Joel Reichenberger: Stories everywhere in high school offseason

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— My job is easiest when high school sports teams are in action.

I know what will fill the newspaper’s sports section every day, what I’ll write about and, generally speaking, where I’ll be every Thursday and Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Joel here.

So I was a little worried these past few weeks as the high school fall season has died down. Sometimes, if a team or two is making a postseason run, we’ll be busy with high school sports all through October and even November. This hasn’t been such a year, and when I showed up to work last week, I didn’t really have any idea what I’d dive into.

That’s not a bad thing. According to my email inbox, there’s plenty out there we don’t get to and sometimes ambition for other stories can be drained in the relentless grind of high school sports.

The worry didn’t last long when I started digging into some of the other stories on our docket.

Sunday’s story on local Olympic-hopeful athletes turning to crowdsourcing to help pay for their seasons, for instance, is something I find profoundly interesting.

This will be the seventh winter I’ve spent in Steamboat Springs, and I am still enamored by the Olympics and Olympians.

It’s the decisions those people make that I find so intriguing. For the subjects of Sunday’s story, Alpine skier Anna Marno and snowboarder Mick Dierdorff, there came a moment when they decided they’d reach out to friends and family to help fund their careers.

People asking for help on Facebook is nothing new, but Marno and Dierdorff aren’t trying to put together $250 for a charity marathon, either. Marno is hoping to put together $25,000 and Dierdorff $30,000, and that’s just for in-season expenses.

Neither was excited about the prospect, but both decided it was something they had to do.

Every year in this town, we have young athletes and their families who face similar, tough decisions, athletes having to be honest with themselves about what their chances really are. It’s one thing to send a child off to ski race when he or she is 10 years old for a nice, after-school activity. It becomes an entirely different thing when they’re 18. They have to ask themselves, is this a hobby or a career? Is it a fun diversion, or is it the future? Is it worth postponing, even canceling, college plans, or is that a huge mistake?

We’ve all wanted to be Olympians, right? I know I did, and I grew up in Kansas, where I only knew one person who had ever even attended an Olympics as a fan. Some of us have more opportunity than others, but even for the vast majority with opportunity, competing in the Olympics is this far-off thing that never broaches “real.”

At some point, these people make the decision that it’s not just a dream, that’s it’s something that can happen.

When I say I’m enamored by Olympians, those are the things that do it for me. Live here long enough and you realize Olympians are just regular people, not that different in so many ways from the rest of us.

The differences, at least in part, are the decisions they’ve made, the chances they’ve taken and the work they’ve put in.

I broached that subject in Sunday’s story, and I plan to do so again as we head into winter and toward the 2014 games, trying to figure out what makes these people tick and what that moment is like when the unreal becomes real, when dreams become reality.

We may be nearing the end of the fall high school sports season, but in this town, we’re never too short on stories. This town is filled with people who love sports, and after a couple of months of chilly Friday nights on the sidelines, it’s always nice to dive fully back into that world.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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