Thursday, 12 May 2016

How I Started Blogging

Recently I was going through a folder I have on my computer with some of my past writing. It was strange to read some of the past posts and it got me thinking about when I started to write about curling. It all started out of necessity, somebody needed to write something.

For a few years we had been discussing the need for a website. As a team we were reluctant to take it on, around 2010 there didn’t seem like much end game to having a team website. Most team sites, particularly curling team sites, outlined a schedule and profiled each member, done with a build your own template online. That’s it. One click, quick two minute read through, and then no real need to come back for another visit until next year to check the updated schedule for the season.

So in early 2011 when we finally decided to create a team website, we discussed what we wanted to see and how we could continue to drive traffic after the initial click and view. First of all we hired a website building company here in Edmonton, Pixel Army, to create our site. They understood how to make the site visually appealing which helps drive traffic. We wanted our site to be a destination for curling fans, a place where visitors flocked which we could then use to impress our current and potential sponsors. We wanted to prove that we had some pull in the sport.

When we went through the site building process I proposed a “blog” section. I thought that this could be our way to “provide content” that brought fans back, keep from being a one click and never return site. I always signed the blogs “-Nolan” at the end as originally I thought all of the guys would want to write. Turns out I was the only one and to be honest I didn’t mind, I started to enjoy writing for the first time in a long time.

I started blogging quick hits about our upcoming events and other happenings with the team, nothing with too much teeth. I enjoyed writing about our team and when I started tracking page hits on Google Analytics I was surprised by how the posts were doing. The numbers wouldn't have been a blip on the radar for your average national sports site, but the average day at the beginning on saw 15-20 page hits without a post and between 500 to 1000 with a post.

After a year or so of writing I began to get fans coming up during autograph signings, or at curling clubs with similar comments “I really love your writing” “Thanks for updating and writing about the team it is very cool to see the perspective of the curlers”. Fans seemed to love the ability to read the comments of an actual athlete, who is still in the competitive arena. We see that now with the advancement of social media and websites such as the Players Tribune. Fans love hearing directly from the athletes in addition to the usual media coverage. In the past, athlete writing was often only done at the end of a career, an accumulation of stories from a long retired player with the help of a ghost writer. Now athletes are reaching out while playing, often writing on their own, and the fans are eating it up. Curling has been no different.

I know I appreciated all of the positive comments. I was often genuinely surprised that many liked my writing style. I figured it was pretty cool that I could write coherently and people enjoyed it. Not bad for an accountant who hated Language Arts and English in school.

In the third grade my teacher at Valleyview Elementary School in Brandon, MB reached her end point, she was sick and tired of reading about hockey, baseball and pro wrestling. So when report cards were sent out and parent teacher conferences were held she informed my parents that she was going to forbid me from writing any more about sports. I needed new topics to write about. What other topics were there to write about? I subsequently checked out of LA class.

I always laugh when I think about that story and where I am now in the curling world. Many know me as the “writer guy” and when high level events happen in our sport I have fans and fellow curlers sending me messages saying “when are you going to write on this topic?” "Are you sharpening your pen?" I genuinely enjoy sitting down with a curling topic in front of me, my thoughts in my head or in a notebook, and then opening a word document and working through them all. I often have it setup as:
  • What is it? What is the issue? 
  • So What? Why is that an issue?
  • Now What, is there a solution? 
I often wonder that if I was encouraged to continue to write about sports during my formative years, and my papers were graded on my writing ability not my topic of choice, that I might have been drawn to that career path. I was such a stat head that I might have still ended up in the numbers world but I will never know.

Nevertheless I now am the “writer guy” in the curling world although I am not alone, and I love it. Other athletes are writing for sites likes Curling Canada’s, TSN, Sportsnet, the Curling News and that is a win for the fans. The more ideas that we can share as athletes the better in my opinion. Even touchy topics, such as the recent #broomgate situation, should be discussed in the public by athletes. We are stakeholders in this game and we should be able to express our thoughts and be a part of the discussion. The current landscape of instant outrage and vitriol means many don't want to speak out. I for one think it's okay to have an opinion on issues and express those thoughts. The caveat, that many struggle with, is that you need to be open to other ideas and discussion, that's what drives growth. Many just take a stand and name call those who don't stand on their side of the fence. Simply stating your opinion and not moving off the topic is counterproductive to growth. I was happy to be one of the curlers who help create the discussion and love listening to ideas, I think it is healthy.

I am not going to be in the heat of the battle anymore, so my ideas and thoughts on the game might dry up. That or I might have ideas, but without being on the ice I might not have the knowledge required to provide opinions as I have in the past, who knows. Only time will tell. 

With being shut down soon I figured I would post some old blogs as Throwback Thursday Blog's on here from time to time. I have most of my archive other than some of the old posts. I do have a few but don't have the one I wrote right after devastating 2012 Brier final and 2013 provincial final losses or the Godfather preview I did for the 2013 Brier, those three I'd love to have back. You can check here for some posts in the future, see if my writing style has improved or weakened, and do it all in the name of killing time at work!

My post today is one that I wrote for the Grand Slam of Curling and was published on their site in September 2014. I cover off the 5 biggest misconceptions of curling, including sweeping topics. Quite funny to read that piece of the post and think of where we have landed in the 20 months since with sweeping, all with the backdrop of the upcoming Sweeping Summit around the corner with the goal of solving some of the issues that face our game. 

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