BENNETT'S MINUTES (FREE ACCESS): Making a few tweaks to Banner Graphic sports content

Thursday, January 2, 2020

You may not have noticed during the hectic holiday season, but we have made a couple of slight adjustments recently to some staples of Banner Graphic sports coverage that we want to make sure you know about.

All-county teams

I work hard and long hours to make coverage of Putnam County sports as even and equitable as possible.

Clearly the one area for which criticism has dwarfed all other areas (combined) are the all-county teams — most specifically the “Player of the Year” awards.

I will plead guilty to not streamlining the process until this year. The numbers of players on the team varied from sport to sport, but starting with volleyball there is now a set format that seems to be the best one possible.

Our football coaches do a great job of picking their own team, and since it involves the largest number of athletes it logically deserves the most players.

For volleyball and basketball, the format which will be used is this:

• The number of players each school is allowed to submit is based upon the outcome of the county tourney.

The winner gets four players, the second- and third-place teams get three players and the fourth-place team gets two players.

Coaches may determine these choices however they want. Some have chosen in the past to honor different players for all-county and all-conference, and that’s their option.

• For baseball and softball, the same system will be used except the numbers are bumped up by one (to 5-4-4-3) since more players are involved than the other three sports.

• The “Player of the Year” is now also chosen by the coaches.

While in the past I made this selection, with consultation of people who see these athletes perform, the overwhelming amount of incredibly negative backlash I have received over some of these choices has led me to pass this task on to the coaches.

The process is pretty simple. Each coach nominates one player from his/her team for consideration, and then ranks the three nominees from the other schools in a 1-2-3 order.

A point system is applied, and the person with the most points wins. In case of a tie, which I hope never happens, I have developed a lengthy series of tie-breakers that hopefully will make one nominee to be the clear winner.

I am not releasing the nominees or the vote totals, just the winner. The volleyball coaches did a great job this fall, and I suspect the other coaches will too.

‘Featured Athlete’

Easily the column I have written from which I got the most feedback was one about two years ago that very specifically detailed how things work in the sports department.

Although this feature was touched upon in that column, I am revisiting it to clear up some misconceptions that still exist.

One thing I have done to try to get everyone on the same page is to rebrand it as the “Featured Senior Athlete,” hopefully removing any notion that the person featured is being rewarded for outstanding performance in the previous week.

The phrase “of the week” is now stricken.

Here’s what this thing is:

• A one-on-one interview with a senior athlete.

• Subjects are chosen by me in a very unscientific method, rotating weekly from school to school and trying to cover as many different sports as possible.

• Best candidates are people I know to be outgoing in terms of personality, have something interesting in their background that I know about and/or have an easy way to be contacted to arrange the interview (often through social media).

I also have a soft spot for student-athletes who are great students, so don’t be surprised to see a lot of them show up.

I have recently included some people not currently playing a sport, or some others who may not be the stars of their sports, to try to steer people away from the notion that it is performance-based.

Here’s wishing a Happy New Year to everyone!