Column: Line Drives — Athletes a reason to be thankful this year

[This is my column in the Nov. 26 issue of The Commercial Review.]

I think the voices have stopped.

No, not the internal voices. I’m not crazy (at least I don’t think I am).

I’m talking about the voices around the city.

I knew it was going to be a challenge trying to follow in the footsteps of someone that has become a staple at Jay County High School athletic events for more than a decade.

During the first few months of my time in Portland, I was told quite frequently how important my predecessor was to the local athletic scene.

It was a constant reminder of what I was getting myself into — the challenge of filling those shoes, living up to the standard set before me and not upsetting anyone in the process.

One of the biggest question marks I had before I moved to Jay County was how receptive the community would be to “the new Ray Cooney”, as I’ve been dubbed on numerous occasions.

But it didn’t take long for me to get my answer.

More than a year and many friendly jabs later, I feel as if I’ve found my place.

The questions are no longer “Where’s Ray?”

With every passing football game, basketball game, swim meet, volleyball match, wrestling meet or baseball game, readers have become more and more accustomed to seeing me.

And I got used to seeing the community — the athletes, their families and friends.

Sure, it’s great being able to show up at a sporting event and have someone recognize me.

It’s even better when people I have never met strike up a conversation and ask me what I think about an upcoming season.

I’m no longer a stranger to a large group of people.

And the biggest enjoyment I get out of what I do is the satisfaction of others.

The use of Twitter (follow me, @thewrite_schanz) has been one of the biggest tools in connecting with readers and the athletes I am fortunate enough to cover.

Sharing photos I take, seeing them get shared over and over again on the social media site (as well as being used as profile or cover photos) and the comments associated with them are just a few tidbits of reassurance that what I get to do on a daily basis is warranted.

But it’s you, the readers, for which I am most thankful this year.

This great sense of community, outside the realm of sports as well, was one of the draws to this area. It was a slice of life I wasn’t used to coming from a city roughly the size of Muncie.

Because of that, the aforementioned questions have quickly turned into “Where were you?” if I happen to miss a particular sporting event.

Those inquiries were most present over the last few weeks, when I missed two Jay County girls basketball games while I was on the road covering South Adams football.

And that sense of community and reception is also prevalent in Fort Recovery and Berne as well, especially during the playoff runs by the Indians and Starfires.

While I don’t want to say I am the reason, those teams saw some success when I was in attendance. Fort Recovery was 2-1 in games I covered this season, and in two years the Starfires are 6-2 with a pair of sectional championships and a regional title.

But it all comes back to the reason why I’m here — to shoot photos and write about you, the athletes.

And there have been some fun stories along the way: back-to-back sectional championships for the JCHS girls soccer team and previously mentioned Starfire football squad; Morgan Alberson’s recovery from a potentially life-threatening neck injury; chronicling the Jay County Panthers and their run to a third-place finish in the Special Olympics USA Games; Fort Recovery’s historic football run; and celebrating Bev Arnold’s five decades of coaching local swim teams.

The last 16 months have been about more than just taking photos and writing words, it’s been about connecting with the athletes and showing off the things they do on the court, field, mat or in the pool.

So thank you, Jay County, Fort Recovery and South Adams for the fun stories.

I look forward to many more.

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