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Advocacy, the price, the toll, the rewards

Xs and Arrows

Corey Costelloe.

The journey to this point of this little column has been interesting, and the focus from just coverage to coverage and advocacy, has been a key point to take a few moments to explore.

Even the fact that this column is now on these pages and no longer in other publications stemmed from my advocacy for athletic participation during the COVID-19 shutdowns. Those words were considered "too controversial" for the sports page, when in fact those statements ring truer today than ever as increasingly "medical experts" admit some of the restrictive responses to the pandemic were in error. One door closes and another opens, it's part of the principles of life.

Advocacy, especially for our youth, is challenging yet a necessity. The most vulnerable are sometimes overlooked, and even their own parents are too busy making ends meet to take the time and effort required to help. Again, realities of life, it is nobody's fault, but it is our duty to make amends when possible.

Those efforts require action, that action requires time, people, supporters and a willingness to draw attention to an issue – more importantly a correction of that issue in a reasonable manner. We do not have access to unlimited funds, the solution is oftentimes grassroots, homegrown and requires a plan to take the proper steps for a long-term fix.

There have been plenty of those moments, from collaborating with local school officials to bring our high school facilities up to standard, from joining committees, volunteer organizations, clubs and simply meeting the right people. This column serves as collection point for many of those thoughts and a de facto "after action report."

There have been statewide issues as well, from the continued attack on youth tackle football to bureaucracy limiting our access to the great outdoors. Some of my words and actions have drawn the ire of lawmakers. My favorite to this day was when the co-author of the youth tackle football ban (the first time it was proposed), and her personal email to me claiming I targeted her because she was a female. Frankly, I targeted her because her co-authored proposal was short-sighted, stripped away the ability to parents to decide what is best of their kids and was nothing more than an attack on the nation's most popular sport due to its masculine undertones and physicality. I offered my expertise to her on the issue should it ever come up again. I have yet to be taken up on that offer, and the last time the bill was proposed (and dropped), she was no longer a co-author.

I guess you could call that a small victory. That fight however continues as new under-handed proposals are in the works, set to circumvent the legislative process in this State and put it in the hands of "medical experts." See my first reference to those folks in the opening paragraph. How did that work out for us?

The anti-rodeo folks placed me on their list of targets, and we know how far some extremists go to promote their agenda. It is certainly a feather in my cap to know that I was the source of a targeted nationwide letter-writing campaign after I advocated for the sport, the iconic man vs. nature conflict in literature of which it derives from, and the roots it has with our community. It was even suggested by one of these fine individuals that I be tied up and dragged through an arena. Don't threaten me with a good time. But then again, they wouldn't know a steer rope from a jump rope, so I think I am safe.

I recently advocated for one of the best baseball minds I know to take over the Cal State Bakersfield program after the head coach was dismissed. I received emails and text messages from all over the country from people who read it right here in The Loop, it was even the most-read story in the online edition. One of those messages came from the former coach, taking my advocacy as an insult. We sorted it out and remain on good terms, but it served as a reminder that when you put yourself out there, some like to take it out on you personally. All in a few hours of work, I guess.

Thick skin is not only a requirement, but it's a necessity. I guess when you have traveled around the country and entered some of the most hostile playing environments with the road team, had thousands of people shouting insults, been pelted with everything from cups to arena giveaway items, you grow immune to a few emails and text messages. Speaking of which, the positive far outweigh the negative ones.

If you know me by now, I am not looking to get a rise out of people, this advocacy is a call for solutions. A call to stop with the lip service and start with the public service. Dollars and action play a far more pivotal role than clicks on a website when it comes to making progress.

Striking the balance between promotion and advocacy gets skewed from time to time. I would like there to be more of a balance between the two, but sometimes taking the advocacy approach is the only way to ensure there will be something left to promote, more stories to tell, more showcasing of the talent we have here in this community and beyond. I would rather tell those stories that have to reach out to lawmakers, decision makers and purse-string controllers to make ensure we are getting a fair shake today and 20 years down the road. But one impacts the other, and somehow this mind is wired to find a way to address an issue, and ensure a future for our kids and community, and enjoy those small rewards when they come our way.

Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter, broadcaster and athletics administrator. He advocates for the value of athletic competition and serves as the President of the Tehachapi Warriors Booster Club. He can be reached at [email protected]/.