Many students sign up for the sports broadcasting unit because of its star power: a chance to interview former NFL greats like Carl Banks and Ray Lucas and an opportunity to learn from broadcasting gurus such as Bruce Beck of WNBC-TV and Ed Cohen of ONE World Sports.
But the lasting impact of this unit actually has very little to do with sports. “The real benefit for our students is that they take away valuable life lessons and life skills,” says Mike Chimes, the school’s director of academic technology, who co-led the unit with Fred Corona, math teacher and eleventh-grade dean. Corona added, “Our students learned how to present themselves, how to speak articulately, how to make eye contact, and shake hands. There was more going on than meeting celebrity athletes.”
During the unit, 22 Gill students—most of them sports fans—practiced conducting television and radio interviews with real equipment, and received critiques from the pros. Beck coached students about reading off a teleprompter—how to appear natural and not as though reading from a script—and the importance of taking comprehensive notes while learning as much as possible about a subject before an interview. On-camera exercises included students presenting televised segments in front of a teleprompter and conducting mock interviews. They interviewed Banks in the locker room, “on-the-spot after a win.” Students also took turns in front of the microphone for a simulated on-air call-in radio show, complete with tips from Marc Malusis of WFAN.
Other guest headliners included sportscasters Tina Cervasio from MSG Network; Russ Salzberg of Channel 5 and 9; Ken Daneyko, former New Jersey Devils defenseman; and Eric LeGrand, a former Rutgers defensive tackle who was paralyzed on the field, and now is a powerful motivational speaker. With a trip to MetLife Stadium, participants learned first-hand what it’s like to be a play-by-play commentator, and during a jaunt to the MLB Network, they watched a live television segment.
For Will Dadouris ’17, the entire experience was a win. He found the personal stories of both LeGrand and Lucas truly breathtaking. For him, an important take-away was the advice to research extensively before an interview, stressed by both Beck and Cohen. “I learned that you can never be over-prepared, and this is something that I’ll bring to every presentation and project, no matter how small,” he says.
Dadouris’ practice with on-air interviews warmed him up for a chance encounter over the summer. As a player in the Brine National Lacrosse Classic, he was asked to be filmed on the other side of the mic. “They were looking for a person they could interview before, during and after the games,” he says. “After speaking with me, they decided that I was a great fit. From there, I was able to further see what it was like to be in front of the camera and get comfortable speaking in that fashion. This time, I wasn't asking the questions, they were.”
Such close access to two leading sports broadcasters was invaluable for Dadouris: “Both Bruce Beck and Ed Cohen gave us their personal contact information, and I still reach out to ask Bruce what events he’s doing and keep him up to date on my most recent broadcasting events. This shows how open and connected both of them were to all of us. It led to a better environment for learning, where we could try new things and not be afraid of failing.”
Beck has been involved with Gill St. Bernard’s for nearly a decade. In addition to contributing to the sports broadcasting unit, he has served as master of ceremonies for the school’s annual gala auction on several occasions. Beck was first introduced to the school through a GSB parent who had been his college roommate. In a further connection, Beck realized that Mike Chimes had been one of his teachers when he was a student at Livingston High School. The long-standing friendship between Beck and Chimes exemplifies one of the life lessons highlighted in the sports broadcasting unit: the importance of making and keeping connections.