OPINA'S OPINION - Forming a Champions of Charac Story: Cummins - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

OPINA'S OPINION - Forming a Champions of Character Story: Taylor Cummings

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EDITOR'S NOTE: This blog was meant to accompany the Champions of Character video. Click here to watch the story first before reading this accompanying blog post


I had no idea what I was getting into when I made my first ever trip to Havre, Montana.

Seriously. I had no idea.

I mean, you don't exactly expect to find a Champions of Character story when all you were going to do was visit a basketball team practice for the first time.

The MSU-Northern Men's and Women's Basketball had been absolutely ROLLING. Both were nationally ranked and their defenses were statistically #1 in the country at the time of my visit.

They deserved some LOVE from the media!! So we decided to give them some "pub."

I thought this was going to be a short and simple trip--visit MSU-Northern, do some interviews with the coaches and players, get some practice video and call it a day. Badabing Badaboom.

Skylights Head Coach Chris Mouat and I chatted for a bit after our interview was done. We were waiting for one of his players to stop by so that I could also chat with her.

Somehow the subject of our Champions of Character series came up. I told him how we previously did a CoC story on one of the Men's players, Roshawn West. I asked him if he knew of anyone that would make a good CoC story.

Without even hesitating, he said "Taylor Cummings."

What a coincidence. Remember that player I mentioned that was on her way to meet me? Yeah, that was her. I was about to meet my next Champions of Character story.

I asked Coach Mouat why the former Belt Husky would be good for the Champions of Character series. I forget what he said word-for-word, but it was something along the lines of, "well, her Dad died and I didn't think she was going to come back to the team. And she did. She earned the starting spot."

In the world of News (TV, Radio or Paper), something like that is enough to grab the attention of reporters and journalists (unfortunately). It's just the way this business works sometimes. People love "perseverance" and "rising-above-tragedy" stories.

Personally, I hated those kinds of stories. They're so overdone and I don't like telling sad stories.

It also wasn't exactly the type of story I would try to take on. I always look for unique stories…. something that's different or sticks out.

When I was still the sports reporter in Helena, I did CoC stories on a Carroll Cheerleader who is also in the National Guard, an All-American Carroll Soccer player who has an eating disorder and another Cheerleader who was going after a backhand springs world record.

Now, I am NOT saying that these subjects are more interesting than Taylor Cummings. That's is certainly far from the case.

It's just that……I don't handle these kinds of situations well. I'm not good with "emotional" and "feely" kinds of things. There's no way I'd be able to tackle the story of Taylor Cummings.

The last time I did a sports story that involved a death was when a Helena Bighorns hockey player died in a vehicle accident. Between the funeral, the tears and being embedded in an entire community that felt the pain of not having Wyatt Winfield with us anymore, it was NOT easy to be around.

I mean, the hardest thing for a reporter to do is talk to someone who lost a loved one. We don't like to bring it up. We don't like to ask about it. But we have to in order to make a living.

Also, MSU-Northern needed a CoC story since we generally rotate between all the NAIA schools in our viewing area (Carroll and University of Great Falls).

That means I had to eliminate excuses and put on my "can-do" attitude. Time to put-up or shut up.

Challenge accepted!!!

I finally got the ball rolling about a month after I met Taylor from my first visit to Havre. I called Coach Mouat just to see what I can learn about Taylor or her dad. See what else I can include in her story.

I will never forget what he told me on the phone.

"Let me get one thing clear," he said while playing outside with his dog. "Taylor was a Champion of Character before her dad passed away. And she's still one today."

It completely changed the way I looked at Taylor's story.

So much, that it actually provided the outline to how I wanted to tell it.

She's not some sensitive, vulnerable girl that kept playing basketball because her dad passed away. There was SO much more to Taylor Cummings that I was about to discover. The story elements found their way to me.

Taylor is really involved on Campus at MSU-Northern? Cool, she's a social butterfly.

She's a student ambassador? Sweet, even better.

She's a 4.0 GPA Student?? Okay, now I'm starting to see how she's a Champion of Character.

She started a Basketball tournament back in her hometown of Belt, Montana to raise money for the Susan G. Komen foundation? Okay, that's actually really, REALLY cool.

Belt High named their athletic hall of fame after her dad? Okay, that could be the "surprise" I throw into the story.

Anyway, going back to Mouat's comments on the phone. It gave me the inspiration to format the script for her story like this:

-Taylor the Basketball Player (P-I-G Champion)

-Taylor the Basketball Player (PG for the #1 Scoring Defense in the country)

-Taylor giving back to her community (Susan G. Komen, etc)

-My stand-up where I mention her being an ambassador and 4.0 GPA, and lead into her dad

-Have Taylor tell the story of her dad

-Why Taylor wanted to continue to play

-Belt Hall of Fame

-Come up with cool, memorable ending (always the hardest part)


Little did I realize I was only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

I didn't really realize what kind of a person Taylor was until I started poking and prodding around the Havre/Belt communities.

After all my digging around, I became thoroughly convinced that Taylor Cummings must be the most loved person in all of Belt.


Think of the word "Taylor Cummings" as an activation switch.

I say her name and people would "perk up" and start to go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on (you get the idea) about what a wonderful person she is.


Loose example:

Me: "Hi. I'm doing a story on Taylor Cummings, a former Belt Husky."

Belt resident: "Taylor???? Oh, you could NOT have picked a better person! You know she started a basketball tournament to raise money for the Susan G. Komen tournament???? She's amazing!!!!!"

One of her High School teachers talked for a good 2-4 minutes about how she was the definition of a Champion of Character.

Another woman who worked at the office at Belt High just fired away at how much she loved Taylor.

If I had a dollar for every "I love Taylor Cummings" comment I heard while I was making this story, I would finally have enough money to buy my Mom that Mercedes Benz she's always wanted.

I have never personally witnessed any of Taylor's selfless acts. I can only tell her story through the accounts of others.

Taylor Cummings has a story that DESERVES to be told.

Chris Mouat was right.

Taylor was a Champion of Character before her dad passed away. And it's because she's a Champion of Character that she was able to get through it.

How could I not want to tell Taylor's incredible, amazing, inspirational story?

And so……my sixth ever Champions of Character story was written, cut, produced and aired.

I showed the story to Coach Mouat, Taylor and her family when I was up in Havre covering their playoff game versus Carroll. It felt good to get the "family approval" before airing that story.

It was NOT an easy story to do. But I did it. And I had plenty of help from people feeding me pictures and whatnot.

Shout out to everyone who went out of their way to help me put this story together: Taylor Cummings, Tanner Cummings, Terry Cummings, Ben Kaplan for reading my script, Blake Arthur for getting BRoll of Taylor when MSUN played at UGF, Coach Mouat, Coach Jeff Graham, Patty Kolar, Patty's daughter who helped find pictures, Keith Hoyer, Laramie Schwenkie and that student at Belt High who got the keys to unlock the gate that goes to the 2nd floor of Belt High's gym so that I could shoot my stand-up.

My sincerest apologies if there was anyone I forgot. Tweet me (@DerekOpina) and I'll edit this blog post to include your name.

And watch the original story by clicking here