Team Tampa Bay's Take with Joey Johnston: Press Pass - Setting Up the Future!
How Tampa Bay's Media Mentoring Program is Providing a Big Opportunity and Helping Grow the Game
By Joey Johnston
As part of the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship’s presence in Tampa, the Tampa Bay Sports Commission held a “Beyond The Broadcast’’ panel discussion Friday night, spotlighting the ESPN and ABC broadcasters, plus the network’s programming and production executives.
Handling the question-and-answer session: Sofia Chepenik, 19, a USF lacrosse player and an aspiring sports broadcaster.
As part of the TBSC’s Press Pass media mentorship program, Chepenik and several junior broadcasters (from the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida) interviewed the volleyball players and coaches when they arrived in Tampa Bay while producing a daily inside look at the event by interacting with fans, showing the surrounding activities and featuring post-match reactions.
“These young ladies are the future storytellers,’’ said Claire Lessinger, the TBSC vice president of events. “They have an interest in sports broadcasting. They go through an application process with us. We onboard them, they join our team and they help us tell the story of this event.’’
As part of the TBSC’s hosting of major events over the past 15 years, it incorporates a “Beyond’’ social legacy program (such as “Beyond The Baseline’’ for the Women’s Final Four and “Beyond Barriers’’ that celebrated the 50-year anniversary of Title IX).
Through the program, the members of WISE (Women In Sports and Events) help to gather and empower local women of influence, while inspiring and celebrating girls and women in sports.
“It was really fun getting to know everyone and expanding my knowledge in broadcasting,’’ said Zoe Abels, 12, of Seven Springs Middle School. “I learned how to act and look more professional on camera and how to ask questions in a more professional way. I think I would be interested in sports broadcasting, so this was a great experience.’’
“I was a little nervous and excited asking the questions, but I learned how to use my voice in the right way and ask the kind of questions that might get some good answers,’’ said Kailyn Gardner, 12, of St. Paul’s School in Clearwater. “You just need to practice and not go so fast, so you can pronounce all the words properly and be understood. The more you do it, the better you get.’’
Abels and Gardner both said they’d like to get more experience. Gardner is also interested in broadcasting’s technical side, possibly exploring some careers that aren’t in front of the camera.
“It was really cool to be part of the event and see the teams play,’’ Gardner said. “I learned a lot.’’
That was the feeling of Chepenik, who moderated the question-and-answer conversation with ESPN broadcasters Courtney Lyle, Katie George and Holly McPeak, plus coordinating producer Ericka Galbraith and senior director of programming and acquisitions Dan Margulis.
“It has been awesome to experience what I want to do (in the future), while seeing first-hand what makes it really special,’’ Chepenik said. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity from Claire (Lessinger) and the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. They want to give opportunities to young reporters, so we can all gain experience.
“I learned how fast-paced this career can be. Things can change on the fly, so you have to be prepared with different storylines and questions based on who’s available to speak with you.’’
Chepenik said she also learned the essentials of putting on a successful sporting event.
“Being a college athlete, I can tell you that the Tampa Bay Sports Commission has made the student-athlete experience really special,’’ Chepenik said. “The attention to detail given to the things offered to the volleyball players, I don’t feel that’s normal for any athlete, female or male. It’s exceptional.
“This experience has really inspired me. I want to continue getting these opportunities, keep getting my name out there and, of course, work to win a lacrosse championship at USF. Being in Tampa and getting to work with the Tampa Bay Sports Commission has really made my experience very special.’’