BY CHRIS TAYLOR | Senior Director | Ball State Sports Link
Most classes in college on the first day of any semester are commonly known as “syllabus day”. The first class meeting when the professor hands out the academic plan for the next 15 weeks. Typical classes are fairly short on this day. Here’s the syllabus, the assignments, the attendance policy and what materials you need. Any questions?
Then students return Wednesday for the first “real” class. By Friday, they’ve decided whether to keep the class or drop it.
I always say Sports Link and Digital Sports Production is not a class. I regularly warn our students — selected yearly from a competitive application process — if they treat this like a “class”, it’s not going to work.
So it was no surprise then to this group when classes started Monday, Jan. 9, that three days later, they were producing back-to-back live NCAA men’s volleyball on ESPN 3. Two of four broadcasts in the first seven days of the semester. Welcome to Sports Link.
In 2015-16, Ball State Sports Link produced over 6,500 minutes (108 hours) of digital sports productions. Included were over 4,800 minutes (80+ hours) of LIVE sports on ESPN 3 and over 1,700 minutes (33+ hours) of other/studio/post productions. In 2015-16, Sports Link produced 33 live events to ESPN 3.
No two days are the same
I always credit my tenacity, drive and work ethic to my 15-plus year career working in collegiate sports information and marketing. There were no off nights, no spring break trips, few holidays and always more hours worked than reasonably possible.
That’s sports. Sports control your schedule — or at the very least, dictates — your schedule.
So as we opened our “syllabus day” 2017 in Sports Link, I shared the following: How you prioritize your schedule this semester will determine how much fun and ultimately, how much stress, you will have.
Unless you’re one of us, most people have no idea what we do. It’s the same now that I’ve moved across the street and into academia. Don’t you just teach a couple classes two or three days a week? Grade some papers?
Here’s the one thing that is consistent. In sports information, I knew all the overnight custodial and facility staff folks by name. Sometimes the morning shift crew, and even several colleagues, would pass me on my way OUT of the office in the morning. While the hours are better in academia for sure, I still know the overnight custodial staffs. And yes, I have passed colleagues on my way out as they come in to work.
But that’s the thing — rarely does it ever feel like work. Of course there are those days, sometimes even several of those days. But, no two days are ever the same.
I’ve been working in or connected to sports for all of my professional life. That’s somewhere around 10,000 days working in sports. Trust me, no two days have ever been the same. And, I love it.
When I am in the producer’s chair, I tend to be a little more calm and laid back than some producers. I’ve never been one to shout or yell (much) in that seat.
Producers are communicators. The execution level of a production crew is a direct reflection of how much a producer communicates, trusts his crew and stays relaxed — yet in control — in the craziest of moments.
The preparation and planning for these two volleyball broadcasts in earnest started two weeks out by contacting each team’s SIDs, coordinating with our athletics administration match protocol and timing sheets and confirming delivery to ESPN.
When the men’s college volleyball season opened Jan. 5, that’s when I started to hyper-focus on the two matches – a week out. I communicated with our talent team of junior Mick Tidrow, sophomore Alex Thomas and freshman Jack Kizer on storylines.
I secured video highlights of Ball State’s match in Hawaii and of our opponents. I researched more storylines and tried to find the visuals to support them – either through graphics to make, video or photos.
To prepare and to instruct our students, I watched replays of our past Sports Link volleyball broadcasts to see what worked and what we could do better.
I watched the 2016 NCAA Women’s Volleyball National Championship produced by ESPN, a handful of other school’s volleyball broadcasts and all of the Big Ten Network’s production of Penn State vs. USC.
What did they do that added production value? How did they tell stories?
When classes started Monday, I met with our talent and director, senior J.C. Obringer. J.C. shines at directing and having him in that seat again wasn’t an accident. We talked through an initial rundown, storylines and format.
Tuesday was used for storyline development and editing video pieces to use within the broadcast.
The full crew production meeting was Wednesday evening for one hour. We went through the rundown step-by-step, camera responsibilities and more before watching Set 4 of the National Championship game to point out positions and techniques we liked. I showed our crew what the graphics looked liked and again stressed my two major goals: 1) Camera focus and 2) replays.
Following Thursday’s match against Saint Francis, I watched the entire match again when I got home. On Friday, our talent, director and myself went over the match from the night before and determined that night’s rundown, storylines, graphics and additions.
The result were two really, really good broadcasts on ESPN 3, both exciting wins by Ball State. A terrific way to start our “championship season” in Sports Link.
You can’t write that into a “syllabus”. Any questions?
Watch the matches