What does a sports writer with a fondness for basketball bring to the court that is self-storage? More than you might think, according to Lee Kunkel.
Following graduation in 2013 from Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, the enterprising Rivals.com stringer moved to join his fiancée, Sarah, in Philadelphia. Within weeks, he was hired at Chester Heights Self Storage in suburban Glen Mills, and then quickly promoted to assistant manager. Meanwhile, he continued covering basketball for Philly’s City of Basketball Love website.
The Storage Facilitator visited with Kunkel about his twin careers: sports coverage and self-storage.
How did you get involved in sports writing?
I’ve just been a big sports fan since a young age, especially college basketball. The school I went to, Robert Morris University, has a Division I basketball program, so when I got there, I really started following the team and doing some writing. I got to know the guy who runs their Rivals.com site, which is very involved in college sports, so I was able to intern with him.
Did you play basketball growing up?
No, I played recreationally. I have a condition called Crohn’s disease that didn’t allow me to play in high school for medical reasons.
Storage and sports reporting couldn’t be much more different. How did you adjust?
A lot of the skill sets from writing have certainly helped me in this field. In self-storage, you need to be very organized. You don’t want to mess up anything; you need to have all your notes in right. Definitely, the communication aspect is huge, dealing with customers and calling people to get payments and setting up meetings. Those are skills you get from interviewing people. My gosh, last year alone, I probably interviewed over 100 people between coaches, scouts, players, various media members, so you get used to talking comfortably with people you may not know.
Can a diehard Robert Morris fan find love in the City of Brotherly Love?
I love the city! My main passion is sports, and there’s a lot of that going on here, especially in college basketball, where you have six Division I schools just in the city, including Temple, Saint Joseph’s, Villanova and LaSalle. Robert Morris played a few of them in my four years.
Have your storage responsibilities cut into your hoops reporting?
For the most part, it’s been fine. During the basketball season, I only worked at the facility 30 hours a week, so the managers I worked with were very good in helping me fit games into my schedule. I was able to schedule time off if the game was during the day. We close at 5:30 and most of the games start at 7 and I can get to the arenas within an hour, so it really didn’t get in the way.
How many basketball games do you cover in a season?
Last year, I covered around 20 games live, including high school games, and probably another 20 games where I would watch it online or on TV. I probably ended up writing 60 to 70 stories throughout the season, with game previews and player features.
What’s the biggest thrill you’ve experienced at a sports writer?
That’s an easy one for me. In my senior year of college, Robert Morris lucked into getting to host Kentucky, a big powerhouse in college basketball, in the first round of the NIT because (Kentucky’s) Rupp Arena was being used for the NCAA tournament. We had a completely packed house. We thought we were going to get clobbered, to be honest, and we ended up beating them on a game-winning free throw with 8 seconds left. Everybody stormed the court. That was far and away my favorite sports memory in my life.
Do you plan to pursue a career as a professional sports writer?
I don’t know, truthfully. There are parts of it I do like, and then there are parts of it where I’m happy I don’t get paid to do it, that it’s not an obligation. Journalism is great at times, and other times you just don’t want to write. I can’t say I definitely want to do it, but the door hasn’t completely shut yet.
What about self-storage? Can you see yourself staying with it?
Yes, I would definitely look into it. When I first took the job, it hadn’t even crossed my mind that it would be a career path, but certainly now I really enjoy working with the company I’m with. Our facility is owned by Storage Asset Management. My district manager, Jeff Fickes, has been great, as was his predecessor, Kevin Bledsoe. I got into the field thinking it would be a job to carry me over for a few months while I get settled, and I’ve ended up getting promoted. It will be a year for me this September, and I’m enjoying it.
Basketball photo courtesy of Robert Morris University/Ben McKeown
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