"The Willows definitely taught me how to . . . figure out 'me' and what I'm about."

Geoffrey Rock, Class of 2005, recently started a football-analysis blog, called Don't Drop The Rock. Read Geoff's blog here: dontdroptherock.wordpress.com

What do you remember of the school’s early days? I remember it was a very small place – just the one building when I started there. I remember having classes in trailers in first grade while Willows 2 was being built. I remember all the performances and such were held in the central atrium of Willows 1 until the multi-purpose room came along.

What are your fondest memories of Willows? Wow, that’s a tough question. The whole experience I remember so fondly that it’s difficult to single out a few particular moments, but I’ll try. I think the plays were always a highlight for me – I was pretty nervous about having to sing and be onstage in 6th grade when we did “The Pajama Game,” so being able to do it, and have it go so well, was actually a pretty big thing in my life. My fondest memories are things that are a little more intangible. I loved playing football for Willows. I wasn’t that big on sports when I was little, so it was kind of surprising to my parents when I wanted to play, but I’m glad they supported me in doing so. I think being part of those teams is what really shaped my love and appreciation of football. A lot of what I think about the game now goes back to watching it on Sundays with my Willows buddies.

How has The Willows shaped your personal and professional lives? Really, I should turn it around and ask, how hasn’t it? I learned so much there, and not just facts and school related stuff (though I got a lot of that too), but also stuff about how to, for lack of a better term, be a human being. All schools preach this, but I really think The Willows is the best at creating a safe place for kids to explore all kinds of different things and sort of figure out what makes them tick as a person. The Willows definitely taught me how to do that – how to figure out “me” and what I’m about.

What about The Willows’ education has stayed with you? I think what The Willows does for you goes a lot deeper than just what words you know and those sorts of things. Like I said before, The Willows basically teaches you how to be a person. Learning how to learn, etc. At The Willows, the kids aren’t just a product. You have a relationship with your teachers that is special and unique. It’s not just about planting the right facts in your head for them; they want to share their passion for something cool and interesting with you. I think that’s really where The Willows education has stuck with me: in seeing education and learning as not about getting the right answer, but as about absorbing and connecting with the information so that it means something to you.

How long have you been working on your blog The Rock: Football for the Thinking Fan? What inspired you to create a football-analysis blog? I started this blog with the start of this football season – my first piece was a recap of the opening night game between the Packers and the Seahawks. One of the reasons I wanted to move to New York was to work on my writing. My main focus in screenwriting and fiction, but I’ve always loved sports and talking about them, so I thought sportswriting might be a good thing to try my hand at. I’d been (and still am, really) looking for work with various sports media outlets, so I kind of figured that it would be good practice to write a piece on a game, just in case one of them asked to see what my work was like. But there’s a zillion and one sites out there where you can read the score and a description of what happened, but relatively few that will go into the deep detail of how and why certain things happened. Why did a key sack happen? How did this guy throw such a bad interception? Why wasn’t Team X able to run the ball against Team Y’s defense? These are the kind of questions that interest me with regard to football, so I wanted my blog to kind of delve deeper and look at these kind of things.

What writers have inspired you? Opinion wise, two guys that I really like are Rick Reilly and Keith Olbermann. They look at sports through the way they impact people, or society, etc. That’s something that I’m interested in. They add humanity and poetry back into the games.

Do you have any advice for Willows alumni or students who want to write about sports? Diving out there into writing is really hard – you put so much of yourself into your work, that it’s a pretty scary prospect to let other people see it. You have to just take the plunge. There’s not much that can be said to make it easier. You just have to do it. The more practice you can get, the better. You have to put in the work. You have to practice. And you have to stop believing that you’re not a writer, or an artist, or whatever, because one day you struggle with it. If you want to be a writer, then write. That’s all I can offer you, really. But I hope it helps.
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