Generally, I don't wait until the last minute to do things. I arrive early for the games I cover. I finish my stories before the copy editors yell to wrap it up. I mail Christmas cards within a week of Thanksgiving.
Clearly, however, there are exceptions. I haven't yet submitted my "2010 wish list" to Santa.
This is one deadline I will barely make.
I've been around long enough that I'm hoping this late notice won't be a problem for a first-time offender. I've even been to the big guy's house, and that was a cool experience. You could even say we're buds. Me and Santa.
Besides, I have everything I want this year – the family is all in town for the holiday – so the focus on the eve of Christmas is gifts that would be appropriate and necessary for others.
Santa, for your convenience, I'll alphabetize my list by last name or school name and provide a brief explanation so you can understand why these requests are important.
I promise to write earlier next year. Love your hat.
A to F
Amy Boscolo: A packet of smiley faces. Spending any amount of time with the personable Urbana girls' track and field coach leads a person to wonder if she ever has a bad day. Help her spread the immeasurable joy.
Centennial High School: Courage to start an Athletic Hall of Fame. Charter members could be Bonnie Blair, U.S. Davidson, Matt Herges, Mikel Leshoure and Roger McClendon.
Mike Chandler: A 2011 calendar. As a coach at two different high schools (cross-country and track at Schlarman, girls' basketball at Westville), there's a plethora of dates to keep straight.
Champaign Central High School: The Maroons have a practice field for football, how about a game field they don't need to share with anyone else? While you're at it, add a swimming pool and a wrestling room, too.
Mariah Coleman: A volleyball scholarship for the current Heritage High School junior, whose high school and club seasons were curtailed by injuries, which doesn't diminish her natural talent.
Ray Cummings: A fond farewell tour, followed by a joyous retirement for the Pesotum wrestling official, who will make his 47th season matside his final one. His legacy includes more than 1,700 dual meets and tournaments worked, 42 regionals, 37 sectionals and 40 state meets, between high school and junior high.
DeLand-Weldon High School: A gym membership for the top six scorers on the girls' basketball team. What else do you get busy teenagers who are not only at all of their own games but also all of the boys' games, serving as varsity cheerleaders?
Eric Free: An enjoyable experience in his first year on a high school boys' basketball coaching staff (Danville), so that he can become a rising star in the business and not a one-and-done entry.
G to L
Randa Harshbarger: A growth spurt for the 5-foot St. Thomas More freshman, who already can outplay many basketball counterparts 8 inches taller.
Cliff Hastings: A new hat. His wear out from constant use. Hastings is the Parkland College volleyball head coach, Prime Time Volleyball Club director and an employee at Wolfram Research, a software manufacturer, where he runs the division that deals with all educational institutions throughout the world, except Europe.
Shawn Lauderdale: An extra set of tennis shoes (size 13 1/2) to be left on the Rantoul team bus for use in the event the senior forgets to pack sneakers in his bag.
Jolette Law: A padlock with a combination known only to her so the school's UI women's basketballs can be locked up securely.
Dave Loane: An official proclamation from the Statehouse commending the WDWS sports announcer for his trey-mendous style of broadcasting.
Just the M's
Cameron Mammen: A trophy case. The Urbana whirlwind wrestler is certain to add much more hardware to his collection during his final five semesters in high school.
Matt Maser: Membership for the Westville student in an exclusive club that includes only high school athletes who rush for at least 1,000 yards in football and score at least 500 points in basketball the same school year.
Mike Mennenga: A job as a men's collegiate basketball head coach. The Rantoul native knows the game, he has proven he can recruit and now he's ready for the chance to show what he can do as the person in charge.
Chris Mennig: Master Teacher designation. The St. Thomas More girls' basketball coach has a thorough knowledge of the sport and diligently instructs his athletes in all of the finer nuances.
Becca Millage: Extra-strength aspirin as the St. Thomas More athlete tries to decide whether to play a sport (volleyball or softball) in college, then whether to accept a scholarship offer or venture out as a walk-on, and also whether to stay close to home or relocate 1,200 miles away.
Jeff Millis: Master Teacher designation. The Westville boys' basketball coach can put together a game plan to be competitive and develop a well-disciplined team regardless of the pure talent available any given year.
N to R
Oakwood High School: A permanent tribute to former Principal Glenn Keever, who coached five sports and in parts of four decades at the school. Keever, 68, passed away in August.
Brent Owen: A winning lottery ticket. An unpaid graduate assistant in basketball at the University of Southern Indiana, in Evansville, the Chrisman native is working three part-time jobs in order to pursue his passion for coaching.
Rick Reinhart: A teaching position for the Tuscola football coach so he doesn't need to rely on being a seasonal farm worker next fall in order to continue coaching the Warriors.
Joe Rix: An invitation to work the IHSA basketball state tournament for the first time. The Champaign referee has devoted 35 years to his passion but has not yet made it onto the court at Normal's Redbird Arena.
Regan Romshek: Something to alleviate the anxiety of the nearly 17 months the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley pitcher needs to wait from the time she committed to Illinois State University (July 2010) to the time the right-hander can sign her letter of intent with the Redbirds (November 2011).
Just the S's
Steve Schroeder: A tape recorder, so if reporters aren't always present at one of his cross-country or track races, he can save his words of wisdom to be heard and appreciated at a later time.
Pam Simpson: A package of pencils (and a sharpener), which will be useful in her duties as scorekeeper for the Atwood-Hammond boys' basketball team, which continues to challenge the 100-point mark in its games, as well as school records for three-pointers made and attempted.
Randy Skaggs: Master Teacher designation. The Schlarman softball coach not only has a complete mastery of the sport but he can transfer that knowledge to his players, leading to fundamentally well-schooled athletes.
Bob Smith: An invitation to join the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame as a friend of basketball and, especially, as a friend of Urbana, where he has been a dedicated volunteer for decades.
Mike Stephens: Master Teacher designation. The Bismarck-Henning girls' basketball coach is the consummate tutor who not only is adept at teaching fundamentals but also at explaining the importance of all those little details.
Maddy Stutsman: A Helping Hands award. The Salt Fork senior likely will be the only area athlete to rank among the top five in assists in volleyball and basketball this school year.
Terri Sullivan: A blank scholarship reserved for a 2028 high school graduate. Here's thinking the UI softball head coach's soon-to-be 1-year-old daughter Macy will know something about the game by then.
T to Z
Urbana High School: With a new state-of-the-art all-weather football/soccer complex set for completion by next August, what better time than now to honor Hall of Fame coach Warren Smith, one of the founding fathers of the state football playoffs, with a bronze bust?
Don Waybright: A nice sendoff for the retiring Centennial diving coach would be his third individual state champion. Kegan Skelton, a two-time placer, could prove that the third time is a charm.
Randy Wolken: A private plane and a pilot to make the commute from Texas easier for the St. Joseph-Ogden softball coach, who is on pace to secure his state-record 800th career victory in the sport this spring with his 14th triumph.
John Woods: A solid mahogany door for his Central athletic director's office so he can trash the revolving one that has led to 11 softball head coaches at the school in the past 11 years.
And to all who didn't get mentioned specifically, a safe and joyous holiday season along with a relaxing and enjoyable new year, as well as continued pleasure from reading The News-Gazette.
Fred Kroner is The News-Gazette's prep sports coordinator. He writes a weekly high school-related column throughout the school year and is hoping that Santa remembers his request for a stack of four-color pens this weekend. Kroner can be reached by fax at 217-373-7401, by phone at 217-351-5232 or at email@example.com.