5 Takeaways on Award-Winning Sports Writer Dave Kindred’s Decision to Cover High School Girls Basketball
The Illinois-based journalist, famous for his coverage of Muhammad Ali, said writing about the Morton High School Girls Basketball Team, the Lady Potters, has been some of his most rewarding work yet.
Famed sports writer Dave Kindred spent half a century covering all sports – from Super Bowls, to the Olympics and NASCAR races. Not only has he penned story after story about Hall of Famers, Kindred quickly gained accolades in his own field, winning journalism awards like the Dick Schaap Award for Outstanding Journalism in 2011 and the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing in 2018.
Today, he says his work covering the Morton High School Girls basketball team – a local team from his native Illinois – has been some of his most rewarding yet.
Here’s what we learned from Kindred’s interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes."
Cheering on Local High School Teams Was Part of the Retirement Plan – Writing About Them Wasn’t
Kindred and his high school sweetheart and wife, Cheryl Liesman, decided to settle down in their native central Illinois in 2010, and when they, like the other small-town parents, went to support the local high school basketball team’s game, Kindred couldn’t help but write about it.
“Like the old war horse, I couldn't sit there and not write about what I saw,” Kindred said.
The Morton High School Girls basketball coach, Bob Becker, was quick to approve.
“We've got the Michael Jordan of sports writing [falling] in our lap,” Becker told “60 Minutes.” “And here I am, a small town girls basketball coach.”
Just as earnest as Kindred was covering Wimbledon, the team — named the Lady Potters — could count on the eagle-eyed reporter to be waiting outside their locker-room after the game, looking for a quote.
Kindred’s Writing Came at a Price – One Box of Milk Duds
Kindred had originally approached Becker about writing for the team’s website and social media, but insisted that his award-winning labor wouldn’t come cheap.
“I said, ‘Look, I'm a professional sports writer. I should be getting something for doing all this stuff for you,’” he recalled telling Becker. “And he measured my talent and experience and good looks and said, ‘How about a box of Milk Duds every game?’”
Kindred continued, “And I said, ‘Deal.’"
As Kindred Supported the Team, They Supported Him Right Back
“This team did save me,” Kindred said of the Lady Potters.
Kindred explained that he began facing his own troubles in life after returning to his hometown. His grandson, Jared, and mother died, and his wife, Cheryl, suffered a serious stroke that left her an invalid and unable to communicate – all within several months of each other.
And all that time, he turned to the Lady Potters for a sense of normalcy and positivity.
“What started as fun became life-affirming,” Kindred said. “My life had turned dark. You know, they were light. And I knew that that light was always gonna be there two or three times a week.”
Kindred Has Written More About the Lady Potters Than He Has About Muhammad Ali
The seasoned sports writer is famous for his coverage on Muhammad Ali, following the heavyweight champion throughout his career with more than 300 interviews and a 2006 biography on Ali and his relationship with reporter Howard Cosell.
Kindred even affectionately earned the nickname “Louisville” from Ali, as he knew him as his hometown reporter, and recalled a quirky anecdote in which Ali insisted he get into bed and under the sheets with him.
But even in his many years covering Ali, Kindred said he has likely written more about the Lady Potters to date.
“I've written more than 300 games, probably more than 500,000 words,” he said. “I've written more about that girls basketball team than I've written about anything, including Ali.”
And the teen basketballers have come to depend on his coverage.
“I get a lot of texts from my grandparents and relatives,” said Katie Krupa, of the Lady Potters. “And it's always, ‘I read Dave's article. Heard you had a good game.’”
Kindred’s Biggest Piece of Advice
“Write what you see,” Kindred said. “You want the reader to see the moment the way you see it.”
He explained he became as successful a writer as he is by learning from his peers. Early in his career, Kindred recalled purchasing copies of the Sports Illustrated and The New York Times to follow the work of journalists he admired.
“I studied them,” he said. “One of the things I've learned about writing is find out what you like. Then figure out why you like it, and then do that.”
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