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Budding sportscasters gain experience as schools televise games online

Eric Sondheimer
Contact ReporterVarsity Times Insider
Students get sportscasting experience as high schools show their games online

Watch out, Vin Scully. Don't get too comfortable, Bob Miller. Stay sharp, Ralph Lawler.

Across Southern California, teenagers who dream of a career in broadcasting are getting started earlier than ever as a growing number of high schools broadcast sporting events via the Internet.

One of the most promising of these teen broadcasters is 16-year-old Josh Schaefer of Woodland Hills El Camino Real. Whether he's doing play-by-play of a soccer, basketball, football or baseball game, you can sense his professionalism, his passion, his gift for painting a picture using words. You quickly forget that he's just a junior in high school.

"It's like he was born for it," El Camino Real journalism advisor Kim Messadieh said.

Both on camera and behind the scenes, teenagers are getting real broadcasting experience in high school. At Santa Ana Mater Dei, there are more than 30 students involved in the school's audiovisual program that broadcasts sporting events. The school hires adults to handle announcing duties, but the students run everything else.

At L.A. Cathedral, there are about 80 students involved in producing and running its live stream of sporting and non-sport events. The school has its own studio and production classes.

At Studio City Harvard-Westlake, HWTV has grown to where this school year, there will be more than 40 sporting and non-sporting events streamed on the Web. Last year, there were 17 sports broadcasts that attracted more than 27,000 viewers. A live broadcast of a water polo match between Harvard-Westlake and Mater Dei this year attracted an audience of just under 15,000 tuning in on the Web.

"I think it's definitely the future," Harvard-Westlake Athletic Director Jason Kelly said. "There's more and more interest in high school sports, and judging by our own numbers people are watching our games. We'll have a field hockey game with 20 people in the stands and 800 online."

Harvard-Westlake has one of the most advanced broadcast programs, using three cameras and two student announcers. The school pays almost $2,400 a year to livestream.com, which is one of a growing number of companies that helps schools and organizations broadcast and archive events.

One of Harvard-Westlake's football announcers is baseball pitcher Gabe Golob, whose mother, Diane Diaz, is a former KNBC-TV Channel 4 anchor. He said she was texting him during a broadcast with suggestions. "It was such a great opportunity to be able to do something really only offered in college," he said.

The Southern Section charges a rights fee during the regular season if a school's broadcast appears on a secondary outlet, but schools eventually get the money back to offset any gate receipts lost or production expenses. The City Section requires prior approval of online broadcasts because Time Warner Cable has exclusive Web rights.

El Camino Real started experimenting with Web broadcasts two years ago. The costs are minimal: a camera that costs less than $300, a computer with software for less than $1,000 and, most important, an Internet connection.

There was no satellite truck, no makeup artist and no elaborate food spread when El Camino Real did a live stream of a state soccer playoff game last week. Students climbed a ladder to the roof of a classroom overlooking the football field and carried a small camera, a couple of chairs, a 250-foot cable to attach to an Internet connection, a TV monitor and a computer. One student ran the camera while Schaefer and his color commentator, sophomore Matt Boerner, passed a microphone back and forth from their position sitting behind a table as the game unfolded.

A couple of days laterthe broadcast of another soccer game was limited to audio only, because high winds meant the students weren't allowed on the roof, and a pole would have been in the way of the camera shooting from a classroom. So goes life as a high school broadcaster.

"I've met some broadcasting idols and people at different universities, and they never had this opportunity. I really hope this is what I keep doing," Schaefer said.

Schaefer is treating his play-by-play experience as if he were getting paid, though his adult journalism adviser said, "Sometimes I offer him a stick of gum."

All he needs is an agent and a hair stylist and he'll be on his way.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter: LATSondheimer

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