An innovative internship program at Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) is allowing students to gain real-world experience in what is arguably the world’s number one form of entertainment: sports broadcasting. It takes an army platoon-sized team of skilled professionals to produce a sports broadcast, all working in tandem to tell the story of a game in real time. It’s an exciting way to make a living, but it’s a challenging world to break into without experience.
Matt Mahony, the broadcast and video coordinator for GGC Athletics’ sports network, Grizzly Digital Network (GDN), recognized the catch-22 students majoring in GGC’s cinema and media arts production (CMAP) program found themselves in upon graduation; degree in hand, but with no hands-on experience to bulk up their resumes. In 2019, he realized he had the perfect solution for that.
“We have broadcast GGC Athletics for the 10 years we have existed,” said Mahony. “The first couple of years, we were pulling fans and parents out of the stands to help run the scoreboard and stuff, because we weren’t established. We officially began the GDN Internship program, thanks to the CMAP program, in summer session 2019.”
Mahony said the internship is all about creating opportunity in an extremely competitive job field, not just “punching a ticket” to graduate.
“I happened to play college baseball. My scholarship paid for my degree, so when I graduated I had a degree and dirty cleats. That was it. I applied for every job on the NCAA website and never got a phone call because I had zero experience.”
The internship accepts six to 10 students each semester, training them for a short two weeks in operating camera, graphic, audio and other equipment before putting them right into the driver’s seat producing live broadcasts for GGC’s six sports teams: men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, baseball and softball. The games are broadcast live on the GGC Athletics official website. Students must learn the ropes of live broadcasting quickly, but Mahony said the results have been outstanding.
“We run a multicamera shoot, so if there are two, three or four cameras, students are running that equipment,” he said. “Then, we have a student who runs graphics, one who runs the scoreboard in the lower third of the screen, a director who orchestrates the live feed, and this year, we’re going to truly implement instant replay for the first time. All of it is run by student interns. It’s truly remarkable.”
The increased production value of the broadcasts has paid off in viewership too. Mahony said GGC game broadcasts received more than 54,900 views last year, with an influx of viewers from California for softball games, baseball views doubling, and people tuning in from as far away as Israel.
“My favorite part of the internship was learning in real time and the confidence that Matt had in us to be able to do such a thing,” said 2021 GGC graduate Andrew Hawkins, who earned a CMAP degree with a focus in design and production. “I wanted hands-on experience with production equipment and the chance to produce something with professional quality to put on my resume.”
After graduating, Hawkins’ experience with broadcasting and cameras helped him land a full-time job with Encore Global, an event production company with clients including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Verizon, Dairy Queen, Georgia Power and many others.
“Without the internship experience offered by GDN, I wouldn’t have been given these opportunities,” said Hawkins. “I highly recommend this for GGC students because of the instant networking opportunities and a chance to broaden your horizons outside film and television. These skills can take you far in many other fields you probably wouldn’t think of.”
Current GGC student Deborah Akins, a senior CMAP major who will graduate this December, said her favorite part of the internship was learning how to be a part of a broadcast team.
“When I first heard about the GDN internship, I wasn’t sure if it would be something that I would like, but after the first two weeks, I didn’t do it because I had to, but because I genuinely enjoyed being a part of it,” said Akins. “It was a good bit of work, but if you put forth the effort, you will get results. When I first came in, I had decided that I strictly only wanted to do editing, but during the internship I started to enjoy technical directing so much that I am heavily considering doing that as my career now.”
Mahony said a bonus is that the internship results have benefitted not only the students who participate, but also the audience who watches.
“These students have elevated our production to the award-winning quality it is today – over 150 events annually, multiple camera angles, live graphics, replay capabilities, plus commentary. It’s been great for everyone on both sides of the screen.”