It wasn't even noon, and my day had been made. By recent Oregon graduate Devyn Absher – one of the first athletes I met in the Sauk Valley – and Erin Vits – as of this moment, the latest athlete I've met.
Since I'm old and boring (read: the husband of a beautiful, yet incredibly pregnant with twins wife), I was sound asleep by 11 last night. Shortly after I zonked out, Devyn tweeted me, thanking we SVM sportsters for our coverage over the years.
Just before heading over the the Emma Hubbs Tennis Classic, I saw the tweet and exchanged a few more with Devyn, thanking her for the kind words and pointing out how great it is to know teens are still getting ink on their fingers every day.
She pointed out something that I think we often forget, or at least underestimate. She thanked us for the exposure. She'll join Augustana's basketball team this fall and, who knows? Maybe while one of Auggie's coaches was watching sports editor Dan Woessner and I during one of our #SVMhoopin videos, as we talked about how every team needs a Devyn Absher. I know we've also editorialized on her tenacity in print and pointed out her grit in many game reports.
That, folks, is the potential power of this new-fangled Internet thing. When scouting for talent/smarts, coaches need to do little more than visit Google and punch in their target's name. I'd like to hope the Auggie staff and others read and listened to our breakdown of Devyn's game and, more importantly, her indomitable spirit.
I peeked back at Devyn's previous tweets, and she also recently mentioned that she learned how to unprotect her tweets. Which brings us to a coachable moment. Those coaches are also scouring for athletes' Twitter accounts, to evaluate things like moral character in daily life. I know this, because I had to do that for the Muskegon Lumberjacks as we scouted young hockey talent. I also had to type a social media policy for our players and babysit their accounts to make sure they didn't step out of line.
And, of course, they did. They're kids. So, seeing as how Devyn pointed out that the prep athletes of the Sauk Valley are reading our stuff, I'll take this moment to tell them that Twitter is not a place to hide out. From some – mom, dad, etc. – perhaps. But when weighing who they would and would not offer scholarships to, coaches will leave no stone unturned to make sure athletes don't just fit the mold on the court, but also in everyday life.
That soapbox speech aside, it was glorious to hear the kind words from Devyn. I could tell from the day that I met her that she, like me, likes to march to the beat of her own drum. It's great to see smart, creative kids like her get rewarded. Then, for them to turn around and be gracious with kind words? That's very validating.
I'd imagine it took Devyn about half a minute to type that tweet. Could you imagine if we all took a little time to build each other up every day? Cool stuff. Thanks, once again, Devyn, for that.
As for Erin? Holy smokes, where to begin. You'll read all about her and her love – not that puppy love we so often throw around; this is the real deal – for the game of tennis.
Some of the words that came out of her mouth were simply incredible. She spoke about how much she wants tennis to be her life, but that the charm of it is that it's not just your life: It's also the life of the opponent across the net from you.
Honestly, it was one of the coolest interviews I've ever been part of, let alone one with a 13-year-old. She thinks on a level that it took me twice as long to reach. I can't wait to see how far her tennis talent and impeccable media savvy can take her. Although, the beautiful thing is that it never felt like media savvy. It was like two old friends yucking it up while watching tennis.
As I explained to her what photo chief Alex Paschal looks like, as he'd be coming by later to take her picture, she said, "I know who he is; I always see him around and wonder, 'Am I going to be in the paper tomorrow?'"
I assured her that she would, in fact, make the Thursday paper, to which she said, "That's so cool. Thanks for interviewing me."
I dunno, folks. Maybe it's the impending fatherhood that has me all gooey inside. But my conversations this morning were simply remarkable. Thanks, ladies, for putting a gust of wind in my sails.
– Christopher Heimerman is the assistant sports editor at Sauk Valley Media. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter (@CHeimerman_SVM).