Don’t take yourself too seriously. Work hard and take what you do seriously, but be able to laugh at yourself and your mistakes.
This was some of the wisdom Mike Babcock shared with York College students today as he visited campus as a guest lecturer. It was the first time Babcock had been back to campus since he was a student in 1966. He shared stories and advice from his long career in sports journalism with a group of communication majors.
Currently Babcock is a writer and editor for Hail Varsity magazine—the voice of Husker Nation. He has also had a successful career as a freelance sports writer, book author, and journalist for the Lincoln Journal Star.
“I always wanted to be a sports writer, not a ‘real’ journalist,” he told students. “I had a goal of being a sports journalist, but I didn’t know how to prepare for that career.”
Babcock’s preparation began at York College. He had an English class with Dr. William Epperson, a dynamic young teacher. “He made literature come alive,” says Babcock, who decided he wanted to follow in Dr. Epperson’s footsteps. He declared English as his major, eventually earning a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in the subject.
Years later he was teaching English at a community college in Illinois when he started working the sports desk at a tiny local newspaper on Friday nights. He gathered and reported scores from high school games in the area.
It was a small investment, but it paid big dividends. That opportunity led to another, and eventually he was able to land his dream job as a sports writer covering the Huskers at the Lincoln Journal Star.
“I felt like I had the best job in Lincoln,” he said, as he told students about conversing with Husker legends like Tom Osborne and Lance VanZandt at practices and before games.
Babcock describes Osborne as one of the most highly principled and intelligent people he’s ever met. While Osborne is unpretentious and easy to talk to, Babcock confessed he never really felt completely comfortable in the presence of the legendary coach.
Babcock recently co-authored the book Tom Osborne on Leadership: Life Lessons from a Three-Time National Championship Coach.
He says writing about the Huskers professionally is a dream come-true. “If I could do anything, it would be doing what I do. If I could live anywhere, it would be Southeast Nebraska. This is where my heart is.”
While he loves Husker football and basketball and would watch games even if he wasn’t getting paid for it, Babcock advised students to diversify their skills and interests, so as not to become defined by their career. “Sports wilting is what I do but not what I am,” he told them. Babcock also enjoys music, films, and reading a wide variety of books. Doing something other than sports helps him be a better writer. Have a passion for what you do, but keep it in balance, he told students.
(Photo: Babcock poses for a picture with his former YC baseball coach Paul Touchton, currently a member of the York College Board of Trustees, after chapel. Touchton is holding an autographed copy of Babcock's latest book, Tom Osborne on Leadership: Life Lessons from a Three-Time National Championship Coach.)
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