Apparently, sports never end


Time to wrap up another year of writing about high-school sports until the calendar kicks off again later this summer.

However, as I rode my bike by the Blackhawk Center the evening of June 3, I noticed cars and school buses in the parking lot. With school done for the year, what could be going on?

No sooner did I poke my head inside, when a familiar face in Forreston basketball coach Jake Groom walked by. Didn’t I just see you at the boys state track meet, I asked?

Yes, but now it’s time for basketball, as each court at the Blackhawk Center was filled with boys teams from 12 area schools playing a summer league. Apparently, sports never end.

Since it was a low-key affair, I sauntered over to end of the Rochelle bench and sat with grizzled roundball observers Russ Zick and Don Romes. Neither was coaching, but decided to make the trip over to Oregon to spend a summer night watching varsity ball.

Quite frankly, I didn’t have anything better to do either, so I spent the rest of time taking in a summer-league Rochelle-Oregon game. Sometimes, you don’t know where the day will take you, but it was fun interacting with old friends like Russ and Don and being mildly entertained by the performance on the court.

Don is quite a local story in that he has matriculated from coaching at Rochelle in the 1970s to currently at the Steward grade school, with many other stops in between.

Mentally, he’s still got game and there is probably no reason he won’t be coaching again this winter. With his first hitch in Iowa, he might be approaching 60 years of sharing his hoops experience with young people.

High school sports have quite a fraternity of characters. Working in the regular business world, you don’t have that.

That’s one reason I continue to cover it. It’s a fun environment to be around and the impact a coach can have on young people is enlightening to observe.

Oregon Superintendent Tom Mahoney had a retirement gathering recently and I heard testimonies from former athletes of his at Rochelle of how much impact he had on them. It’s the same all over, with coaches holding more influence over young people than administrators do.

It was a sad day in Polo last week when John Gavin passed away. Again, that is one of the treasures of being around sports – getting to know someone as dedicated as John to providing pertinent information on radio broadcasts of Marco football and basketball games.

His knowledge definitely expanded well past the Polo area and onto the rest of the state. I will miss listening to him on a transistor radio I took to whatever football game I was at on a Friday.

Lately, I’ve begun to question how much longer I can do this. As senior citizens, we aren’t as mentally sharp anymore and it becomes more of a chore to leave the comfort of home to cover a game, especially in inclement weather.

Besides John Gavin, there are all kinds of outstanding radio broadcasters for listening to area games. While us in the newspaper business have regressed in our coverage of the local sports scene, radio continues to hold its own.

Perhaps that has also tarnished my desire to cover sports. Sports writing does not have the same communal feeling anymore.

Gone are the days when you would see handful of other reporters and papers were full of local copy. There was a quite the banter among us sports reporters, as we’d head back to the newsroom after a game to file copy.

That all but disappeared with the advent of transmitting online (making life easier) and with the reduction in staffing. I worry about newspapers and their inherent ability to keep government (somewhat) honest and their commitment to the area high-school sports.

Anyway, if Don Romes can keep coaching as an octogenarian, I plan to be back for the 2024-25 school year. See you in August.

Andy Colbert is a longtime Ogle County resident with years of experience covering sports and more for multiple area publications.