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The student news site of Fort Worth Country Day

Falcon Quill

The student news site of Fort Worth Country Day

Falcon Quill

The student news site of Fort Worth Country Day

Falcon Quill

How Did I Get Here?

Pat Doney
Talking tennis with Bob Sturm, the host of 96.7 The Ticket, at the Pat Doney Sportscaster Camp.

At the time of writing this, midterms are approaching, so I have been finding every way possible to not prepare for said tests. That also means when I try to do any type of work in class or at home, I zone out and start thinking about what feels like a thousand different things running through my mind. So in a notes-heavy Financial Math class, I started thinking about how the video with my pre and post game interviews were coming along, since the Falcon Quill Video class takes place at the same time as my Financial Math class. Originally, I was concerned that I had forgotten for the seventh-day in a row to upload photos to the Google Drive folder since I had not gotten any b-roll footage at any of the games. That got me thinking about all of the interviews I had done throughout the first semester of my senior year; my first ever pre-game interviews with Wyeth Smith ’26 and Nate Blan ’26 before their volleyball game against Greenhill, the interview with Chloe Nelson ’27 after she broke a school record at the Southwest Christian cross country meet, the five-person interview after the field hockey team dominated Highland Park 6-0, the sideline interviews with the cheerleaders before the Homecoming Football Game, and of course the four rapid-fire interviews after the football team decimated Oakridge 52-13 on the same night. Four years ago I never would have imagined myself doing anything remotely similar to this. Yet here I am considering a career in Sports Broadcasting; so exactly how did I get here?

My interview with Andrew Edwards ’24 after his stellar performance in FWCD’s 52-13 versus Oakridge. (Benjamin Hoppe)

End of 8th Grade Year:

Heading into freshman year, I got the first taste of choosing a class. Sure, in seventh and eighth grade, we, the students, had some freedom to choose our ‘fine arts’ classes, but we had even more choices in Upper School. It was no longer just a choice between art, theater, band, drumline, orchestra, and choir, but now a choice between certain areas of study within these broader categories. Student Media was also an option now. Since I had never done orchestra or choir before, theater and art weren’t really my passion, and band and drumline were ruined for me in seventh grade, I selected Student Media. So then I had to fill out a Google Form where I had to answer questions about my skill sets, what ideas I had to improve FWCD Student Media, and rank which student media class I wanted to take. 

Sitting on my bedroom floor while the world was devolving around me, I selected Yearbook as my number one choice with Journalism second. Receiving a yearbook was always a fun way to end each school year, so I thought it might be cool to help create future yearbooks (and to prevent any future pictures of George Watler ’24 in 6th grade PE being captioned under my name despite my involvement in ballet). The narcissistic side of me also believed that I could sneak in more pictures of myself into the yearbook. A few days later, the rosters for each student media class were shared. I looked at the names of the other freshmen selected for the yearbook staff and started to grow hesitant of my choice. They were all nice people, but I wasn’t close friends with any of them and didn’t know many of the upperclassmen that well either. Then I looked at the roster for journalism class and I saw Marshall Lehman’s ’24 name on it. I was good friends with Marshall, still am, so I figured I might enjoy a class with a friend of mine more than one without. I proceeded to email Lisa Wallace, the Student Media teacher, that I wanted to switch out of Yearbook and “give up my spot to another person.” That’s directly from an email I sent to Wallace in 8th grade. Maybe this is just a me problem, but I challenge everyone to go back and read one of their emails from middle school, because rereading that email, I was repulsed by my wording. Anyways, I did not tell Wallace nor anybody else the real reason for wanting to switch. And that was pretty much it. For the next four years, I assumed I would simply write stories, publish them, and call it a day. 8th grade me was very naive.

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Early into senior year, I threw a tennis ball to Marshall Lehman ’24. The ball landed a little low and temporarily injured my Co-Editor in Chief.

Freshman Year:

Freshman year, what many refer to as the ‘COVID year,’ was a blur, although I do very vividly remember spending countless minutes observing sidewalk chalk art during ‘Puzzle Time’ with Melisa Williams, US Math. This was also a big year for me in Journalism class. I kicked off the year with a story about Dan Bloch’s H‘06 retirement. I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty proud of that story. Following the publication of the story, I found my writing sweetspot, which to no one’s surprise, was tennis. I finished out freshman year writing six straight stories about tennis, each different enough to where I wasn’t prevented from writing even more. I also wrote a pretty detailed story about FWCD’s future building plans, which was sadly never published on the Falcon Quill’s Website. The story did earn a place in the 2021 Spring Edition of the Falcon Quill though, making that story a limited edition publication. Freshman year journalism class was also filled with some other pretty major moments, one of which was watching the January 6 raid on the Capitol on Zoom, which for me was followed by ‘Puzzle Time’ and a 75 minute geometry class. This was also the day I was gifted the red Nike hoodie that I proceeded to wear to school every day for the remainder of the school year. Panda Cam, started by Andrea Andrade ’24, was also a staple of journalism class that year. Basically, we, the 2020-21 Quillies, watched several pandas at a zoo in Washington D.C. do various panda activities while we procrastinated writing our stories.

At the 2023 Homecoming Dance, the 2020-21 Quillies (now four year veterans of the Quill) took a photo to commemorate senior year.
From left to right: Andrea Andrade ’24, Marshall Lehman ’24, Benjamin Hoppe ’24, and Caroline Carmichael ’24. (Sarah Casarez)

Freshman year journalism class was a pretty major stepping stone towards where I am now, although unbeknownst to me at the time. I enjoyed writing every single one of my tennis stories, one of which is in the Top-5 most read stories on the Falcon Quill website, so it didn’t take me long to pick up where I left off the following year.

Sophomore Year: 

Sophomore year was slightly less eventful for me in journalism class. I was the News Editor that year, so I had the “responsibility” of editing every news story that was written. Really, this meant I was unreasonably scared to give edits to the juniors and seniors who wrote news stories because after all, what knowledge did sophomore me have to offer to the seasoned veterans of the Upper School? This was obviously a ridiculous thought to have, but sadly, it was true, the upperclassmen scared me a little. My claim to fame sophomore year was my story about Opal Lee and her visit to FWCD. The story ended up being the center spread in the 2022 Spring Edition of the Falcon Quill and eventually led to me writing a follow up story my senior year. However, not much else happened that year journalism wise. There was a pretty ferocious debate about if Honey Nut Cheerios are better than plain Cheerios in several of our classes that year, but this argument passed almost as quickly as the school year did.

I took a photo of the Honey Nut Cheerios in the cereal isle back in sophomore year. I don’t really know what point I was trying to prove. (Benjamin Hoppe)

Junior Year:

Junior year was a turning point for me in journalism. I was co-appointed to the role as Online Editor along with Lehman, giving us unlimited power over the Falcon Quill website, sort of. Everything else started off pretty normal. My first story of the school year was about athletic director Leigh Block teaching a section of AP English Literature that year. I think the story was pretty solid, but I am most proud of the cover photo. Then, it was October. It was announced that year that the Women’s Tennis Association Finals, the WTA Finals for short, would be hosted by Fort Worth at Dickies Arena instead of Shenzhen, China due to the controversies surrounding Peng Shuai’s disappearance). The WTA Finals is the end-of-year tournament where the top eight women’s singles players and doubles teams compete against each other for what is essentially the title of ‘the best tennis player(s) in the world.’ Hearing that this event was going to take place 20 minutes away from my house instead of the original 7500 miles and an 18-hour flight away was music to my ears. I knew I had to write a story about it (I actually ended up writing two), so I started thinking of people that I should interview for the story. While doing this, Wallace suggested I talk to the father of three FWCD students, Matt Homan, who is the President and GM of Dickies Arena. So I did. After speaking with Homan, he offered me the opportunity of a lifetime; a press pass to attend the Media Day for the WTA Finals. I was ecstatic. The day of the event was everything I hoped it would be. I got to talk to several of the players, including getting one of them to swear during a press conference, watch some of their practice sessions, and even got the back of my head featured on Netflix. Afterwards, I sat in my car in the Dickies Arena parking garage and thought to myself, “that was the best experience of my life.” It was at the point I knew my passion was in sports media.

A collage from my time spent at the WTA Finals Media Day and Semi-finals day.

Three days later Pat Doney, a sportscaster for NBC 5, visited FWCD and talked to the Falcon Quill Journalism and Video staff about his journey in sports broadcasting and about the camp he would be hosting in the summer of 2023. This inspired me even more. I signed up for the camp that day and then the school year continued on. 

The rest of my stories that year were fun to write, especially my personal account of the FWCD tennis team winning the BOBI rematch in the SPC Tournament, but nothing could top the WTA Finals Media Day. Lehman and I did also attempt to revamp the Falcon Quill Website, but this project was abandoned as the end of the school year approached. At the same time, Lehman and I were co-appointed to the role of Co-Editor in Chief for the following school year. Apparently, the co- was a pretty big deal as I would find out six months later. And with that, an eventful and APUSH-filled junior year came to a close.

An inside look at the “robot” inside of Marquette University’s communications building. (Benjamin Hoppe)

Summer Before Senior Year:

Despite not having a job as a tennis instructor at the Colonial Country Club that summer due to renovations being done to the golf course, this was an eventful summer. It started off with several college tours and an IndyCar race in Wisconsin. I didn’t really do any journalism work on this trip, but I did get to see inside Marquette University’s communications building, which was a first on any college tour I had been on. A month later, the Pat Doney Sportscaster Camp started. I knew I had a passion for journalism halfway through junior year, but after attending this camp, I was certain that sports broadcasting was my future, not because I was necessarily good at it, but because I loved doing it. If the WTA Finals Media Day was the opportunity of a lifetime, then this camp was like five once-in-a-lifetime opportunities over the span of just five days. At the camp, I reported inside of Schollmaier Arena, heard from Newy Scruggs, toured The Star in Frisco and did a press conference with Tyler Smith, a second-year offensive guard for the Dallas Cowboys, practiced using a teleprompter for the first time, and reported on camera before a Rangers game at Globe Life Field. The end of the camp was a sad one, but just another month later, senior year began and I got a full taste of everything journalism had to offer. 

I probably lived just a few miles away from Tyler Smith six years ago. Last year, I sat just a few feet away from him.

Senior Year:

The start of the year was great. Now that I was a senior, I got to sit in the comfy, rolling chairs in Wallace’s room. In terms of my journalistic writing, I didn’t feel like I was writing as many stories as previous years, but I am especially happy with the stories I did write and publish. My story about FWCD teachers driving in Formula 1 was probably my favorite for about two months, but then I wrote the story about “Peter and the Starcatcher.” That story took the longest for me to complete, but it was worth the time and effort. 

Outside of my written work, I started doing pre- and post- game interviews at different sports games at FWCD so I could improve upon what I had learned over the summer at the Pat Doney Camp. When I told my advisor Joe Breedlove ’78 about this, he suggested that I join him and Rudi Flores, Breakthrough Operations Director and the Varsity Football PA announcer, in the booth at the home football games. So I did. I’m not going to lie, it was pretty fun being up in the press box despite the lack of air conditioning. Watching a soccer goal get blown across the field from a giant metal box in a massive downpour while everybody in the stands has been sent to shelter in the Patton Field House or the Schwartz Room is a pretty cool experience. The drive home during a power outage at 10 o’clock at night was not as cool. The actual announcing part was also a good experience. After the fall season ended, there wasn’t as much left for me to do reporting wise. However, it wasn’t too long before I was back in front of the camera. The week before midterms, I filmed interviews and b-roll footage for a behind-the-scenes video of the ballet performance of the Nutcracker. It was an interesting perspective to get to see and record everything that goes on behind the scenes during a ballet performance.

That’s been senior year for me so far. I still have a semester to go, decisions to make, and an SPC Championship to compete for. Looking back, it’s hard for me to believe how one simple change in my schedule redirected my life. There’s so much Journalism class has done for me. For one, I think my writing has benefited greatly from the class. I mean, I wrote a two-page speech this year that brought several people to tears (for good reasons), so that says something. I’ve also gotten to meet a lot of people; from professional tennis players, to the Grandmother of Juneteenth, to sports broadcasters, to all of the friends I’ve made in both journalism class at FWCD and at the Pat Doney camp. The last four years have been unreal, and I guess now that I’ve written everything out, I’ve answered my question of how I got here. So let’s see where the next four years take me.

The highlight of my senior year so far: performing in “Peter and the Starcatcher.” (Natalie Bracken ’05)

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About the Contributor
Benjamin Hoppe, Co-Editor in Chief
Hi everyone. I am Benjamin Hoppe, a senior, and co-editor in chief. In case you have been living under a rock, my favorite thing in the whole wide world is tennis (just take a look at what the common theme in most of my stories is). It is my fourth year on staff so I've had the opportunity to write plenty of tennis stories. When I’m not playing tennis or watching Formula 1 Racing, you can find me training to be first at the Oktoberfest Bike ride. This year varsity tennis is winning SPC Champions courtesy of muah in honor of Mr. Sil’s 5-year plan. You will also catch me taking over Andrea’s and Chris’s job of yelling “hey freshmen” every other Thursday. Kachowwww! [email protected]

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