Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Dave Nichols: Here’s a little (more) love for Liberty

It was a powerful season for Tyler Hass (25) and Liberty’s football team. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

I’ve been on the job for roughly two months. I learn something new every day – usually several somethings.

The most important thing I’ve learned, though, is this: When it comes to covering high school sports, we can never do enough.

I’m the only full-time preps writer at the paper, but I’m positive it was the same way back in the day when there were three or four writers covering Washington, and another full time in Idaho.

I woke up Saturday morning to a well-intentioned email from a Liberty Lancers fan. She explained to me – politely but in no uncertain terms – that I was missing the story of the resurgence of Lancers athletics.

My initial response was umbrage. After I paused, I respectfully replied that I personally covered the Liberty State 2B football semifinal win over Asotin at Gonzaga Prep the previous week (instead of covering 4A Central Valley in Pasco), and in our state volleyball preview we profiled the Liberty team that made its first appearance at state since 1975 – and first as a B school.

I also told her that I’d be more than happy to send her links to those articles once I got to Tacoma later that day to cover the Lancers in person in the State 2B football title game, in which they fell short by one point to Kalama, if she had missed them when they were published.

On my drive over to Tacoma, I had (plenty) of time to think about it. While my response to her was factual and accurate, it didn’t tell the complete story.

See, I was aware of the Lancers resurgence. I interviewed first-year volleyball coach Kaci Tee for the state preview article and she mentioned it.

“I started the junior high (program) at Liberty and I’ve coached there on and off for the past five years,” she said. “I’ve had the opportunity to move up with the same group of girls I had in junior high. It’s huge for Liberty to be able to go to state volleyball.”

Football coach Mike Dewey brought it up when I spoke to him after the semifinal win. And I saw it myself with the crowd from Spangle that attended the game at G-Prep. Half the town (or more) had to be there, and they all came down on the field after the win to celebrate with the team.

“You see all these people that are here,” Dewey said. “It’s an incredible opportunity and we’re grateful for it. Lancer fans really love their football.”

Liberty athletic director Blaze Burnham – who is one of the most energetic and prolific advocates for his school of any of the athletic directors in the area – brings it up in just about every email he sends me.

“Liberty as a whole – school, athletics and community – is in a great place right now,” Burnham said after the state title game loss. “I believe it starts with leadership, all the way starting with the school board, administration, teachers, obviously student-athletes and the parents. That might sound like an easy way to answer it, but I truly believe that.

“We get along at Liberty. We love each other. I believe that. We’re family. We always say, ‘We’re a team.’ And we work together.

“In eight years, we’ve come a long way.”

Through these interactions, I know that Liberty has made great strides in helping the school grow and improving its sports programs and facilities.

Maybe the message got lost a little bit in covering the games.

This column isn’t meant to placate anyone associated with Liberty that feels their school has been slighted this season. But it does speak to the bigger picture of providing context.

My email correspondent reminded me the results of the games are important, but what’s equally important are the kids that are playing them and the towns they represent.

I wish we had the time, space and resources needed to cover every school like it was the only one we covered.

It’s a different world now. The paper is physically smaller. Budgets are tighter. Personnel is harder to come by. We just can’t do it all, as much as we would like.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to hear from you. Quite the opposite. It’s critical you let us – and me directly – know about the important stories and issues out there. I can’t do my job without the input of coaches, athletic directors, parents and fans letting me know what’s happening in your community.

I’m trying as quickly as possible to meet as many folks associated with the programs in an effort to present a more complete picture. It’s a true pleasure to be on the field or court after games or practices to put faces to names.

That’s the best way to remember that these games are about people.