Hulne: Another year of sports brings new hopes

Published 9:06 pm Monday, August 14, 2017

When I was a kid, I always had mixed emotions about the first day of school. There was excitement at the prospects of a new year and all of the changes that would come with it and there was also the fear that things would go horribly wrong and I would come home wishing it was summer again.

The same can kind of be said about the first day of practice. So there were probably plenty of emotions flying around as fall high school sports teams opened up practice for the first time on Monday.

As I was making the rounds to start the gauntlet of previews that fill up our fall Jump Start publication, I think LeRoy-Ostrander head football coach Aaron Hungerholt summed up that first practice feeling best.

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“It’s always exciting to start a new year and it’s kind of scary as well because you’re not sure where you are,” Hungerholt said.

With so much work done in the summer for high school sports, there is also added pressure placed on teams. It’s not like the old days where coaches have to start from scratch and figure out who is going to play where and what kids are going to come out for the sport.

A lot of roles have already been established in summer seven-on-seven drills or summer practice sessions. If a team shows up out of sync, it will likely be trying to make up ground the rest of the year to keep up with the pack.

When I run around and do my fall previews, my favorite thing is the optimism that runs deep with almost every team. After a nice, long summer break most of the student athletes are fresh and ready to get out and compete. There isn’t a lot of complaining or back talk, but there is a lot of hard work.

It’s almost as if the athletes are relishing getting back to practice after a long summer. Heck, in Austin cross country practice I saw Phillip Zynda and Bryar Flanders — two athletes who are new to the sport — openly smiling as they ran towards the track for what was sure to be an intense run on the first day.

That youthful optimism is something you just can’t duplicate.

Bryar Flanders, left, and Phillip Zynda, right share a laugh as the Austin country team opened up its practice schedule in Austin Monday. Rocky Hulne/

When I think of fall I also think of the fact that it was the fall of 2007 when I first came to the Austin Daily Herald. That makes it a decade.

In the last 10 years I’ve covered heartbreaking losses and emotional victories. I’ve seen state champions and I’ve seen winless teams.

But my favorite stories have gone well beyond the box score. Those are the rare opporunties where a family opens their home to tell you a lengthy story that simply cannot be told in a matter of seconds. I think of Austin grad Matias Parada, who opened up about the loss of his father last summer, and I think about the Deng family, who was willing to discuss the importance of basketball to the Sudanese community in Austin.

Those are the stories that stick and I’ll likely still remember 10 years from now.

Through it all, I’ve had a blast and I think I’ll continue to enjoy covering sports in the area. Here’s to another year of fun sports and fun stories to tell.

I’ll see you on the sidelines.