Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

June 6, 2014

The phones work fine, they just don’t ring in the spring

BLUEFIELD — There has been a strange phenomenon taking place at the Daily Telegraph sports desk since I first arrived here way back in 2005.

It is really very odd, almost a ghostly quiet that consumes our corner of the news room during the spring.

From December through early March, the phones ring constantly with results from basketball teams, ranging from the varsity down to the middle school level, all reporting their games for both the print edition and the Internet the following day.

Then, apparently by overuse from the previous few months, spring sports arrive and ... crickets.

It is so weird. They ring and ring during basketball season, but then the phones just stop. They work perfectly fine, nothing is wrong with them, they just don't ring. If they do, we are almost surprised.

Now they might ring once or twice a night, but rarely more than that. It is like once basketball season is over, the prevailing thought is that no one really cares how the spring sports teams are doing on the diamond, pitch, court or track.

What is it about spring sports and the lack of call-ins?

Now this column would be better served prior to the beginning of spring sports, but would it really matter? In a word, NO.  

What is the answer? What can we, at the Daily Telegraph, do better, other than trying to be at every baseball and softball game, soccer and tennis match, and track meet in the area so be sure those results are reported.

Ever noticed how little success this area has in spring sports? Probably not, because most of the games are never reported, but there is a general sense of apathy toward these sports, which has to be discouraging for the athletes, who see all the coverage football and basketball teams get, and nothing or little for them.

In reality, it isn't a Daily Telegraph problem. We are here, ready to go, but we can't report on something if it is not reported to us first. We get to what games we can, but there are only three of us. We need help.

That is the way it works. We are in the information business, but we don't make the news up. We are the deliverer, but we need deliveries, which in this case must come from coaches of area spring sports teams.

I can only assume that coaches of spring sports are simply just too busy to care enough about their teams or players to let anyone not at the games know how their teams are doing.

If you are too busy to make a simple phone call, you are simply too busy. Hey, football and basketball coaches are just as busy and they almost always manage to make those calls.

Perhaps, the spring coaches don’t understand how it works.

It is an unwritten rule — much like those imaginary rules in baseball  — that the home team is responsible for reporting a game.

In that case, it is a simple case of the home coach or assistant coach or scorekeeper or someone associated with the team dialing the telephone and giving us a few details about the game. It takes very little time, and will not only make your kids, parents and fans happy, but will do the same for the other team’s kids, parents and fans too.

Yep, remember, when a coach fails to call in a game, it effects more than just his or her team.

If the ‘home’ team is not in the Daily Telegraph coverage area, they are NOT going to call us unless they are asked. If not, the visiting coach should call. If you don’t want to call, send an email or even drop me a tweet.

Now we appreciate the calls we do get, and please keep them coming. If you need contact information, drop me an email or tweet and I will get it to you. I have even given my cell phone number out to a few coaches.

I hear often that the kids in this part of the state don't get the recognition they deserve. True, we can do better, but it is not lack of effort. We simply can't do it by ourselves.

I was sitting in the office on a Monday morning a few weeks ago when a local coach called to ask why his games hadn't been listed on the schedule of games as the season went along.

Well, after weeks of not getting calls, I just quit typing in all the games, and just put in the games from the teams we hear from on occasion. I told him that, asked him to starting calling games in, and we never heard another word from him.

If a coach can call to see why his schedules aren't in the paper, why can't he actually call to give us a report on a game.

This is common in the spring. A track team allegedly wins its first track meet in 40 years, and later on some members of that team are really fast and eventually earn state championships in Charleston.

We were notified about these athletes on the Wednesday night before the state meet.

A tennis team goes to Martinsville for regional play. Not a word. A small item mentions that a player had lost a match, but with no knowledge that she had also won a match and qualified for state competition, an email comes in asking us to correct this error.

It can’t be an error if no one told us to begin with.

This kind of stuff happens all the time, and then they want to be blame it on the paper.

Honestly, I have often wondered what we are doing wrong, how can we get the coaches to start calling games in. But, it isn't a Daily Telegraph problem. We attend games, send photographers out to get as much as we can, and someone is always ready to answer the phones.

Also, the better the call-ins from a particular team, the better opportunity that team will find a reporter sitting in the stands watching them play, and that makes for articles, photos and publicity for your team and school.

My plea to area principals and athletic directors is to encourage your coaches to call games in. It isn’t that hard to do.

We have one school in the region that does better than any at reporting games, even getting together all the track information that must take forever and gets it to us. Why go to all that trouble? She cares.

If you can't figure out how to do it at your school, give PikeView a call, perhaps they can be of assistance.

Win or lose, the kids put in the time and effort to practice and play, and they deserve to have a little recognition.

If you don't care how they do it and simply don't want to call for whatever reason you might have, shame on you.

The kids simply deserve better.

—Contact Brian Woodson at bwoodson@bdtonline.com / Twitter @bdtwoodson.

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