Column: Athlete’s Reward

Published 6:57 pm Friday, July 23, 2021

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This time of year the last weeks of football practice, the last days of fall softball practice and soccer practices dwindle down. Anticipation builds in athletes as the lights come on and they take the field.

When an athlete takes the field this fall, they are taking it after months of hard work. The early morning or late afternoon practices with shirts, shorts and socks soaked with sweat build up to the day of competition.

There is no feeling like the first game day of a season. If you are an athlete at Adams County Christian, Cathedral, Natchez, Vidalia, Ferriday or Delta Charter, time flies between your first high school game and the final first high school game of the season as a senior.

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My first cross-country race in high school was at Southlake Carroll in Texas. The humidity and scorching sun race to kill you. All summer long I had run country roads, park trails and hills to prepare for the moment.

I could not tell you what my time was from that meet. I think like most of them, it was somewhat forgettable.

Practices between meets went by like a blur. One moment I was running with a senior teammate up a hill and the next moment, I was urging him on at our district meet a few months later.

Covering high school football in Mississippi for the past three years, I have seen so many careers begin and end. Seniors come out with a hunger because it is their last time to compete. Sophomores come out with less urgency but they freshen up the game with their youthful energy.

So many seasons are about to start and I’m ready to get writing. In high school, I raced against other runners and myself. Now, I race against deadlines to tell stories.

There is also a point in the season where players will walk off the field one last time, they will take a knee to reflect, look back and step forward to compete in another field of life.

For some athletes, winning is the ultimate reward. Perhaps for others, competition is the reward. I believe having the opportunity to compete is a blessing. Writing about practices, games and athletes is my reward.


HUNTER CLOUD is a sports reporter for The Natchez Democrat.