When the No. 1-ranked Sagehen women’s water polo team faced Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in one of the latest games in the famed Sixth Street rivalry, Maya Nitschke-Alonso ’23 couldn’t be there to support the team. So she tuned in to the livestream of the game on her computer to stay connected to the action.
Nitschke-Alonso is a beneficiary of—and contributor to—the extreme makeover that broadcasts of Sagehen Athletics games have undergone this year.
Prior to the pandemic, the broadcasts were a straightforward stream of the game. Watching from home, someone wouldn’t even know what the score was. This year, broadcasts might include multiple camera angles, instant replays, graphic overlays and play-by-play commentary.
The secret weapon behind these improvements? Student workers.
It’s a win-win situation. Those watching—including faraway family and friends of the athletes—have a vastly enhanced viewing experience, and students at Pomona gain valuable work opportunities.
Student workers announce the games, operate the cameras, and do production work, which includes updating the scoreboard, showing instant replays and switching camera views. Director of Athletics Communications Sam Porter, who oversees the broadcasts, likes for students to work every position, in case they’re short a person at any given game.
Porter, along with Assistant Director of Athletics Communications Aaron Gray, have their hands full recording official game stats. So it’s up to students to do everything else and to train new workers.
“We will typically tell someone, ‘This person is really good at camera. Watch how they work the camera,’” says Porter. “Watch this person. Second half, you’re in,” adds Gray.
Nitschke-Alonso, a public policy analysis major, didn’t have any prior camera experience. But she learned quickly and has settled into the role of “camera two,” which she explains “is the one that will zoom in on the player who’s taking free throws or backpedaling after a shot, the coach getting hyped up, all that fun stuff.”
Taylor Venenciano ’23, a physics major, focuses on the production side of broadcasts and credits Porter and Gray for creating an environment for the workers to grow.
“They’ve made it simple enough for us to learn and then teach other students,” Venenciano says. “We can really make any decision we want in terms of producing. They’re giving us the creative freedom to figure it out.”
About 20 students form the pool of people who sign up to work the games. Some apply for the job online, but most hear about it through word of mouth and contact Porter directly. About half are student athletes; the other half just love sports.
Alex Chun ’24, a media studies major, has been announcing games since the beginning of the semester. “I've always found a profound passion for not only playing sports but also commentating and writing about sports or speaking about sports,” he says. Sports commentary is what Chun hopes to do for his career, and he is deeply appreciative of the opportunities he has at Pomona to gain experience.
When not doing it himself, Chun watches broadcasts of other students announcing games in order to improve. “I’m continually a student of play-by-play broadcasting,” he says.
Chun’s and others’ efforts are paying off. “The positive feedback that we’ve gotten from having a play-by-play person for events has been pretty overwhelming,” says Porter.
“Our students are the heartbeat of the operation, and I am continually impressed with how they make it all come alive during competitions,” Director of Athletics Miriam Merrill says. “They’ve been able to elevate our stream in ways that we wouldn’t be able to on our own,” says Porter.
Currently, all home events are broadcast, with the exception of cross-country meets, golf matches, and track and field meets. These sports pose greater challenges in terms of filming, but Porter aims to cover these sports in the not-too-distant future.
To watch live and previously recorded broadcasts, go to sciacnetwork.com/sagehens/.