Lead by example

Being able to say I am just two days short of having been employed for the past 10 months at The Evening Sun, is something that came in the blink of an eye. The adult world is still something of a marvel to myself, as I am slowly picking up on the ins and outs and how to truly ‘adult’ correctly. I now have a new appreciation for my parents, my teachers and my coaches for putting up with my three younger brothers and I, to say the least.

However, one thing I have really be focusing on, is forcing myself to step back and slow down, to really take in and observe what I am doing each day.

As my days generally revolve around what high school games I will be going to and which articles I have to write about for the next days paper, I find myself surrounded by student athletes and coaches almost everyday. Therefore, I have gotten to know many coaches and athletes thus far, and have been able to observe many different ways that coaches attempt to reach these young athletes.

The athletes have been amazing to observe, when I can still remember what was running through my head what feels like ages ago, but in reality was just a short years ago. As I knew back then and as I see evident even more so now, each person is different in their approach to their respective sport, their preparation, attitude, and it really is quite interesting to observe all these students from all across Chenango County perform, and at quite a high level I might add.

But the coaches and their many different styles has been what truly has caught my attention, when I find the time to focus on what I am constantly and endlessly writing about. Without singling anyone out, in a positive or negative light, I admire and enjoy working with all of the various coaches in Chenango County.

When I think back to my many coaches I had in various sports growing up, I most fondly remember the ones who helped inspire and shape me into the ‘adult’ I am today. But, nevertheless, I also remember the few coaches who seemed to be just placeholders and the even a couple of coaches who were utterly negative and not inspiring in the least.

Coaches essentially are an extension of teachers in our society, helping to mold and shape the young minds of our youth. I know personally I can think of many influential coaches in my life, and even today I maintain a friendship with many of them. However, these negative coaches still hold a place in ones mind as well, something to strive not to become.

As I deal with all of the varsity level coaches in Chenango County, I have come to see a small glimpse of each of their styles. So when I happen to run into coaches that openly seem to be coaching not for the betterment of our youth and the sport, but instead for their own praise and pride, it bothers me to a degree. To hear these coaches complain that their team ‘doesn’t play for them,’ or ‘they aren’t winning,’ is perplexing to me, as even within a losing season, I always understood a huge part coaching was to manage their team and help inspire a spark to want to win.

A great coach and man taught me that sports are essentially a prelude to life – you have to work as a team, you have to excel individually, you have to face constant adversity, and when you fail you have to learn from it and get back up– this coach remains a part of my life today, and people like this belong in the coaching realm, and can truly help mold our youth into positive human beings.

When an individual is coaching for simply a paycheck or to get their name on a plaque, I see it as a drain on our local sports, which already are fighting an uphill battle with dwindling enrollment in some sports and simply the fact that Chenango County does not have the large class A schools and their budgets that accompany to further their success. Despite all this, I see much promise for the future of Chenango County high school sports if pushed in the right direction.

These young student athletes will one day be ‘adults’, entering into everyday life. For some of these kids, school and sports is all they may have if their parents are absent or otherwise not raising them. Therefore, it is important to be there and set a strong example for them, so one day they can look back on their coaches with thanks for the lessons taught, rather than have another thing –their coaches – that my millennial generation can blame their shortcomings on.

That being said, these negative coaches are few and far between, and usually work their way out of the coaching staff on their own accord.

Now as The full-time Sports Editor at The Evening Sun, and with nearly two full varsity seasons under my belt, it has been a pleasure to work with each and every team thus far, and I look forward to finding out what future seasons have to bring.

Good luck to the many teams and athletes of Chenango County who are or will be heading into post-season play this week or in the coming week, and lets hope each team can get that win and advance to the next round. And to those athletes and coaches that have concluded their seasons or will be shortly, it was a hectic spring 2016 season, but a very engaging and fun time.

Time is flying by

The end of 2015 and beginning of 2016 has been one crazy ride so far.

As I have now wrapped up my first six months of many being employed here at The Evening Sun, I could not have imagined that the time would have passed so quickly. I have had so many great times, and memories in such a short time.

I have learned so many tricks of the trade that I was unaware of when graduating from college. I have covered so many different areas in journalism, one aspect and something I think working for a local newspaper really helps with. This versatility and truly soaking in a broad range of topics from court, crime, sports, drug panels, school events, meetings, and so on has given me so much experience. Experience that I think has helped me grow as a person and as a writer.

I was amazed by the staff that is employed at The Evening Sun when I started and instantly knew I would enjoy working with them. Now just over six months later, I would agree even more with that statement and add that I am amazed with the amount of work and effort that each individual puts into their work on a daily basis.

The yearly Progress Chenango Edition, a recap and brief look forward for Chenango County Businesses, was truly a growing experience for me and has taught me some key time management techniques I will be carrying into this 2016 year.

Due to currently being understaffed, we had to bring on some stringers to help out with the Sports section. I want to personally thank Kieran Coffey and Grady Thompson for their effort and work helping us manage when times get tough, and not just manage but operate in my own personal opinion at a very high level.

But with that it has not all been happy and good all the time. While working on covering courts and crime I have seen, and now know many things that go on in our communities here in Chenango County that are saddening. Our addiction and crime problem for the small communities we live in is honestly disgusting but it is good to see small progressive steps being taken to address these issues. I look forward to seeing these small steps hopefully progress as 2016 continues.

Let alone the problems that face our community, as well as added stress from being understaffed and living the adult life now, it can be daunting at times. But with the great friends I have now right here at The Evening Sun, no task seems too daunting.

It is however important to step away from work for a bit and regroup from time to time. That is why with the big game coming up this Sunday featuring Denver and Carolina, I will be in full force cheering on my favorite football player and reason I started watching football way back, Peyton Manning.

I would like nothing more than to see Peyton and company win this big game over Carolina, as the legend himself notches win number 200 and becomes the most winningest quarterback in history, before he rides out into the sunset towards retirement.

So on that note, Go Denver!

New year, new me

Are you curious about some of the legislative issues challenging Chenango’s leading industry of dairy agriculture? Or how some of the area’s largest employers plan to sustain growth through 2016?

In case you don’t know where this is going, that’s my pitch for the 2016 edition of “Progress Chenango.” Welcome to the busy season for Evening Sun reporters. In spite of grumblings from the Evening Sun staff (including one or two or ten from yours truly), work for our annual “Progress Chenango” edition is in full swing. “Progress Chenango” is a once a year, ten-section publication full of feature articles, successes stories, photos, and opinion pieces spotlighting the trials and triumphs of businesses, nonprofits, local government and education over the past year, along with predictions of Chenango’s path for the future. Check it out when it hits newsstands later this month.

On a different note, it’s the start of a new year. That means millions of people are making new year’s resolutions. And apparently that’s a good opportunity for folks in the news industry to tell you why you’re such a failure. Encouraging, right? In the last week, I’ve come across countless articles explaining why people often fail to keep new year’s resolutions, and how they can stay on track. Of course everyone has their own reasoning for failure. For me personally, I blame my broken commitment to shed a few pounds on the tastiness of fresh baked cookies (and cake, and almost anything with cheese on it). That’s why I opt not to make a “new year’s resolution” per say. Instead I go for the “starting tomorrow” model. I’m going to eat better, starting tomorrow. I’m going to read more, starting tomorrow. I’m going to be more punctual, starting tomorrow. Yes, I have every intention to do all of this… starting tomorrow.

I also want to take a moment to announce that if things go accordingly, I’ll be leaving The Evening Sun to pursue my lifelong dream of winning the $900 million Powerball jackpot. Admittedly, I haven’t worked out all the details of this once in a lifetime transition, but I’ve already picked my numbers and informed management of my pending departure. While I’m endlessly grateful for people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had working for Chenango County’s hometown daily, I feel it’s time to move on. I vow never to let a few bucks stomp out the lessons I’ve learned that have become so deeply enriched in my journalistic roots. This isn’t to say I don’t understand the odds of winning are only 1 in 292 million, which some people might argue aren’t “good enough” to quit my day job. That’s why I bought 2 tickets… so I’m feeling pretty good about my chances. Again, it’s been a pleasure.

Stagnant approach to an escalating problem

By now everyone in the Norwich community has hopefully realized the very serious problem we all are facing, addiction. If not, it is time everyone jumps on board, because this problem doesn’t just involve the drug addicts and alcoholics, it encompasses everyone.

I attended, like many in the community did, the drug panel that was held at the Guernsey Memorial Library on Dec. 1, 2015. It was truly awesome to see that community room packed, with only minimal standing room in the back.

The panel of speakers included: Jennah Shreve, a Drug Court graduate; Mike Galesky, a Drug Court graduate; Sarah VanTine, a Drug Court graduate; Connie Barnes, mother of a deceased drug victim and nurse; Sarah Stewart, mother of a former user; Jim Everard, Drug Court Facilitator; Elliot Stewart, a former user and Rehab Intake Director; Joseph McBride, Chenango County District Attorney; Frank Revoir, Chenango County Judge; and John Dunkel, Probation Officer.

I think this panel was a huge step in the right direction for a Norwich community that seems to be very fed up with the addiction problem that exists.

I congratulate and thank each and every person who spoke at that panel that day.

I would also like to thank our law enforcement and court system for their ongoing efforts, but their actions are purely reactionary in nature.

However, not including these drug related arrests, and drug convictions in County Court, which happen what seems to be every few days; since this panel I have seen little to no actions taken to continue taking the steps necessary to cleaning up Norwich.

You may ask what these steps may be; a simple response is to continue to talk. A community that communicates has greater chance of tackling a problem than one who simply posts statuses on Facebook and complains constantly.

I would even go far enough to say that since no one has passed away recently from a drug overdose, as far as I know, the chatter about what needs to be done has simply faded away, as people have seemed to fall back into their Norwich bubble everyday routine.

I chose to attend the last Norwich City School Board meeting, which was held a few weeks ago at the Norwich Middle School. During the public opinion section of the meeting, I listened to one concerned individual – who also spoke at the drug panel – speak out on this matter of addiction.

Donald Chirlin, a retired Norwich City School teacher, per normal procedure, only spoke for a mere five minutes at this school board meeting. But he still spoke.

During these school board meetings, each person who wishes to speak during the public comment section is permitted to a five-minute time slot. Despite this long-standing rule, I feel this is somewhat of a metaphor for how Norwich seems to be handling their drug and addiction problem. Let them speak on the matter so it can be heard and publicized, that way it seems like a true effort is being made. However, we can only permit you to speak for five minutes because we really don’t want to hear about it, seems to be the attitude.

Chirlin spoke in regards to addressing the problem at the middle and high school level, essentially arguing that an attempt needs to be made in the schools to help prevent or reduce future addicts before graduation.

This short presentation was listened to intently by the board and a positive response was given.

Many of you who may be reading this piece, by this time might be thinking that the resources just don’t exist in Chenango County or Norwich, and you would be correct in assuming that.

But I would like to remind people that the more a topic is talked about, the more attention will be brought to it, and hopefully that will cause some more change.

Thankfully since the last time I wrote no one has passed away from overdose, but just the other day on Dec. 21, there was another major drug bust that occurred right in City of Norwich on Division Street. This time the Norwich Police Department recovered methamphetamine, as well as material used to manufacture this drug.

Speaking from personal experience when I cover County Court for The Evening Sun, there seems to be a lot of drug related burglaries recently. During the panel at the library, our District Attorney even alleged that with drug addiction comes an increase in burglaries, due to addicts stealing to support their habit.

So maybe drugs aren’t a part of your life directly, and maybe no one you know has an addiction problem. But burglaries take a toll on everyone, as they put a community in a state of fear.

So as we enter the new year of 2016 in just a few short days, it is important to remember that this addiction problem isn’t just a 2015 problem. So as the new year is fast approaching, we should remember when making our new year’s resolutions that maybe as a community we should look to correct the direction our community seems to be heading before we fail to try to hit the gym a little more as resolution.

The fall season is by far my favorite

Forget the over publicized pumpkin spice everything, the most important thing regarding fall is that Football is back, go Colts as they take on Brady and the cheating Patriots. But fall also means no more blistering August heat, and of course the best holiday in my opinion, Halloween. But one thing that this great midway season has to offer to the people of upstate and central New York is the amazing colors and scenery, as the leaves change.

Maybe this is a little repetitive; as I am sure many people have been talking and have even written about the changing leaves and amazing scenery. But I wanted to take the time to really talk about how lucky the people in this area truly are to get such an amazing nature display. Many people don’t take the time to slow down their lives to truly appreciate this season.

The thing about fall is how fast the season goes by every year. It seems like one second it’s summer then next thing we know we’re frozen in the dead of winter.

Winter, on the other hand is my least favorite season by far. Growing up in Norwich my whole life and then going to college in the Syracuse area and then Oswego, I know all too well what a terrible time winter is. I apologize to anyone who enjoys winter, but seriously no one enjoys waking up and trying to go work, all to find out you have to shovel and scrape of snow and ice from your frozen car. Not to mention when you get home from work, which means it’s time to shovel the walk.

But back to fall, last year, or possibly the year before even, I took two of my younger brothers on a little nature hike to see the stone quarry. I wanted to share some pictures that I took along the way. This time of the year had me thinking about it again as it is something I would love to do again with them or simply myself. It has been far too long since I took a nice hike to the stone quarry.

Pictures of nature hike at the Stone Quarry.

I also recently have been in contact with Don Windsor who has a club called the Bullthistle Hikers club, which takes individuals on various hikes around the Chenango County area. This group was unknown to me prior to speaking with him, but I find it truly awesome that something like this club exists. He has invited me to go on some hikes with his group. As I have such an erratic schedule, I honestly admit I don’t know if I will be able to. But I will make a note to try to set some time away and make a hike or two with his club. I encourage anyone interested to get in contact with him at windsorda@yahoo.com, as they go hiking each Sunday morning I believe.

Regardless, the point of this blog is to encourage the people in Chenango County and upstate New York to take a second out of your day to appreciate the changing colors and great scenery many of us take for granted each year. Soon enough, winter will be upon us and we will all be huddled inside attempting to stay warm.

Debate, Royals, church killing

So much has transpired since my last blog post.
• First, I’ll make brief mention of the Democratic Debate that aired on CNN Tuesday night. I speculate that where I stand on the spectrum of politics is far different than many readers, and I’m 100 percent fine with that. The five who took the stage for the debate each laid out where they stood with regard to foreign policy, economics, criminal justice reform, gun control, climate change, and national security.
Thanks to mass media, the statements regarding Clinton’s emails seem to have been a highlight of the debate.
I disagree, but to each their own.
With businessman Donald Trump the current front-runner on the Republican side, the Democrats have former Secretary of State and female presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, self-proclaimed “Democratic Socialist” Bernie Sanders from Vermont, former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, former US Senator and Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, and Jim Webb, former US Senator from Virginia, Secretary of the Navy, and Vietnam veteran.
The debate was entertaining. I encourage anyone planning on voting do some serious research on the candidates, as not everything is as it seems.
• Baseball is in the post-season. The Kansas City Royals play game five tonight to stay in the running for the ALDS.
Johnny Cueto better have the control he needs to get the job done. He’s had some rest, so I’m sure he’ll be fine. I’m counting on switch-hitters Ben Zobrist and Kendrys Morales to get some bodies on bases and after Eric Hosmer’s performance in game four, I’m looking for him to show up ready to play too. The Astros’ Colby Rasmus is a little dangerous, so the pitcher needs to focus on strikes, or walk him if that’s the favorable option.
If the Royals end up losing tonight’s game, it’s not the end of the world. Yes, they’ll be an unhappy editor in the morning, but as a Kansas City fan, loss is nothing new. The Royals have had a season to be proud of.
• This morning, the AP national wire had a story with a slug that read “Church Killing.” I opened it, assuming – for some reason or another – that whatever happened took place far away. Not the case this time.
Six church members were arrested in connection with the beating of two brothers, and will appear in court again Friday. The Word of Life Church is in the Hamlet of Chadwicks in New Hartford, and was said by police to be the scene of the crime where a 19-year-old and 17-year-old were allegedly beaten for hours. The 19-year-old ultimately died as a result of his injuries. Two of the six arrested were the boys’ parents, Bruce and Deborah Leonard. I spoke with a former member of the church this afternoon who shared her experiences with the church, and a full story will appear in tomorrow’s edition of the paper.

Room for improvement

Over the past few weeks all I’ve heard is doom and gloom and how this area is slowly getting worse and worse. I think that if we focus only on the bad, nobody will recognize the good that is happening in our community.

I understand that there is an epidemic here in Chenango County and something needs to be done, but all I’ve been hearing about is what we’re doing wrong and all of the bad things in the county, nobody ever talks about the good. One of the coolest things happening in Norwich is that Norwich is closing in on winning an “America’s Best Communities” competition. Norwich has proposed to this contest that if we win, we will use the prize to fund what is basically a think tank for local entrepreneurs. A “MakerSpace” would be a place to help those with ideas actually be able to make them a reality and get the ball rolling. This could potentially revitalize the community and help bring in a lot of new business and ideas to the area.

We also neglect the fact that there are a ton of things to actually do here in Chenango County. In the next few weeks Norwich’s Pumpkin Fest will be kicking off for another year. This fall festival is always a ton of fun for everybody involved and is a great way to spend the weekend.

Are pumpkins not your thing? In addition to the fall festivities there’s going to be a pub crawl that weekend as well.

We tend to focus a lot on the bad, not the good anymore. I understand that there is a lot of work that we need to do to bring the community back to where we want it, but I think that if we all pitch in and do our part, we can get there in no time. I know that there’s a lot of bad out there, but there is also a lot of good that should be recognized as well.

Say cheese…all of you.

White/Lake Family

The second half of this past weekend was fantastic. While Saturday was a bit gloomy, Sunday proved to be bight and sunny and colorful. The Giants won and the Cowboys lost, so that was good. But what really has me smiling on Monday was that I was able to capture the loving smiles of my great family all in one picture – without craftily wielding my Photoshop chops.
Between my fiancee Rachel and I, we have seven children. While she’ll be quick to point out that she only has one child – the other half dozen share my last name – the point is we’re all collectively a family.
The logistics of which can be daunting at times, especially with one bathroom in house. They range in age between 15 and five, so with all the sports and activities that they’re involved in, it’s a bit of a celestial phenomenon when we’re all in the same place at the same time.
Fortunately, I seized the opportunity to record this rare glimpse of my gaggle in one photo – so we loaded up the Volvo (and Rachel’s Jetta – since we’re a two-car pack when we all travel at once) and headed out to the early Fall countryside of McDonough for a nice fall photograph that we can display on the wall and include with those upcoming family Christmas cards that I find so annoying.
Much to my surprise, the whole thing went well… and aside from a few – lets say candids – everyone complied and were more than cooperative.
There could have been a little more color on the trees, but hey – there was no way I was going to get this bunch together again until Christmas morning – I have to lure them with gifts, you see.
Thankfully, my meager photography skills yielded some passable portraits, and another year goes on the wall. All is well.

Is this a presidential debate or another reality TV show?

Donald Trump. Need I say more?

There doesn’t seem to be any restraint when it comes to the absurdity of current politics. Watching the first five minutes of the nightly news could tell you that. But with presidential elections just year and two months away (as if that’s practically on top of us), we’re forced to pay attention to the three ring circus that’s become our electoral process. Admittedly, I haven’t been following elections coverage because in my opinion, it’s far too much far too soon. I’ll wait until the bid for the highest office in the land takes a more serious turn before I tune into any debate. And yet for many, watching candidates scramble for support, be they Republican or Democrat, is like watching a train wreck. You know it’s going to be ugly, but you just can’t look away.

When did we start treating presidential debates as if they’re for entertainment purposes only? In August, Fox News landed the largest non-sports viewership in TV history when the network aired the first GOP primary debate. That debate garnered 24 million viewers. This week, CNN got its most watched televised event ever with the second GOP debate, which attracted 23 million.

Maybe it’s just my instinct, but there’s something unsettling about that many viewers. I find it hard to believe people are watching because they’re not sure who to vote for – at least not this early in the game. We’re still five months away from the Iowa Caucus. So if people aren’t watching these debates to make a civil decision, then they must be watching because… well, it’s amusing. Come on, those 23 million people don’t care about Trump’s views of national and international policy. They want to hear his next off color comment about immigrants. Or muslims. Or women. Or puppies. Or anybody and anything not himself. It must be a TV producer’s dream to draw so many viewers without any more effort than pointing a camera at a face and letting the magic just happen. More work goes into putting together an episode of “The Bachelor.”

Maybe Jake Tapper should have handed out a rose to each candidate moving onto the next round.

To be fair, it’s great that people are paying attention. I’d like think at least one or two important nuggets of information have made it through all the the drivel and chaos. But I can’t help but wonder how this whole ordeal is making us look on the world stage. How can we be taken seriously as a nation when we don’t even take ourselves seriously.

End rant and insert transition into a new topic here…

While not a new issue, Roots and Wings in Norwich finally came forward with what I think was a clear message this week: They don’t want your garbage. From old mattresses and worn furniture, to broken electronics, toys and household appliances, there’s not much Roots and Wings hasn’t seen piled in a heap at its door step. Unfortunately, this stuff causes more harm than help since the organization has to pay tipping fees when staffers haul it to the landfill. And where does all this junk come from? Folks who, under the guise of supposedly giving back to the community, unload it unsolicited during non-business hours when nobody’s there to turn them away. This is by no means a slight to people who donate items with good intentions, but I say boo to those who have no limits to the adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” If you have a garage full of worthless junk, don’t push it off on someone else because it’s a cheap way of getting rid of it. Pay the tipping fees yourself.

Tis The Season (almost)

Its that time of year again where school starts and summer ends for most of the world. For me I prefer to live in a fantasy world where summer doesn’t end until mid-October so I can keep wearing shorts.

Most people would say that Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer and I guess I can agree with them. Schools are back in session, high school sports begin again, and the leaves begin to change. Don’t get me wrong, I love fall and everything that comes along with it; but why are we all in such a rush for it to start? I already saw an add that all pumpkin everything will be back at Dunkin’ at the end of the month. I think that everybody would agree with me that we could all use a few more weeks of sun and warm weather, let’s not rush right into fall and winter.

If you go to any store they’ve all already put out their “fall” decorations and Halloween stuff. Its still August (for a few more days) people, can’t you wait until we’re in the actual month? Before we know it Christmas decorations and sales will be creeping up and I’m just not ready for it. Let’s keep Halloween in the month of October and the rest of the fall stuff stored away until the leaves actually turn.

That being said, I do enjoy everything that comes with the fall season, football, playoff baseball, and corn mazes… I really like corn mazes. So I am excited for the fall season to start, but let’s not rush it okay? I want to enjoy the time I have left with the sun before it becomes that weird bright thing in the sky that we sometimes see from the months of December to April when the snow finally stops.

I like my summer months, I look better with a tan and I don’t have to bundle up like I’m exploring the frozen ice planet of Hoth when I go outside. Everybody is generally in a better mood during summer and there’s always so much to do. I know that winter is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year” with the holidays, which I always enjoy. But, people are always in such a rush for the next thing to happen.

I think that we all need to slow down a bit, and come to the conclusion that warm weather is just better than the frozen tundra that everybody seems to be in such a hurry for. To end my rant I’ll leave you with this question, after the fall season that everybody is so fond of, are you really ready to shovel snow off your car every morning before you go to work?

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