More than three-plus decades ago, I sat in the press box at my old high school and kept statistics for the football team during a state-playoff game.
An older gentleman sat beside me and did a radio broadcast.
I admired his smooth delivery, enthusiasm and description as he worked to keep the listeners captivated. I, too, hung on every word he spoke.
When the game ended, I gathered my notes and began to walk out the door.
“Young man,” he said.
“Yes, sir?” I replied.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
I introduced myself and he wanted to know if he could borrow my stats for his post-game show.
Of course, I obliged.
Before he returned from the commercial break, he handed me a microphone. He instructed me how to hold it and within seconds, he was back on the air.
He introduced me and began to ask questions.
Nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, I tried my best to calmly read the stats from the game. He questioned me about certain players and why they had been key performers during the season.
My radio debut lasted three minutes.
The gentleman, Frank Hayden, enlisted my services over the next couple of seasons when we happened to attend the same football games. I became part of his “playoff” radio crew and we traveled to Wilmington, Fayetteville, Rocky Point and towns in between.
That’s when my journalism career began.
Mr. Hayden passed away several years ago, but I continue to use many of the lessons he taught me. Always be polite to coaches, players, community supporters and remember to speak in a positive manner.
I’ve traveled from the coast to the mountains of North Carolina.
Along the way I’ve met some of the classiest coaches, talented players and enjoyed visiting small towns that eat, breathe, sleep and live high school sports 24/7/365.
The best reward?
My travels have allowed me to make lasting friendships with players, coaches, families and too many communities to mention.
No doubt, that’s better than writing about a win or loss any day.
Rudy Coggins is assistant editor of the Mount Olive Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com.