Behind the Scenes: Broadcasting for CMS and P-P

My freshman year at Claremont McKenna College I happened to hear through word-of-mouth that Claremont-Mudd-Scripps had its own broadcasting club, the Claremont Sports Connection (CSC). As a sports-lover and student-athlete on the CMS basketball team, I jumped at the opportunity to call games on the live stream webcast.

I remember learning tricks of the trade from senior Nate Falk CM ’14, my co-broadcaster for men’s basketball games in the old Ducey Gymnasium (which was demolished in 2014 to make room for Roberts Pavilion). Our camera and headphones rested on a fold up table while we sat — or in my case stood because I was too nervous for the game— at the top of the bleachers, with Nate doing the play-by-play and I as the color commentator. We learned as we went and fed off of one another game after game, as we got more comfortable within our roles and with each other.

After calling a few random games in the spring, such as lacrosse and water polo--which I co-broadcasted with and learned from ex-swimmer Jason Lammert PO ‘17--, I returned for the fall of my sophomore year ready to step into my role as play-by-play commentator and “voice” of Athena volleyball and Stag basketball.

I’ve followed the volleyball team for three successful seasons and just two weeks ago I signed off on my last game. I’ll do the same this spring for the Stags after following them for four.

While I have my own team to make memories with, I’ve also been able to make a strong connection with these Stags and Athenas, which sometimes makes it difficult to have to commentate on the game unbiased rather than lead cheers in the stands. Though if anyone has watched Simon Shapiro HM ’18 and I call volleyball games, you’ll notice how we can’t contain our flailing arms and animated facial expressions throughout close games.

Currently, the CSC has lost its funding and is no longer an official 5C club due to lack of student interest in leadership. However, that’s not to say that there isn’t still student interest out there. In fact, there is a core group of CMS broadcasters that got involved because we have played a sport in high school, want to explore broadcasting as a career path, or just genuinely love watching sports and enjoy the perk of getting paid to doing so.  

“I don't really have any career ambitions in sports but I've always been a huge sports fan,” said my co-broadcaster for men’s basketball games, Griffin Ferre CM ‘17. “I can finally put my random sports knowledge to use and hopefully do a good job for anyone listening since I think having a commentator can make the broadcast more fun. I'd want to come to games anyway but now I get to be involved and hopefully be useful.”

The typical trend for broadcasters is to stick with sports they know, but Ferre is always keen to learn about a new sport. Last year he sat down with the lacrosse rulebook and proceeded to announce all of the women’s lacrosse games. He additionally broadcasts football, basketball, soccer, and baseball, all sports he has played before.

Another committed broadcaster for 5C sports is Abigail Metsch SC ’19.

“My plan for college is to major in broadcast journalism and become a newscaster and eventually work my way up to prime time hosting my own show,” said Metsch. “I've played pretty much every sport and I also love them so sports broadcasting seemed like a good path to start out on.”

Metsch, who has participated in soccer, water polo, football, and some basketball, elected to create her own major just to fuel this passion. Currently a CMS softball player, Metsch has had a lot of previous broadcasting experience and started a club called Orange Nation TV in high school.

Since its founding in 2011, broadcasters and camera operators have always been recruited through referral basis, just as I had been. Sports Information Directors for CMS and Pomona-Pitzer, Emily Nordhoff CM ‘12 and Sam Porter, stream live video for almost every home contest, though CMS streams more audio broadcasts with commentators. With or without CSC, Nordhoff and Porter ultimately oversee the production and recruit student workers.

"The student interest is more on the CMS side than PP side,” admits Porter. “Kids don't know who to ask or how to get trained, so the interest falls off." 

The 5Cs have yet to offer an academic incentive for sports broadcasting, such as a journalism or communications major offered by other SCIAC schools. Yet, as a hobby, it’s a fun and worthwhile way to earn some money on the side.

CMS has made efforts to educate broadcasters, as seen by the plethora of broadcasting resources on the CMS Athletics website. They also brought in a professional broadcaster last season, Tony Steege, who worked as Sports Information Assistant and provided another resource to students in the CSC. Though separate teams, Nordhoff and Porter envision the idea of sharing resources so the umbrella of leadership in the CSC is co-managed by students from both CMS and P-P.

“Even though [CSC] lacks leadership, the interest we have by student broadcasters is keeping it alive,” said Nordhoff. “I've been very fortunate to have had a handful of students who do a variety of sports.”  

The CSC was founded by Nathan Barnett PO ’11, who later went on to co-found First Team Broadcasting (FTB) with Andy McEnroe. Last year, Stretch Internet purchased the contracted assets and software licenses of FTB, but it is because of Barnett’s affiliation with Pomona that CMS and P-P used FTB for their first productions.   

According to McEnroe, CMS signed the first web-streaming contract with FTB in time to begin broadcasting games for the second semester of the 2011-2012 season. During its inaugural year, FTB broadcasted basketball, baseball, softball, and lacrosse contests. For the 2012-2013 season, CMS added soccer, football, water polo, and volleyball and by the 2013-2014 season, after adding tennis, swim and dive, and track and field, CMS was broadcasting 17 out of 21 varsity sports, all except the off-campus sports of golf and cross country. P-P signed a contract with FTB in 2013.

Based on statistics from the 2015-2016 season, football brings in the most viewership with 568 per contest, on average. Men’s basketball, baseball, women’s soccer, men’s soccer, and women’s basketball also bring in viewers in the mid-100 range. While most viewers tend to be family members of players out of the area, I take great pride in meeting some parents when they do make it to games in person.

My involvement with sports broadcasting has been one of my favorite extracurricular activities at CMC and is one I wish to share before I graduate. As of May 2017, Athena volleyball and Stag basketball will be looking for a new “voice” for their live stream broadcasts. I see a huge opportunity for eager 5Cers to salvage the CSC from the club graveyard and renew the unique opportunities it provided to students. 

If you’re interested in calling CMS or P-P games, please contact Emily.Nordhoff@cms.claremont.edu or Samuel.Porter@pomona.edu.