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A Northern Virginia Daily special anniversary section

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Daily staff dedicated to sports

By Tommy Keeler Jr.
Daily Staff Writer

Sports photo

Warren County defensive back and wide receiver Darrell Whitmore tackles Handley's William Jackson during Warren County's 14-10 victory over Handley on Nov. 10, 1986.
Daily file

Glenn Proctor

Strasburg High School football coach Glenn Proctor chats with his 1983 team duriing a Saturday afternoon game.
Daily file

Strasburg baseball team celebrates

Strasburg's Josh Kibler jumps onto his teammates as the Rams baseball team celebrates after the final to win the state championship over Grayson County in 2007.
Rich Cooley/Daily file

As times have changed, so has sports coverage in The Northern Virginia Daily.

The Daily's sports coverage has felt the impact from changing technology, the addition of several high schools in the coverage area and the growing number of prep sports offered in local districts.

Some former staffers, like state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., remember a time when coverage had to be reported by phone -- and sometimes through the mail.

"I used to have to call in my story to the Daily," said Potts, who was a sports reporter at the Daily from 1959 to 1964. Potts also wrote columns for the Daily while he was a student at the University of Maryland.

"When I wrote my column from Maryland, I used to have to mail them in, and I had to make sure I sent them early enough so they would get them in time," he said.

Now it's not unusual for reporters to take laptop computers to games and send their stories from the field to the Daily through the Internet. Some simply return to one of the Daily's offices after games to write their stories on a computer.

In the 10 years that Jeff Gilbert worked in the Daily's sports department, he saw plenty of changes, but perhaps none were more significant than improvements to the computer system.

Gilbert, who worked at the Daily from 1987 to 1997, said a more advanced system helped the department improve the quality of the coverage.

"It was a welcome change," said Gilbert, who now is the sports editor at the Roanoke Times. "We used to have to cut and paste everything. I don't think it really saves any time, but it allows you to be much more creative with how the paper looks."

Before Gilbert arrived at the Daily, there were only two full-time members of the sports staff. Gilbert was added as a third, and in 1996, with the addition of the new computer system, the full-time sports staff grew to four.

The changes allowed for better coverage of the area's high school teams, including more features on local athletes.

Over the years, the Daily has dedicated more pages to the sports section. In 1932 there were sometimes only one or two stories about sports in each issue. Now there are four to six pages dedicated to sports coverage every day.

One reason the sports staff has grown is to keep pace with the additional high schools in the Northern Shenandoah Valley. Skyline High School opened in Warren County this fall, bringing the number of high schools in the Daily's primary coverage area to 10 public schools and three private schools.

Meanwhile, schools across the area have expanded their athletic programs.

"When I was there we only had football, basketball, baseball and track," Potts said. "There were no women's sports because they weren't allowed to compete, which was a grave injustice."

During the fall, football is now joined by golf and cross country. In the winter there is basketball, wrestling, swimming and indoor track. Spring is the sports staff's busiest season, with coverage including baseball, softball, soccer, tennis and outdoor track.

In the future, some school's may add even more programs, such as lacrosse and field hockey.

During the summer, the Daily's coverage focuses on the Valley Baseball League, a wooden-bat summer league for college baseball players, many of whom have gone on to play major league baseball.

Four of the league's 11 teams are in the Daily's coverage area.

The Daily also tries to offer readers solid coverage of local colleges, such as Shenandoah University in Winchester and James Madison University in Harrisonburg; local athletes playing college sports; and nearby national teams such as the Washington Redskins, the Washington Wizards, the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals.

* Contact Tommy Keeler Jr. at tkeeler@nvdaily.com


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