BY TYLER O’KEEFE | Ball State Sports Link | Barstool Sports
I met Chris Taylor during the 2016 summer semester in his advanced video production course, TCOM 334. I had no reel, no website, no portfolio and no experience. I only had an open mind and a willingness to learn.
The class focused on creative ways to tell stories that were engaging and meaningful. His examples often included sports documentaries such as ESPN’s 30 for 30 and E:60.
After a handful of classes and with graduation looming, I approached CT with one goal in mind. I wanted to be involved on campus and gain actual experience. After all, I’ve been told since freshman year that you must be involved on campus if you seriously consider working in ‘the industry.’
I consistently showed up to class, turned in my work by the deadline and actively utilized new production techniques in my projects. I wanted to be part of Sports Link, but I knew acceptance into the program is competitive, especially as a senior.
At the end of the summer semester, and through my work in his class, CT believed I could help the program — even for one year as a senior — and invited me to join.
First semester came around and I was waiting for someone to tell me what to shoot. That never happened. So, I checked out a camera and headed to the women’s Golf Cardinal Classic and turned my first highlight package for Sports Link.
Then I stated to get involved with other sports. I began going on shoots and setting up interviews. I watched classmates younger than me dilligently checking audio signals, lights and camera settings. I watched them frame shots and ask questions. I watched them be creative.
It wasn’t long before I started interviewing athletes and coaches while working on my own feature segments for “Out of the Shadows”, an all-access shows which follows the Ball State men’s basketball team.
The first person I interviewed was Kindon Crowder, a manager-turned-player who now serves as a Graduate Assistant for the team.
By the time we came back from the semester break, I was firing on all cylinders. At this point, I had worked a number of live events on ESPN3 at Ball State and learned the difference between many of the positions on live events.
I served as a camera operator, repay operator, associate producer and stats manager. I was fortunate enough to be crewed for several sports including men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s and women’s volleyball, gymnastics, baseball and even our own sports award show, “The Chirpies.”
All of these opportunities allowed me to be successful outside of the classroom. I spent four days before spring break freelancing at the women’s Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis as a utility. I assisted the crew and filled in where needed.
During spring break, I interviewed with Pat McAfee and crew for a production internship with his division of Barstool Sports out of Indianapolis and was offered a position.
Finally, as my senior year came to a close, I was accepted into graduate school at the University of Mississippi after being offered a Graduate Assistantship with Ole Miss Sports Productions.
All of this happened, simply because I asked for the opportunity to work hard.
The opportunities through Sports Link in just one year have set me up for a career. I know one year wasn’t enough, and I am envious of the students who are part of this program for four years. However, I am thankful for one year. What a difference it made.