportunity to let the public know what's happening in your program, not only on the scoreboard but away from it as well. It's a chance to let people know about the group of players involved in a community service project or helping a younger group of kids learn more about their sport.
Similar to high school sports, the media coverage is never perfect or without warts. The star athletes, premier teams and sports such as football and basketball will always gobble up a lot of the attention. But the Daily Herald has always done its best to maintain balance and fairness since there are a lot of wonderful stories everywhere.
The tough part is it's almost impossible to get to all of them.
The best part is the interest and support is there to tell as many of the great high school stories as possible.