After more than 30 years covering professional and world-class international sports for both newspapers and television, I made a career move.
I got into high school sports, which shouldn't have been surprising to anyone who knew me. I've always read the directions after I put the bike together.
A better class of people, I told my old colleagues. That's what I was looking for, and that's what I found. Some of the best people I know are high school kids.
I also promised myself that whenever I covered a high school game, I'd cover it as thoroughly as I would have covered a game in the World Series or an event at the Olympics.
I thought the kids would get a kick out of it, and after covering high school sports for 10 years now — the last two in Tehachapi — I think they appreciated it.
I know I've ticked off a few people, too, usually by accident. As I once told our esteemed former head football coach, Steve Denman, you can't write as many words as I've written and not raise a few hackles once in a while. He laughed and admitted it's probably not at all unlike calling plays for 35 years.
To all the kids I've met along the way who have busted their buns playing sports for the Warriors, I have some advice after a lifetime of playing, covering, coaching and officiating sports.
Take it for what it's worth.
Most importantly, have fun. In the end, that's the only thing that makes it worthwhile. If it's not fun, there's nothing wrong with playing the clarinet or reading a book.
Each day, try to figure out some way of getting better, even if it's a tiny improvement, in practice or in games. Improving your game makes winning sweeter and losing temporary.
Thank your coaches at the end of every day, and if they look at you with a surprised expression and ask, “What for?” just say, “For being my coach.” While you're at it, give a team mom a hug when she brings oranges to the game.
Look your local, neighborhood sports writer in the eye if he asks you a question and tell the truth, but never forget that your teammates are counting on you to speak for them, too.
Never hang your head because you can't reach for the stars looking at your feet.
And, with that, I shall dismount my high horse and walk off into the sunset. I've been doing this since I was 19 years old, with a break here and there, and it's time to retire.
John Nelson spent 27 years with the Associated Press in New York, covering sports all over the world, and was the AP's national baseball writer for 10 years. He also covered eight Olympics, four Final Fours, 10 Kentucky Derbies, and bit of bobsledding. And, for the first time in five decades, he can no longer be reached.