The year was 2016. A junior in high school, I walked into the college counselor’s office for the first time, terrified of the prospect of college. The truth was, I’d never really thought about what to do with my life. When asked, the answer was always the same: “I’m going to be a professional athlete.”
Honestly, I really believed that to be true for a while. Growing up as the youngest of three boys in a house that was all about sports meant competition was everywhere. My dad played Division I college tennis in Louisiana, my mom was a track athlete growing up and together they run a tennis academy in my hometown.
By the time I was born my two older brothers were already starting to pick up sports. It was a no-brainer that I would, too. And so we all played every sport we could: basketball (my first true love), flag football (then tackle when we got older), tennis, track, and baseball for a short time. I was good at sports, too. Always one of the more athletic kids around, and always able to excel on the teams I was on.
The problem was, that was all in my hometown, a town of 8,000 people in Southern California. It wasn’t until I started getting older that I started playing with kids from other towns, towns much bigger with athletes much better.
Although the belief in those childhood dreams stayed for a while, by the time I walked into that counselor’s office, there was a feeling that dream wasn’t a possibility. So, as a 16-year-old kid getting ready to visit and apply to college, I suddenly had absolutely no idea what to do with my life. I didn’t want to think about it because thinking about it would have made it a reality that a professional sports career wasn’t going to happen.
In this meeting was the first time I really talked about a career other than pro athlete, but the counselor knew how much I loved sports. It was here that the idea of staying involved in sports, just not as a player, was hatched.
I had always been a huge fan of playing sports, but also of watching sports. As a kid I would watch any sport that was on. Things like the Olympics or the World Cup are like Christmas for me, and every March you could catch me in class with a tab (or multiple tabs) open watching March Madness. I’d follow stats, play fantasy sports, and debate any sports topic with anyone at any time.
For example, a popular topic that has cropped up again recently is who would win between the ’96 Bulls and the ’17 Warriors. My take: Whoever has the refs/rules from their era. Nineties basketball was too physical for the modern-era Warriors, but the high volume 3-point shooting with today’s rules would make it too hard for the Bulls to handle the Warriors.
And so it became apparent then that maybe watching sports for a living would make sense – as a sports journalist, broadcaster, or something similar. Anything to just be around sports.
Since that day I have interned at the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament for a production company in 2018, interviewed track stars at the Olympic Trials in 2021, worked as a production assistant doing camerawork for the Oregon Sports Network this spring, and graduated from the University of Oregon journalism program last month.
Now I’m here, staying in Lane County working as a sports journalist for The Chronicle. While those big-time dreams are still there – one day the hope is to work and cover professional sports full-time – for now I’m happy starting at the hyper-local level, covering high schools. I want to highlight the coaches and players who are making a difference, elevate coverage of girls sports so they get a similar proportion of coverage as the boys sports and make a difference in a small community, because I know how big of an impact that can have. Sports can teach you how to lead, how to work with others, how to stay committed to a cause – all valuable traits that translate to anything in life.
Sports have changed my life in so many ways. Even though I may not be the one playing them anymore, I still believe in the positive change they bring to people. As a sports journalist that’s what I want to do: highlight how incredible sports can be for people, how they can spur people to be better. I want to provide coverage that hopefully makes people feel a certain way about sports. The way I feel about sports.
I’m asking you for help in this. Share your stories, or your friends’ stories. My email is always open, whether you want to request coverage, or if you just want to talk about sports. Thank you, and I look forward to hearing, and sharing, your stories.
Pierre Weil is a sports reporter for The Chronicle. Email him at [email protected]