September 4, 2019 9:32:02 AM
Before my first week working at The Commercial Dispatch was over, I was mistaken for a high schooler.
I was in Macon covering Friday night's football game between Noxubee County and Columbus. I was on the Noxubee County sideline, running around with my notebook out and my backpack on to keep stats, and one of the Tigers' assistant coaches stared me down and asked me who worked for.
"Dispatch," I said.
"What school you go to?" he asked, mentioning a couple area high schools.
I was a little taken aback, but being a 21-year-old standing all of 5-foot-7, I can't say he was wrong to presume.
I told him I was out of college -- I didn't specify that I graduated in May from the University of Missouri, as in my experience, not too many people in the Golden Triangle know it well. I think he seemed a little dubious with my answer.
Sorry, I promise I'm getting to the point, and here it is: I could be doing a lot worse.
As the new prep sports reporter here at The Commercial Dispatch -- someone born in Northern California who never knew the first thing about Mississippi or the South, I don't mind fitting in. Even if, apparently, I fit in a little too well.
I'm lucky to have a position where I get to tell people's stories, be it coaches, professional and collegiate athletes or even the high school players that I evidently resemble.
My job is one where being able to understand, empathize with and relate to the Golden Triangle's prep athletes is a critical attribute, and I know I've got it.
I learned it at Mizzou, after all, and I got to do so many things there that prepared me for this job.
In the span of four years that seemed to go by as fast as four weeks, I covered Mizzou women's golf, men's basketball, football, softball and baseball, getting to experience the SEC for the first time. But I can say that my time covering high school sports for the Columbia Missourian was even more enjoyable.
I spent a spring semester covering two local high schools in every sport I could. That included traveling for exciting boys and girls basketball games, freezing in the stands at baseball games in the early March cold, watching players spike rackets on tennis courts and waiting for golf tournaments to finally, finally end. I even learned wrestling, thanks to the much-needed help of some coworkers, and I covered a dance competition.
With how high schools and high school sports form a key foundation in a community like that of Columbus and the Golden Triangle as a whole, just covering those various sports isn't enough -- I had to, and quickly got to, learn how to tell the stories of the people behind them.
That's the real reward and the real difficulty of covering high school athletics, and it's something I greatly enjoy. And it's also something, to be honest, that I'm still working on -- something that only a few master.
I'm 21, I'm fresh out of college, and I'm not at that point of mastery yet. But I've got the experience, and I know I have plenty of talent as well.
I've only been in Mississippi for a little more than a week, but I can feel the sense of community that surrounds this area. I know I'll succeed here, and to do so, I will not only stay informed within the Golden Triangle area, but I will be a key part of the community itself.
So if you've got an idea for a story you want me to tell, I know I will tell it well. I'm going to work hard to serve this community. As hard as I can.
Even if sometimes I get mistaken for a high schooler.
Theo DeRosa reports on high school sports and Mississippi State softball for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.