Part Two in this multi-part series:  The High School Sports Machine

Football is the quintessential sport when it comes to high school. If you aren’t a fan of football, I am sorry but outside of Teenwolf the high school experience is summed up in the mind of most Americans with football.

Football is by far our biggest sport in terms of viewership, sponsorships, and student engagement. We have no problem getting help producing football games and certainly get a lot of “can I just come and watch what you do?” requests throughout the season. (By the way, the answer is typically “no, if you aren’t willing to work, you aren’t ready to learn.”)

Preparing for Football for us actually starts in the spring. We start contract conversations with booster clubs and teams to work out broadcast contracts and other parts of the relationships.

In July, I put my broadcast goals on paper. This is a scary exercise (PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY: if it isn’t scary, you aren’t trying hard enough.) I would share the goals with you but I don’t want you falling into the trap of trying to compete with someone (I fall into the trap regularly and it makes me miserable). Just do what scares you.

In July, I start putting together my broadcast teams. (We actually start school in late July so this is not as absurd as it seems.) When I am putting together my teams, I start with those that are returning from the previous year. These students can have up to 100 games of experience when they hit the ground their second year. I have to make sure that those students are taken care of. After that, I go through my roster for the upcoming school year to see who I have that I would like to add to the team.

The students that I look for are not necessarily the students that stand out. I need students that are fine working behind the scenes and have a passion for what they do. The students that want to be in front of the camera, I put them there but everyone else, I let work behind the scenes in order to maximize their passion and commitment.

After, I have built my teams, I start pulling together the equipment for their kits. Our equipment is dictated by the sport. The list below is our football list. This is one of our more expansive base units because we have to provide a wide and tight camera angle for the coaches.

Our football broadcast kit consists of:
● Two cameras
● Two memory cards (the faster and larger the better- We use class 10 16gb)
● Two tripods
● Two camera power supplies (I never trust a battery during a live broadcast)
● Two camera AV out cables
● One Mini HDMI to HDMI Cable (we use these to do HD broadcasts when we can)
● Stinger (at least 25’)
● Surge protector
● Laptop - loaded with the NFHS Network producer software or wirecast
● Video capture device
● Small table
● One chair (the producer gets a chair)

This kit covers a lot of things including the wide and tight angles on memory cards that we can upload to hudl after the game, at least a One camera broadcast that we will use with Playon producer or wirecast, and a backup recording through producer or wirecast. All of this fits, except the table and chair, into a backpack. ($183 seems like a lot for a bag but it is VERY worth it!

I put these kits in the closet and they only come out on Thursday to load content into the producer and then on Friday afternoon when they go to a game. This protects me from surprises. If I put the cameras into the classroom, they will come back with different settings, memory cards missing, etc.

After the teams are built and the equipment is stored, I start working on our game of the week broadcasts. Each week of football season, we do a more advanced broadcast where we use multiple cameras, on-air hosts, replay (when the TD is trained enough to pull it off), and other elevated production elements. This year, our game of the week broadcasts are going to be done at an even higher level than in the past. We have partnered with the University of Georgia’s Grady School Of Journalism Sports Media program to increase the production value of our broadcasts. TV sports veteran, Bob Neal is adding his expertise to the broadcast by training the Grady Sports Media students to work as on-air hosts and other supporting roles to help produce a live pregame, halftime, and postgame shows. This is the biggest addition to our broadcasts in program history.

As I build out the game of the week broadcasts, I am working to build in sponsorship slots in order to match our efforts with income for the program. I pay the main broadcast teams ($20-$50 depending on experience and position) as well as the game of the week director/producer ($40). Prior to teaching, I was a marketing and promotions director for several of the largest radio stations in Atlanta so sponsorships and partnerships are second nature to me. The places to put sponsors during a football game as only limited by your creativity. I am not saying that you should have the “PIZZA SPONSOR Game of the week brought to you by the CAR DEALER only available on the CELLULAR PROVIDER network powered by ENERGY DRINK” but there are a lot of places to potentially sell.

Here is a list of potential, simple sponsorships:
● Presenting sponsor - The Game of the Week presented by “Sponsor”
● Halftime sponsor - Today’s halftime performances/show brought to you by “Sponsor”
● Play/Player of the Game - Today’s “Sponsor” play/player of the game is ….
● Scoreboard Sponsor - Let’s check the Region/County/City scoreboard powered by “Sponsor”....
● Coach’s Show - The “Sponsor” Coach’s Show

The hardest part of selling sponsorships is finding the time. This is why I try to do most of my soliciting and initial conversations during the summer. I can typically meet with potential sponsors at a time that works best for them opposed to during the school year where I am bound to the building between 8am and 4pm.

Another thing that I do to prepare for the school year is meet with as many of my principals, coaches, ADs, and other decision makers in the schools that I can. This helps to spread the message and opens a lot of doors for me during the seasons.This helps too because these people help my students with stories for newscasts or features because they are closer to the programs and the schools than we can be.

Finally as I prep for football season, I have to make the time to get my teams to practices to get a feel for the flow of the game, the formations, and to practice setting up the equipment. This is the hardest thing for the students because there is not the immediate gratification of a successful broadcast but I guess that is always the issue with practicing for anything. A practice for us starts with checking the bags. I try to make sure that the bags are packed the same for every broadcast. It helps to see what is there and what may be missing. Then we talk about cables. I think cables are often the most overlooked item in broadcasting. I teach the team what each cable does and how to care for it. I drive home the fact that most cables that are broken are broken on the inside and you won’t know until you are ready to broadcast the next show. Teaching proper cable management is essential for any program. If you want to be able to deliver every time you go out, teach your teams how to properly care for cables. Small velcro straps are about $4 for 200 and they are more than worth that.

Next month, I'll talk about how to get through one of the worst months of the year for broadcasters.

TomWhiteHeadshot 175Tom White is a video production teacher at the Rockdale Career Academy in Conyers. GA. Tom is also the director of the Sports Broadcast Institute, which is One of Five Georgia Governor’s Innovation in Education award winning programs and the NFHS Network Best Overall Program. The Sports Broadcast Institute works to  produce live broadcasts, newscasts, sports documentaries and more for the Three schools, Rockdale Co, Salem, and Heritage High schools, that the career academy serves. Prior to teaching, Tom was a marketing, promotions, and online content director for a major radio corporation in Atlanta. Tom studied exercise science at High Point University prior to his radio career. Despite his winding career path, his mother still thinks he is special.

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