The next wave of sportscasters are learning the ropes of the industry through the University of Florida’s Intro to ESPN Gainesville immersion experience, operating out of the college of journalism and communications.
UF’s journalism department offers immersion experiences to students looking to gain a better understanding of what is to come in their future careers. Intro to ESPN Gainesville is where aspiring sportscasters get started. In this experience, students are assigned to report on the sports teams of two high schools in the area.
The program started due to an influx of students interested in joining the ESPN Gainesville staff after the new sports media specialization was established, said Eric Esterline, the director of sports journalism and communications. Esterline is managing the Intro to ESPN Gainesville experience this semester.
To accommodate everyone, the program split into two groups, Esterline said. Older students typically work a regular shift for ESPN Gainesville in UF’s Innovation News Center. Younger students are given the opportunity to prove themselves by covering high school sports in the greater Gainesville area.
“It helps students that are interested in it, also get a feel if it’s something that they really may want to do,” Esterline said.
It’s An Experience, Not A Class
Students are trained on WordPress to get an idea of how stories should be presented and uploaded to the ESPN Gainesville Website. The training stops there.
“That’s the idea,” Esterline said.
The experience wants students to find their own path in sports media.
Matthew Quartararo, 19, major undecided, says the experience is more about passion.
“It kind of sets the people aside who are passionate about it, and the people who are just doing it to do it,” Quartararo says.
Quartararo, who is from Westchester, New York, said that someone who is not passionate about this field is probably unlikely to go out to a game every week with the intention of writing a story about it.
Being passionate makes writing easier for him, he said. On assignment to cover the teams at Buchholz High School and Newberry High School, Quartararo finds himself hoping that these schools win even though he has no connection to them.
Students work in pairs to cover two high schools in the Gainesville area.
Christopher Will, 18, a journalism major with a specialization in sports media, covers Eastside High School and Santa Fe High School. However, this is not his first time working in the sports media field.
The freshman from Cooper City, Florida, was a member of his high school’s TV program. The program, which competes all the way up to the national level, produced content for the program website and would broadcast a weekly show to the school. Will’s high school experience led him to pursue sports media in college.
The biggest difference from high school to college is the ESPN Gainesville credential, Will said.
“In high school, it’s a lot easier for a coach to kind of blow you off.” Will has noticed that coaches are more receptive to his request for interviews when he says he’s with ESPN Gainesville.
Will is just “feeling the water” through this experience. While he is unsure of what he wants to do in the sports media field, he is leaning toward the TV side of the industry.
Just Do It
“It’s definitely hands-on experience,” said Faith Buckley, 18, a journalism major with a specialization in sports media, “you can’t learn these things via textbook.”
Buckley, who is an aspiring National Hockey League commentator from Tampa, admitted that she was nervous about getting involved. However, she does not regret her decision.
After her first postgame interview, Buckley was proud of herself and wanted to keep going, she said.
“A year ago, I don’t think I’d be where I am today.”
A Bit of Advice
“Get involved in those immersion experiences as early as you can,” Will said.
“Experience as many different things as you can,” said Esterline, who encourages students to get involved. However, he says that students have to learn time management as well.
“Don’t try to do them all in the same semester.”
“You get out as much as you put into it,” Quartararo said, “the more you do it, the more you get comfortable with it.”
“You’re going to have to want it,” Buckley said.