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Xavier Athletics Within Local Media

Image captured by Cambria McCalla

Image captured by Cambria McCalla

Cambria McCalla, Writer

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In the few months since the school’s been back in session, our sports and school spirit are at an all-time high. The stands are packed with members of the Vatican cheering on our athletes and demonstrating immense school pride. Athletic Director Mark Campbell notes that he has seen “More unity and support within our programs than in my previous seven years!” The dedicated student-athletes wait in anticipation for the news articles covering their games to go live. Their hard work is recognized on a local level. The hours of practice spent and sacrifices made for their sport are acknowledged and appreciated, or so they thought. Varsity Volleyball Captain, Jillian Whitcomb, read an article by local reporter Shad Powers concerning the match against Palm Desert with a truly appalled look on her face.

Her skill and effort acknowledgment lasted all of one sentence only to be overshadowed by the word “technicality”. I was determined to read the article she found so troubling; thus, an investigation ensued. The aforementioned article discussed the anticipation of the game and energy within the gym; the article was derailed by a description of a misawarded point. Essentially, Shad Powers, the Desert Sun reporter covering the match, believed a point was misawarded with no proper reconciliation. This singular point of a game overshadowed the upwards of 120 minutes of the game played and altered the tone of the entire article, casting a dubious light on the Xavier team. From a Saint’s point of view, the article depicted the star athletes winning on the distress of the opposing team after losing a non-crucial point to a technicality. More students read the article; the feeling of being appalled spread. I must confess; this sparked interest and further investigation of our local news sites past coverage concerning Xavier sports. My initial reaction was confirmed spread as an increasing number of the Xavier student body read the article. This school-wide feeling warranted a response. The underrepresentation of Xavier athletes” talents and skills have been systematically downplayed by our local news outlet the Desert Sun, specifically articles written by Michigan native Shad Powers.

I scoured the internet for background on this influential sports reporting member of our community. I found Powers has a sarcastic and keen sense of humor with a tendency towards self-depreciation; especially in regards to his piece “Never Been Dissed Until Now” detailing his own high school career.

Shad Powers of The Desert Sun

Sufficiently intrigued, I felt an interview was necessary. Our local reporter was more than cooperative. Mr. Powers graciously agreed to an interview and discussed his path to journalism. He found this path through a love of sports and a self-reported lack of sufficient skill to compete at the collegiate level. Thus his love of sports translated into a career in sports reporting.  Powers walked through his reporting process as describing each game or match as if he were giving a summary to a friend.

This storytelling approach came into play when discussing the Xavier vs. Palm Desert Volleyball article. The main focus is a misawarded point, leaving our Lady Saints feeling discredited and cheated. When approaching this article from a Saint’s perspective, the article is met with outrage not only from the volleyball team but also the student body. However, Powers explained, it was a crucial moment for the crowd as well. Everyone in the stands saw the argument take place between the Palm Desert coach and referee. According to Mr. Powers, The game could not have been retold without the disgruntled argument and still done the game justice. However, the speculation present with words such as “may” and “perhaps” appear to show sympathy and bias towards Palm Desert. Mr. Powers justified his word choice by saying “It was intended to describe the mindset of the crowd and player.”

This theme continues throughout all Desert Sun articles pertaining to Xavier athletics, including the “Five Teams to Watch” article, in which Xavier is described as the “loftiest,” “most loaded,” and “having club players all over”. The conclusion drawn by many Saints regarding this article was that the athletes were only competitive due to their ability to participate in club volleyball, unlike athletes from other local high schools. This heavily implies that this additional skill was acquired due to a family’s ability to pay, rather than a student’s work ethic.

This creates an elitist, misrepresented image of Xavier as a whole, as nearly 60% of our students, according to Xavier Athletic Director Mark Campbell, are on some form of financial aid. The sense of injustice in reporting carried over to Water Polo. Two of the Saints’ athletes, Kyle Cenicola and Justin Wickstrand, were listed as top athletes, but their descriptions lacked the impressive statistics present in the descriptions of non-Xavier athletes. The Saints have been done a disservice. Xavier student-athletes dedicate their passion, drive, loyalty, and love for Xavier into their sports and academics, making Xavier a focal point of their identities. Impartial reporting is expected.

This story needed to be shared. The misrepresentation of our athletes had to be confronted and resolved. In this case, bias needed to be left at the door. Throughout the course of the interview with Mr. Powers, he displayed nothing but respect for our athletes, which was honestly quite shocking. Each article referenced above was, in fact, intended as a compliment towards our athletes. The volleyball girls are a force to be reckoned with. They dedicate immense amounts of time to their sport, and it shows on the court as they claim the title of DEL Champs with an undefeated season. The comments made about the “loaded team” were intended as a testament to the talent present on our court and not about insinuating the majority of our players having the financial ability to play on club teams. The Water Polo Boys lack individual stats, Powers explained, because they work as a cohesive unit as Coach Pavol instills in all of his athletes. “They are a balanced team, individually they may not have impressive stats but they are strong when working as a unit.”

Upon questioning Mr. Powers, it became clear that he was unaware of the Saint perspective in reading the articles “I am saddened to hear they were taken that way, that is not how they were intended.” I invited Shad Powers to see the family-centric Xavier community in action. Our athletes were displaying a show of love for their brothers and sisters when expressing concerns over the Desert Sun stories. The Saint’s perspective is one of a man or woman with and for others. Our student-athletes are dedicated, cohesive, and upstanding pillars of our community and serve as ambassadors within our greater community and deserve to be portrayed as such. Many thanks to Shad Powers for his cooperation and input.

“NEVER BEEN DISSED-UNTIL NOW.” NEVER BEEN DISSED-UNTIL NOW | Chicken Soup for the Soul, 2 July 2014, www.chickensoup.com/book-story/50568/never-been-dissed-until-now.

Powers, Shad. “Water Polo: Rancho Mirage Happy to Finally Be Part of Desert League, but Can They Compete?” Desert Sun, Palm Springs Desert Sun, 15 Sept. 2018, www.desertsun.com/story/sports/high-school/water-polo/2018/09/13/water-polo-preview-rancho-mirage-happy-desert-empire-league/1121971002/.

Powers, Shad. “Xavier Prep Tops the List, but Desert Volleyball Brimming with Talented Teams, Players.” Desert Sun, Palm Springs Desert Sun, 27 Aug. 2018, www.desertsun.com/story/sports/high-school/volleyball/2018/08/27/xavier-prep-tops-list-but-desert-volleyball-brimming-talent/1044072002/.

Powers, Shad. “Xavier Prep Volleyball Holds off Scrappy Palm Springs Bunch to Open League Play with Win.” Desert Sun, Palm Springs Desert Sun, 12 Sept. 2018, ux.desertsun.com/story/sports/high-school/volleyball/2018/09/12/xavier-prep-volleyball-holds-off-scrappy-palm-springs-del-victory/1220927002/.

Powers, Shad. “Xavier Prep Volleyball Passes League Test with Flying Colors, Sweeps Palm Desert.” Desert Sun, Palm Springs Desert Sun, 19 Sept. 2018, www.desertsun.com/story/sports/high-school/volleyball/2018/09/19/saints-top-palm-desert-complete-difficult-three-game-stretch-3-0/1336165002/.

 

 

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Xavier Athletics Within Local Media