August 16, 2022

COLUMN: Going the extra mile

The extra mile.

It can be a blessing, and a curse.

I’ll show examples of how going the extra mile can lead to success. But, it can also be a form of self-torture. When you’re wired that way, no task is ever done the easy way. The quick way.

I don’t know if it’s something I got from the way my dad approached his farm work, or maybe influences from my first bosses in the this business — Bob Brown in Fort Dodge and Phil Chinitz in Atlantic. All of the above showed daily care about the intricate details that make a difference between “adequate” and “beyond the norm.”

For example, with two key newsroom people out of the office Tuesday for a vacation and an appointment out of town, I was called on to cover the Creston City Council meeting as a freelance assignment. I had not covered City Council since it was part of my regular news beat in the 1990s, when I left sports for awhile to help raise two young children.

I don’t like trying to do any job where I don’t feel fully prepared, so I immersed myself in more than two hours of reading previous City Council reports in the News Advertiser. I wanted a good grasp of what was going on, the background of the issues that may be discussed.

Was it a waste of time when the meeting itself lasted maybe 12 minutes? In my mind, no, because I was never “stumped” in trying to write the report, thanks to that background work. But, perhaps a more reasonable person would say I was over the top in getting ready to report on such quick, routine business.

When I cover a sports event for the paper, I still go through the same routine as the old days, except now there’s the added duty of tweeting updates whenever there’s a break in the action. I still have a notebook that logs play-by-play notes the same way I was taught by masters of the craft more than 35 years ago. I have a separate reporter’s notebook that shows the numbers of frames shot of a particular play, so it’s easy to write the caption later for the photo.

On top of all of that, the camera is always locked and loaded to shoot images of anything important that may occur. It’s a juggling act for sure. But, I just don’t know how some can manage to write a story that paints a detailed picture without notes. Following your own tweets from that night can serve the same purpose, I suppose.

As a middle school girls basketball coach, before it became a split season with the boys and a shorter, more condensed season, there was occasionally a chance to allow players to learn through video replays of their games. I went by the credo of longtime Creston football coach Dick Bergstrom, who often said, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

That’s why he felt it was important for players to watch game film and learn, not only about opponents, but in how and why they made a mistake in the previous game. Failure leads to learning and improvement.

So, clear back to the St. Malachy basketball days and for awhile at the public school, I would show video clips to middle school players of games they had played and talk about what we were watching. That’s not really feasible now, with practice time limited and the number of practices reduced, but it was a staple of my winters for a long time and I think it enhanced learning. I realize it’s not usually done at the middle school level, but I thought there was value in it.

This long prelude leads to what I was going to talk about in relation to something I recently covered for this paper. The Mount Ayr softball team, which finished fourth in its own conference, made it to the state tournament and I was there the night they qualified for state by defeating West Central Valley.

Coach Bret Ruggles related some of the “why” they were able to accomplish that with a roster that some folks would not have equated to a state tourney trip. The way his assistant coaches and players prepared, going over a number of small but important details, made the difference.

He said the work done ahead of time by coaches Ryan Reynolds, who called the pitches for daughter Addy Reynolds, and Carley Carrall and the approach to that work by the players themselves was amazing.

“Addy pitches to our scout, and we have two great assistant coaches who scout everything about our opposing hitters, and what they might try to do,” Ruggles said. “We were going to have a short practice last night and just be fresh and ready to go tonight, but our kids wanted to stay an extra 35 minutes and talk about every hitter in their lineup. Everyone on our team knew, for instance, that their nine hitter was going to bunt it tonight. That’s the type of kids we have in this group.”

Going the extra mile got them a trip about 135 miles north to Fort Dodge for the incredible experience of a state tournament. Sometimes, it is indeed worth it.

•••

Contact the writer:

Email: malachy.lp@gmail.com

Twitter: @larrypeterson

Larry Peterson

LARRY PETERSON

Former senior feature writer at Creston News Advertiser and columnist. Previous positions include sports editor for many years and assistant editor. Also a middle school basketball coach in Creston.