OPINION COLUMNS

Remembering how I got to this point

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, January 27, 2018
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I didn’t watch cartoons much as a kid.

If I wasn’t in the gym or backyard with my dad, I was usually at home watching whatever game was on that night or highlights on ESPN. And this was the good ESPN, mind you, void of politics and proverbial loud mouths.

Reece Waddell

As I’ve started my career in journalism, a lot of people have asked me why sports are so important to me, how I became so infatuated with them – and even if I understand what it’s like to be a coach or athlete.

There is a running joke in my family that at 2 weeks old, I was in the stands watching my father coach. In the ’90s, my dad was the head junior varsity and assistant varsity basketball coach at Haltom High School. So from a young age, sports were a huge part of my life.

I can’t recall every game my father coached, but I do remember occasionally seeing him come home after tough losses looking absolutely exhausted. He was a competitor – even with me. Whether it was chess, cards or an old-school video game on the original PlayStation, my dad never let me win at anything.

Now, as a 6, 7 and 8-year-old boy, this frustrated me. I wanted to win. Other kids’ dads let them win. Why wouldn’t mine?

My dad pushed me harder than anyone I can remember. At one point in first and second grade, I was on three different teams in the summer – two baseball and one basketball. Changing uniforms in the back seat of the car became routine for a few months.

There were plenty of long days, early mornings and lots of sweat. But my dad was always there.

Then in third grade, I lost my father to a heart attack.

I was a month from turning 9, and to say his death rocked my world is an understatement. Not only had I lost my dad and coach – I lost my best friend.

Through the years, I continued playing sports until I was a freshman in high school. But then the grind of playing eventually wore me out, especially without my dad. I needed a break and took a four-year hiatus from sports in high school.

Before I knew it, college rolled around, and it was time to start thinking about a career. I realized then how much I missed sports, and more importantly, how there would be no way I could get it out of my blood.

It’s been four years since that realization – and here I am. Although I’m not coaching and don’t play anymore, every week I’m fortunate enough to cover sporting events for a living. As a journalist, it’s my job to be impartial and objective, but I fully appreciate the work and dedication many coaches and athletes put in on a daily basis.

I know after a tough loss or rough game, talking to the media is probably on a short list of things players and coaches don’t want to do.

As a writer, I try to consider every perspective, and growing up with a coach for a father has certainly helped me understand that element of the game. I saw firsthand how much he cared about his colleagues and players – something that still resonates with me to this day.

It has been over a decade since my father passed away, but not a day goes by that I don’t think about the influence he had on me. From his coaching to getting me involved in athletics at an early age, now at 22, I feel like my life has come full circle.

Every time I step onto the field, diamond – and especially the court – I think about him.

But most of all, I think about what my dad would say if I tried to interview him after a game.

Reece Waddell is the sports editor of the Messenger, and although he now feels like he could handily beat his dad at video games, knows he would still get demolished in chess and cards.

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