Career Ambitions: Academics Beat Athletics

Brandon Hensley

An astronaut. A supermodel. A rock star. An award-winning author. The president.

I used to have plans when I was a kid – plans for the future. They were much more than plans, really; they were dreams.

Still, there was that feeling inside of us that when our teachers asked what we wanted to be when we grew up that this self-assurance, this belief in our hearts and minds, would turn into reality someday.

Me? I was going to play guard for the Los Angeles Lakers.

I played basketball in summer leagues, attended camps, and was on organized teams for years. However, I never thought if I played poorly in one game it would ruin my chances for my future…after all, the future was so far off.

When I was a kid, I could only see as far as my arm would stretch after hoisting up a three-pointer. Perspective is something most kids don’t have. (Such as, ‘There are 12 grades before you go to college?! How old would that make you? Man, I can’t even figure that out. That’s nuts!’)

By the time of my sophomore year in high school, I realized I wasn’t going to grow any taller, or get fast enough or jump high enough to play college ball, let alone run with Kobe and Shaq in the NBA. The dream had died, like it does for many others everyday.

That’s where writing came into my life.

For as long as I can remember, the sports sections of the Los Angeles Times and Daily News has been a constant companion for me. Sports Illustrated was the first magazine I went to grab sitting in the doctor’s or dentist’s office when I was little. English and creative writing were always my best subjects in school. I can’t begin to describe how much fun my senior poetry class with Ms. Weaver was. That was the first time I realized how much I enjoyed doing something other than playing sports.

So, if playing sports wasn’t going to happen, what about writing about it?

After wandering around aimlessly for a while at GCC, I finally decided to combine my potential love of writing and my absolute love of sports.

The culmination arrived a couple of weekends ago at the Journalism of Community Colleges (JACC) state competition in Sacramento, where I competed in the on-the-spot sports story contest. JACC is a convention held twice a year for all of the community colleges to gather and compete for awards and bragging rights.

It’s also about networking and preparing oneself for the future, but in the moment, when school A is trying to beat school B, animalistic desire to embarrass one another will always triumph.

The convention had it set up for the sports reporters to cover a baseball game at Sacramento State University, but the school cancelled that game due to budget concerns. At the last minute, they came up with a soccer scrimmage for us to cover.

It was a challenge to cover that event, as our event adviser, Paul Mcleod, even acknowledged, but that’s not the point.

Loading up in front of the hotel before the event, I looked at all those writers on the bus and was taken back almost a decade and more.

I used to travel on a bus filled with athletes as my team, Crescenta Valley, went to play Muir or Hoover High School. I used to take my gym bag (complete with the stitching of my name and ‘Falcons Basketball’ on the side), carrying with me my uniform and team shoes.

Now, I was taking my digital voice recorder, a pen and a notebook, with no name on the side of my black bag. With my new gear, I was long removed from a life I am now trying to revisit using a different door.

As the large group of JACC contestants walked to the stands to sit and watch the scrimmage, it hit me again.

I used to come into the Rosemont Middle School gym and try out for the junior Falcons traveling team. It was me and 60 to 80 other guys battling for 12 open spots. Same goes for my freshman high school tryouts in the old CV gym. I would survey my competition, and hope for the best.

Looking at where I was in Sacramento that day, it was a mixed bag of emotions. I was battling a large number of guys (and a lone woman, as I recall)to see who would report the best on a group of athletes playing a sport. The same group of athletes I used to be a part of.

I never wanted to be a sports writer. I wanted to be the one written about. And any current sports writer who used to play who doesn’t echo that sentiment is lying.

I’ve seen and practiced with some great players when I was a teenager: Chris Tarne, Jimmy Goffredo, the late James Jenkins. And I’ve watched our own Markus Monroe and Josh Guillory this year.

Admittedly, it’s been hard watching our Glendale athletes these past seven months. Not that I think it should be me out there. Although I am older than most of the student athletes I cover, I couldn’t compete with most of them if I tried, and that doesn’t bother me.

Now, I am a writer. And It feels good to get a story published, to know that at least some people read what you write, and that the countless hours our editor puts in correcting our stories are not in vain.

Being a kid is fun. It’s playing a game on a Saturday afternoon and getting cupcakes and a Capri Sun afterward. It’s team parties at Shakey’s Pizza as you and your friends try and beat The Simpsons and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade games.

It’s that being compared to CV and University of Pacific great Adam Jacobsen, if only for one measly freshman season, is enough to validate all those jump shots you practiced outside with your grandpa, even when you just sometimes wanted shoot them by yourself.

And then suddenly, it’s over. The dream dies and I have to grow up. It’s time to look further than my outstretched arm after I’ve swished a three-pointer.

I’m playing for something else now.