Commentary: You should be there when student athletes make history
When senior sprinter Elijah Hall of the track & field team won two NCAA sprinting titles and broke the NCAA record in the men’s 200m this March, I was there.
A crowd of 5,000 people cheered at the sight, even those who had never heard of Hall before. I was five feet away from him when he crossed the finish line. It’s an experience I never would have felt had I not joined The Cougar in June 2015.
Before I had sat in a single lecture at UH, I was signed up to write for the sports section of the newspaper. Three years later, I have written 250 articles, virtually all about athletics.
For three years, I was given an up-close perspective on UH Athletics as every team, from top to bottom, worked to turn UH into a Power 5 school the only way they can: winning.
The greatest privilege has been watching the athletes behind the victories. I learned the backstories of men who would go on to be NFL draft picks, what struggles some face when their father is their head coach, what religion meant to an NBA Hall of Famer, how a team overcomes the struggles of a down year, and what aspirations they have.
I always think about my second week as a freshman, when I interviewed Olympic gold medalist and assistant track & field coach Carl Lewis. There I was, talking to a man my parents revered and had heard so many stories about. But through working for The Cougar, I got to see how Lewis was as both a coach and a person. You don’t get that through cameras.
I learned the stories of each individual on the team; their backstory, their aspirations. It made wins like Hall’s more meaningful knowing what they went through to get to that moment. I found the exact same thing in all the sports I covered, from men’s basketball and football to soccer and baseball, I got to hear those stories from countless athletes.
I’ve played the part of a student at the football game, painted up, the whole lot. The Memphis game in 2015 was one of the most euphoric moments of my time in college. But The Cougar gave me a different experience. The Cougar got me on the sideline when the football team beat Louisville and Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson in 2016, before everyone else rushed the field.
Now that I am stepping away from The Cougar, I urge people to continue to follow and support the student athletes at UH. Their presence on their respective teams is something they have worked toward, for many, all their life.
Everything they do, once they don the uniform, is done to bring recognition to the university. We owe it to them to know and follow their stories.
You don’t want to be the person that misses a bit of history.