Open letter to student-athletes

It is not customary for reporters to formally address a reply to something they wrote like I am about to do, but given what a close-knit community we have at Canisius, the reputation of the person who spoke out and the emotion she invested in her reply, I felt it deserved a response. 
This is written specifically to Christina and the women’s soccer team, but really to any student-athlete or human being who cares to give it read. 

Christina,

A friend brought to my attention the post you wrote today. You poured your heart and soul into it and I thought you deserved a response.

I haven’t had a chance to get to know you personally through my two years and change at Canisius, but from a distance I’ve always been impressed that not a single person on campus has ever had a bad thing to say about you. When your name gets brought up (we do talk about you, just like every other athlete), all I ever hear about you are glowing reports, and that includes everyone from other staff writers on The Griffin to fellow athletes, members of the athletic department and even random conversations I overhear at parties.

You obviously love your teammates, and I’m sure that extends to your friends and other people you know on campus. That’s a good part of the reason you have such an outstanding reputation. It’s your job as a senior on the team to look out for everyone else, so I understand where you are coming from.

As a journalist, I’m supposed to be objective and not have a rooting interest in the games, but let’s be honest, I never want a Canisius team to lose. Just like you have your job on the team, I need you to understand my job, to report the truth and give criticism where criticism is due.

I was in the press box for the game mentioned in the article when Maria scored her first goal. I know Bri personally and I pulled her aside for an interview after the game. Everyone knows she’s been struggling to score; it’s not a secret. She looked stressed out and like she was pressing, so I asked about it. She’s an important player to the team and like Jim said, you guys need her to score.

When last year’s league-leading scorer hasn’t scored in a while, that’s a story. It doesn’t mean she sucks at soccer or is a bad person, but it does mean exactly what it sounds like: she’s in a slump. Those happen. I play soccer and (being that I’m not very good) I definitely know how it feels when you just can’t catch a break. I see the ways she’s trying to help get other players open and create space for them, and I presented that side of the story in the article. She’s quoted about how stressful it has been and how she’s working to set up other people.

I was happy for her when I saw she assisted the game-winning goal at Delaware State. That was good, however it doesn’t change the fact that the team still needs her to put the ball in the net. I was fair in my assessment and I stand by what I wrote. As for bulletin board material, I’m sorry but I just don’t see it. There were details I left out, places I could have been harsher. You and I both know you really should score on a penalty kick, which Bri did not earlier this year. Jim said straight out that he thinks she’s pressing and he subbed her for Brooke because her work ethic maybe wasn’t where it needed to be. Those are things your coach said, and he knows you guys way better than I do.

If you really want to know, I had planned on writing a column this week about how everyone needs to cut Bri some slack. I know how agonizing it’s been for her and the stress she’s under from everyone around her, especially her parents.

The game recap I wrote that was accompanied by the notebook (which I’ll link to at the bottom) was positive and focused on the feat that Maria, a freshman just over 5-feet tall who started on the bench, was able to win a header in such an important spot for the game’s only goal. It was a lighthearted piece and she got a lot of praise from Jim and Bri.

Admittedly, I was a little disappointed in how the articles were laid out online. Had they gone in a newspaper the next day (they were both written that afternoon), the recap would have been the big article and the notebook would have been a sidebar; they’re meant to be read together, in sequential order.

The part at the end about Maria’s goof was meant to be humorous. She slipped up, haha, very funny. We were both laughing with each other about it on the field after the game. There should have been more spacing online to show that it was not just a continuation from the part about Bri, but if read immediately after the positive game recap, I think the lightheartedness shows through and people will understand that it was funny. If Maria still feels offended by the piece, she is welcome to talk to me about it in person and I will give her an apology.

I know you guys are student-athletes and not professionals, but the majority of you are here on scholarship and you play a prominent role in representing the college. Being in the spotlight makes you subject to criticism, and as the sports editor of the paper and a self-respecting journalist, it’s my job to provide it; I’d be failure if I didn’t. I spend most of the year covering basketball and hockey, but I also do things like come out to your games, show up at cross country meets, go to synchronized swimming championships and sit through freezing rain at baseball games – all while being a commuter student who drives in from home for every single event. My commitment to Canisius athletics is unparalleled in this regard. I do my best to be there and let everyone know when women’s soccer or any other Canisius team has success, but that’s a two-way street. The notebook entry was not the first time I’ve given criticism to a college athlete or team and I can promise you it will not be the last.

Unfortunately, I have a hockey game this Friday night and will not be able to attend your game against Duquesne. I anxiously await reading the Twitter updates from GoGriffs (that I have sent to my phone so I can stay up-to-the-second on how you all are doing) when I get out of the locker room.

Christina, if you, Maria, Bri or any other member of the team would like to meet up over Tim Horton’s this week, I’ll do my best to find a time that can work for all parties involved. I take my coffee black.

Lastly, I know you’ve missed time this season battling injury, so from someone who missed all of his senior soccer season in high school because of a knee surgery, I wish you all the best in your recovery.

Sincerely,

Nick Veronica, Sports Editor

P.S.
Rumor is there’s some unfinished business you guys want to take care of in Baltimore the first weekend of November. I look forward to your phone call after the game – I want to hear all about it.

Link to the game recap: http://www.thegriffincanisius.com/sports/unlikely-hero-wins-it-for-griffs-1.2574341

Link to the accompanying notebook: http://www.thegriffincanisius.com/sports/women-s-soccer-notebook-1.2574346

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