More so than any other, the spring sports season always begins with hope.

Hope for success on the court or field, hope for new bonds to be forged and hope — particularly after the winter we’ve had — for warmer weather.

As high school and college students throughout Maine prepare for fresh beginnings, I find myself in a similar situation as I begin a new chapter in my life. As a lifelong native of Rhode Island, the harsh New England winters are not foreign to me — albeit a slightly watered down version some 200-plus miles south.

While the area may be new, the resolve, experience and work ethic I bring to my new home remains the same. For the past eight years I’ve covered high school and college sports in the southern part of Rhode Island for a handful of different publications, and during that time I had the opportunity to meet some great people. From local high school coaches to all-time college greats like Temple University’s John Chaney and Saint Joseph’s Phil Martelli, each were enriching opportunities in their own way.

I have looked on as teams have hoisted championship plaques, the unmistakable, unbridled joy beaming across players’ faces as a season’s worth of hard work comes to fruition. With every championship comes the other side of the coin as well, as for every title tilt I’ve witnessed, I’ve also watched as the crushing reality sets in that not every team can emerge victorious.

Even in victory or defeat, the resiliency of high school athletes has always fascinated me. Over the years I have covered athletes whose greatest battles came off the playing field, yet in each instance they turned those struggles into tales of inspiration. I think back to the story of a high school senior whose family became homeless and soon after dealt with the untimely death of her uncle, yet still managed to star on the basketball court and in the throwing circle as a shot putter. She went onto become a Division I thrower at the University of Rhode Island.

One of the last stories I wrote at my previous publication was of a three-sport star athlete who in between soccer and basketball seasons of his junior year was diagnosed with cancer. Upon hearing the news he barely flinched, ever confident that he’d beat the disease like many of the defenders he left in the dust on the basketball court. Sure enough he was right. After finishing chemotherapy he returned to play for the team in the opening round of the playoffs, proving that even after sitting out the entire season, he could still contribute at a high level.

From little league baseball to Atlantic 10 men’s basketball and everything in between, it was quite a ride — regardless of the game’s final outcome.

To borrow S.E. Hinton’s words, though, that was then, this is now.

I will always be grateful for my experiences in the Ocean State, but now is about the future. It’s about the people I have yet to meet, and the stories I have yet to tell. My experience with the area may be limited — although I’m doing my best to quickly rectify that — but I am determined to bring that same dedication to accuracy and fairness I established in my home state. I will be the first to tell you I am human, I do make mistakes but it is never my intention, nor am I above admitting when I’m wrong.

So as the sidewalk glaciers crusted with road salt finally give in to warming temperatures, it is my hope that you will enjoy the coming season as much as I will. Over the years my favorite stories to write have been those centered around the underdogs. The player or team counted out — or simply overlooked — only to beat the odds.

This week marks the genesis of those stories, the first pour of cement as teams build toward the future. That, of course, is the beauty of this time of year. Every team is 0-0 at this point, all working toward the same goal of winning a championship. Each team beginning the season with hope.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640 ecrawley@centralmaine.com