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Tucked away in a corner of the Mullins Center behind an unassuming door lies a dizzying array of screens, mixers, switches, and control boards with blinking neon buttons—simultaneously impressive and overwhelming. This setup is where junior and senior sports journalism students are learning to stream, edit, direct, and eventually master all manner of sports broadcasting. Students in the Live Digital Sports Production I and II courses taught by Senior Lecturer Greeley Kyle finish their second semester having broadcast UMass athletic events for channels that include ESPN+ and NESN. From maintaining the scoreboard to cuing up instant replays, they develop muscle memory of operating the intricate control board switches and moving around the control booth with deft precision, not unlike the athletes they capture on their screens.

This hands-on method of teaching was the brainchild of Kyle, who also serves as the director of the sports journalism department. “Students get very excited about the class, as it gives them a chance to experience the production side of a subject they’re passionate about—sports!” he explains. With more than 20 years’ experience in journalism, news reporting, and editing for television, Kyle recognized the need for undergraduate students to get as much hands-on training as possible before graduation.

“Coming into the class,” he says, “most students are planning careers writing about sports, doing color or play-by-play broadcasting, or covering sports on camera. They’re fascinated to go ‘behind the scenes’ and take part in the complexities and technology that look so seamless for the fans sitting at home.”

Silhouette of an arm reaching over a control board.

In the first semester, Kyle covers the technical basics and production processes through lectures and observations. He encourages students to analyze what they see and begin incorporating their new skills into simple broadcasts. As they head into the second semester, the video production director guides students through the practical applications of what they’ve learned. That’s when hands-on broadcasting begins. Students learn each role within a production team, including on-screen design work, replay packaging, and camera direction. “Many have enjoyed finding a new way to be creative with sports—creating graphics, editing replays, shooting the action, and even directing the coverage,” Kyle notes.

Watching the group of staff and student broadcasters in the Mullins Center is like watching a well-practiced soccer team’s attack. Each member knows exactly what role they play in creating a seamless live broadcast. The director speaks in a sort of shorthand to the students assigned to graphics and replay, who incorporate the orders along with their own intuition and knowledge of the game to anticipate upcoming needs. During a recent broadcast, Sean Sears ’24, on graphics, updated the score in real time and set up any transitions needed to switch from a replay cut back to the live coverage. Evan Nikas ’23, at the replay desk, would record and cut specific plays he thought would be significant and edit them so they could play in slow motion or at regular speed, prepping clips to be replayed at just the right moment during a lull in the game.

As you can imagine, not only does this experience build students’ confidence and expose them to previously unknown professional opportunities in the world of broadcast production, but it also helps set them apart as they apply for jobs after graduating. “At the end of the class, they have a ‘reel’ video of their best work to show potential employers or internship directors what they can already do,” says Kyle.

The class … is extremely interesting, and, for me personally, it’s opened up a lot of opportunities for a career in sports.

Colorful control board with buttons lit up in green.

Nikas took his first Live Digital Sports Production class in the fall of 2022. “Taking that course was one of the best decisions I have made here at UMass,” he reflects. “The class itself is extremely interesting, and, for me personally, it’s opened up a lot of opportunities for a career in sports while expanding my skill set further.”

For Nikas and other students like him in sports journalism, this experience has served as a playbook for their careers—and conditioned them with the necessary training to succeed.