Farewell LNHS: My thanks from outside the line

June 29, 2016

My hand shook as I unfolded the wrinkled sheet of computer paper.

The night before the first interview of my career, I carefully crafted and typed out each question I would ask Lakeville North football coach Brian Vossen. I came in confident and ready to pepper Vossen with these questions the next day, but the moment I walked into the football offices following equipment turn-in and sat down on the worn-out couch, I quickly lost that courage.

Yes, I was a sophomore in the program who dressed for the second half of the season, but to him, I was all but a stranger. What if I asked him a bad question or elicited his anger?  I could jeopardize my playing time as a junior, so I thought. I was emotionally and mentally paralyzed.

So, I handed Vossen the sheet. He answered all 11 questions while I stared at him as my Samsung Galaxy cell phone recorded his responses. What I intended to be a question and answer between Vossen and I quickly turned into the complete opposite.

As it turned out, I never played another down of football, not because the interview went badly, but because I found a different passion: reporting. I did not know it at the time, but on that equipment turn-in day, I turned my shoulder pads and helmet in for a reporter’s notebook and press pass as I began my time on the Lakeville North beat.

Looking to make a greater impact, I saw storytelling as my avenue to accomplish that. I began reporting on Lakeville North sports during the offseason.  As fall approached, I realized I could not give both football and sports reporting the commitment they required, so I had to make a decision.

I chose reporting—the toughest decision of my life.

But now, over 800 interviews, almost 200 stories and 2.5 years later, I have no regrets as my time on the LNHS beat comes to an end with the final words of this column.

I’ll miss the people I worked with the most. I talk to people to write about people in stories that will be read by people. The people at Lakeville North made this job an absolute blast.

The people I covered played an integral role in the fun I’ve had.  Every individual, athlete, or coach affiliated with Lakeville North treated me with the utmost respect and courtesy.

The same cannot be said for all other schools I have covered, sadly.

Regardless of the highs and lows of games, no athlete or coach at Lakeville North ever refused to speak with me. And for that, I am grateful.

Most of my Lakeville North post game interviews came after victories, though. Winning is not an aspiration at LNHS. It is an expectation.

Drew Stewart’s five-point play in the state championship. The boys’ hockey team’s 31-0 season. JP Macura’s state semifinal buzzer-beater. Morgan Manes’ triple overtime goal at state. Kyle Football’s comeback effort against Rosemount. I have countless memories from the 20 plus state tournaments at which I covered the Panthers.

Writing about these moments was a privilege. These moments stand out as ones in which an athlete or group of athletes rose to the occasion on a big stage and seized victory.

I am going to miss just about everything that comes with covering Lakeville North, but the thing I will miss most:

You.

I cannot help but smile thinking about the last 2.5 years
Photo by Nick Lieser
My interaction with you, the reader and follower, has made the past 2.5 years and absolute thrill. Thank you all for the continued support as I continue my journalism career at the University of Missouri

The past 2.5 years would not be the same without my readers, viewers, listeners and followers. Whatever I write, broadcast or tweet wouldn’t be the same without you. If not for you, I would just be writing and talking to myself—weird, right?

All kidding aside, the support I have received from the greater Lakeville community while on the beat has meant so much to me.

I won’t lie to you: I made sacrifices to be the best reporter I can be.  I never sat in the student section because I sat in the press box. I never hung out with friends after games because I had a story to write. I never took part in state championship celebrations because, well, I reported on them.

Although my high school experience was quite different from that of most, I wouldn’t trade it for any other. That is mainly thanks to your support.

You have made me feel so loved in ways that I know I would not have experienced had I taken a more conventional high school path.

Before I walked into that room to interview Vossen, I planned to take that conventional path. I coveted a starting spot on the varsity football team and yearned to walk Lakeville North’s halls as one of the ‘boys of fall’.

Would I have regretted staying in football and taking a more conventional path in high school? Not at all.  From being around the sport and covering it for the past two seasons, I know these young men created memories they won’t forget until the day they die, largely thanks to the winning environment Vossen has created.

Giving this up was extremely difficult for me; I loved playing football, and I still love the sport to this day.

But covering Lakeville North has allowed me to meet and create relationships with people I likely would not have met otherwise.

As a journalist, I have always refrained from telling my readers, listeners or followers what to do or what to think. But as I write my final words to you, I want to give you advice based off of my experience from the past 2.5 years.

Dare to be different.

In the line we all walk in, if you constantly follow the person in front of you, you will struggle to find your voice or your passion. You will continue to trail behind the dreamers and the visionaries who make discoveries and create history.

Don’t be afraid to step outside the line. The path may not be as smooth, but you could bump into excellence while you’re out there.

It certainly wasn’t easy for me to turn my football pads in for a reporter’s notebook and press pass. But if I hadn’t made that trade, you wouldn’t be reading this. If I hadn’t made the trade, this goodbye wouldn’t be so difficult. 

Because I made that trade, my life has been enriched beyond my wildest dreams.

So, step outside the line that many walk in.

You won’t regret it.

3 Comments

3 Responses to “Farewell LNHS: My thanks from outside the line”

  1. Sandy Flen on June 30th, 2016 1:11 pm

    You are an inspiration to so many students! Thank you for your great reporting and keeping everyone up to speed on what was going on in Lakeville sports.
    You will go very far in your future endeavors. I looked forward to seeing you do great things.
    Good luck, and keep stepping outside the line.
    The Flen’s

  2. Michelle Nippa on July 1st, 2016 9:38 am

    Nick,
    One sentence stood out to me that gave me such hope for our future. Dare to be Different! As a mother of two that graduated from LHS in the 90s, I know how hard the choice for you had to be. Dare to be Different! How refreshing in a world where we are all afraid of that sentence. (Even us “seniors” sometimes.)

    Good luck in your future. As my granddaughter, Anna Bastyr, just said in her recent graduation speech “remember to not let fear stand in your way. There will be times when you just want to play it safe, but even the slightest step out of your comfort zone could pave the way for a monumental opportunity.”

    Good luck Nick in all you do and never forget to “Dare to be Different.”

    Michelle Nippa
    Florida (former Lakeville resident)

  3. Darcy Hoff on July 1st, 2016 10:23 am

    From the moment I had you as a student in 6th grade, I knew you dared to be different. You made choices for yourself that are not based on what your peers think. In the process, you won their admiration. I know I will hear about amazing things that you do in the future. This is just the beginning for you. Congrats.

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Farewell LNHS: My thanks from outside the line