Sports over stats: capturing UVU players’ stories

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Sports seem to be heavily defined, especially recently, by simply looking at scores and statistics. Notifications on smartphones from sports applications highlight how many points a team scored, and which players contributed the most to the team’s big win.

We have had memorable moments as of late here at UVU that are “notification worthy”: the men’s basketball team finished the season by beating their rival New Mexico State and ending second in the conference, the wrestling team sent five competitors to NCAA nationals — an all time high, and the women’s soccer team again qualified for the NCAA tournament. However, sometimes it is the stories that don’t popup on someone’s home screen that will completely grab them and change the way they look at a player or team for the rest of their life.

Although points and stats certainly have their place in sports journalism, covering the passion and dedication behind those numbers adds necessary spirit to the covering of athletics. Sure, a team beating their biggest rival or a star player hitting a huge shot is newsworthy enough — but what lead up to that moment? What hardships and losses did a team have to endure to get to that point? How many drops of blood, sweat and tears hit the floor prior to that game-winning shot? Here at The Review, we know that those moments matter — and we want everybody else to know they matter as well.

I had the opportunity to interview Akwasi Frimpong in 2018. Frimpong became the first West-African athlete to qualify for the Winter Olympics, and because he was a graduate of UVU I was able to sit down with him. After our introductions and a few questions, I immediately became amazed at what this man had gone through and sacrificed to accomplish his goals. Frimpong had endured poverty, fought the stereotype of being an illegal immigrant and suffered multiple injuries leading up to his Olympic training and qualification. In fact, not long before deciding to train for the Olympics, Frimpong was selling vacuums door-to-door in Arizona.

After obtaining all of this knowledge and background on Frimpong’s personal accomplishments and hard work, centering the story around his struggles and the trials he faced seemed to make the most sense. It wasn’t until later in the summer of 2018 that I met with Frimpong at a journalism awards ceremony and I was able to get his reaction to the article in person. He told me that he had appreciated the story we had run about him because it offered a perspective and covered his qualification story in a way that the other news outlets had not.

The main lesson I have learned covering sports, and continue to learn, is that there is always something more to the story than those numbers lit up on the scoreboard. It is my personal goal as the sports editor of The Review to ensure that we find the stories within our athletic programs that matter. Reporting athletics with passion and purpose is what we do here at The Review,
and we hope to find the stories that make UVU students become more invested and involved with the athletic programs we have on campus.