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Randy’s Report

I’m not talking about addictions or abuses, although addiction and abuse are symptoms of as well as mental health issues.

Mental health doesn’t exhibit itself like a broken arm or a hacking cough that might suggest a lung condition. So often those dealing with mental health issues try to avoid bringing attention to themselves and want to blend in.

Often that person with the mental illness has to deal with their own self-imposed stigma that they aren’t good enough or there is something wrong with them. But even when having that feeling that something is wrong, they don’t seek help because they fear they might be looked down on as a second-class citizen.

Who battles mental illness? The person in your golf foursome, the guy sitting next to you at the ball game, someone in your Sunday School class, or maybe even your minister. The person that is working the cash register at the grocery store might be having a battle with anxiety just hoping customers are patient with them.

I would dare say someone reading this column is battling a mental illness now looking for help or a way out.

So many people dealing with mental issues face anxiety, depression, fear and other things. Some of the symptoms that are exhibited in young people might be something as seemingly innocent as shyness.

Often symptoms are things parents or teachers think a young person will grow out of, but that shyness might be a sign of mental illness anxiety.

I know that as I have for several years. The shyness everyone, even myself, thought I would grow out of, was anxiety and fear that led to depression. As I have dealt with the depression and mental health issues I have broken the chains of shyness, but it’s always in the back of my mind.

I know what it’s like to sit on the beach with an insulin pen, that I would use to take my own life, in one hand and my Bible in the other hand praying that God would take away the pain. I’m thankful that I turned to the Bible instead of the insulin.

If you know someone talking about wanting to die or suicide, please don’t tell them they are being selfish.

Be there for that person in any way they need. Sometimes we can’t explain our feelings. During my worst times I need a hug, a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear. Yes, there are still times when depression hits me like a run away truck.

Many famous athletes have battled depression or other forms of mental illness. Pittsburgh Steeler Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw is on that list as is NBA great Jerry West, Olympians Michael Phelps and Picabo Street and Baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., just to name a few.

The Center for Disease Control says there were 45,979 suicides in 2020 and about 25 % of those attempting suicide succeed. Women are three times more likely to attempt suicide, but men are two to four times more likely to be successful.

If you are struggling with depression or another form of mental illness don’t hesitate to get help. Reach out to a teacher, your minister or a healthcare professional. And please, if you don’t have anyone else to contact, call me because I’ve been there and I understand.

I promise you that while there will continue to be tough days, you can make it and thrive.

Randy’s Report

That doesn’t mean there weren’t other good coaches out there that might have been interested in the respective jobs. At the end of the day, it’s important for the schools to test the waters and see what outside candidates might be available.

For the record, unless a Hall of Fame coach such as Tony Dungy had applied for either job, I don’t think Crestview or Baker could have done better in who the schools picked to carry on their traditions.

Nobody loves the Bulldogs more than Grant. He is quick to tell you he dreamed of being the head football coach at Crestview since he was in the fifth grade. Grant is a former lineman for the Bulldogs and he worked his way up through the Crestview staff.

Grant has been both defensive and offensive coordinator at one time or another for the Bulldogs. Being a Crestview guy, he is well respected around the community.

I’ve watched Grant, a 2001 CHS grad, grow from a coaching pup to the football Top Dog. If I had been given a vote, I would have selected Grant. In fact, my first thought when I learned that Tim Hatten was stepping down was Grant should be the coach.

I’ve only known Gardner a few months since I arrived back in the area. As most of you know, he has been the Gator baseball coach this season. My impression on Gardner as a baseball coach is he’s perfect for football.

Baker is all about getting the most out of the athletes and players you have, and Gardner did that on the baseball diamond. Baseball isn’t even his first sport so I can only imagine how well he will do as the Gator football coach as he replaces Matt Brunson in the very successful football program.

I have dropped by some of Baker’s spring football practices, and I can tell you Gardner, as is the case with Brunson, is into the smallest of details such as taking a proper step coming off the football or having your head in the proper position for a block or tackle. One noticeable difference between Gardner and Brunson is Gardner conducts a lively, but somewhat quieter practice as he doesn’t bark out commands through a bullhorn as Brunson did.

I feel certain the Gators hired the right coach too. And yes, if given a vote, I would have cast it for Gardner.

Hiring a football coach is never a simple job. The task for both schools was made more difficult because the traditional hiring cycle usually occurs at the end of a football season.

I once heard the question posed, ‘How come there never seems to be enough time to do a job right, but always enough time to do it over?”

I’ll admit I was impatient waiting for Crestview and Baker to name their respective coaches as I wanted the stories now.

In the end Crestview principal Jay Sanders and Baker principal Mike Martello and their committees took the time to do the job right. I don’t believe either school will have to do the football coach hire over any time soon.

Randy’s Report

If I remember correctly, I even took part in a couple of very bad attempts at acting in a play or two associated with Vacation Bible School. But I never really thought about being involved in the arts despite the fact I loved poetry and creative writing.

My career focus as a journalist has been on sports. I’m at home talking football, baseball or basketball with coaches and athletes. Sports are my second language.

I don’t think things would have been much different if Gulf Breeze had, in the early years of the school when I attended, the fine arts programs it does today. I would have still gravitated towards sports because I was an only son, with three sisters, and my dad was a sports guy.

In my 60s, I see things differently than I did in my teens. I appreciate the arts. I know it takes special skills to get up on stage and act just as it takes a unique skill set to throw a football, hit a baseball or put a basketball in a basket from 23 feet away.

I have a brother-in-law that is a fine athlete, but he has spent his professional career as a college voice professor. I’m a second cousin to the late actress Dixie Carter of Designing Women fame.

I know all high school students need a place that they feel they belong. That place for some students will be in the school band. Others will find their place on the ball field as I did, and some will find their place on stage or behind the scenes with the drama club.

There are countless other activities for students today that weren’t available to students of my generation. Technology has advanced to the place where even smaller schools can have a TV or at least radio station to broadcast within the school.

I hope schools will find a place for young people looking for a career in journalism and offer a school newspaper. It’s a honorable profession and I can think of new better way to spend one’s career than being the voice of the community.

I’ll even go on record as saying if your school doesn’t have a school newspaper I’ll be happy to serve in an advisory capacity if you want to start one. Be warned, I might try to make the sports section page one.

The high school years should be a time all of us look back on with fond memories. Sadly, too many adults look back on high school as an unhappy period of their life.

The things students do outside the classrooms will have the greatest impact on their lives.

I would never suggest a parent make their child join the drama club or the football team. I would suggest they encourage their children to get involved in discovering what opportunities and challenges are available to them after the final bell of the day rings, it could change their life.

Randy’s Report

I left my house in Baker to cover Crestview’s Class 6A regional quarterfinal game . As I got into Crestview I realized I left the phone at home.

At least I hoped that’s where I left it. My phone also doubles as my recorder, but I wasn’t as worried about that as I knew I could go old school and take postgame interview notes with pen and paper. 

On the way to the game I stopped to pick up a few items so I wouldn’t have stop after the game and I could get into writing the story. When I went to the checkout my debit card had been blocked, something about it being flagged. For items totaling less than $30.  

I left the items at the checkout just happy I didn’t need to put gas in my car.

At least I arrived at the gym in plenty of time for tip off. I went to take a photo of the starting lineups only to find the memory card in my camera was locked.

Fortunately, I had a couple of extra cards and was able to pop one in my camera in plenty of time before the game started. 

As soon as the ball went up, I was home. The sights and sounds that are oh so familiar blanketed me in a warm embrace. I quickly fell back into the rhythm of the game as I had hope I would. 

It didn’t matter that the Crestview players were as unfamiliar to me as the visiting players from Nease as I stood along the back wall of the Bulldog gym taking notes and shooting photos.  

My first game back was a thriller with the Bulldogs winning 39-37 in overtime.  

As the game started, I half joked with some people that I hoped I still remembered what to do. Any time you are away from something six years you have some doubts. At least I do. 

Having a great game to cover always makes the job easier. There’s no dead space to fill in the story as you try to make a blowout seem interesting.  

Tight, well played games by two quality opponents are enough to make a guy forget that he left his phone at home, his debit card was on hold and that he had to switch memory cards in his camera. 

Murphy’s Law interfered with the start of the evening. But not even old Murphy himself could spoil the great game between the Bulldogs and Panthers on Thursday night.

Randy’s Report

March 24, 2016 was the worst day of my professional life. I can now say Jan. 10 of this year is the best day of my professional life as new News Bulletin owner Sandi Kemp extended to me an offer I couldn’t refuse to return to the Bulletin to write about sports again. My first day in the office will be Feb. 14, which is 2,153 days since that day in March six years ago.

It’s fitting that this old bachelor is returning to the job I most love on Valentine’s Day. The three greatest loves of my life have always been the Lord, my family/friends and writing sports. Thank you Sandi for letting me live my dream again.

That Thursday was just the start of loss in my life in my life that year. I had to put my dog of 13 years down in August. And the greatest loss occurred when my mom, Joan Dickson, died.

A lot has happened in the last six years or so. I tried selling cars at a dealership in Crestview, without much success. I was a substitute teacher in Okaloosa County, and I tried to start a website covering sports in North Okaloosa County.

When those things didn’t work out, I returned to the Knoxville, Tennessee area in July 2018, hoping that my degree from the University of Tennessee might get my foot in a few more doors professionally.

As it turns out, I’ve been working at Walmart since October 2018. In that time, I’ve dealt with prostate cancer, cataracts and covid. But I’m still standing and I’m excited to be returning to Crestview.

I honestly wasn’t looking to get back into sports writing. And, after being laid off by the Bulletin, if I were to return to the newspaper business, I could never see myself doing it in Crestview. I thought I’d be in the Knoxville area for a while so much so that I joined a fitness club with a three-year contract the last week in December.

People often say hindsight is 20/20. I believe that’s only true in looking back on the road we travel. Everything else is just speculation.

I know the last six years have changed me for the good. They’ve made me more understanding and a little more sympathetic in areas that previously I was lacking those qualities.

I have missed writing sports. I’ve missed the players, coaches and fans. I’ve missed turning a story and watching young people grow into adults.

I believe God created me to write, and to be a sportswriter. The best days of my career were at the News Bulletin. I’ll be 64 in May, and I hope to retire from the Bulletin, but not for another five or six years.

My battery is recharged and I’m ready to go. Now all I have to do is find a place to live as I soak up the last few weeks in East Tennessee.

I have some ideas for some stories, and I welcome your thoughts as well to help me get off to a quick start. Feel free to email me with your thoughts at BigRandle@ymail.com.

I’ll see you soon.

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