A different kind of summer camp
Nonprofit partners with schools to tee up students for careers in sports journalism.
Laci Gonzalez hates writing, but she loves sports. A soon-to-be ninth-grader at Arvada High School, Gonzalez attended the Write on Sports summer camp at Metropolitan State University of Denver. The camp is designed, in part, to introduce middle-schoolers such as Laci to the breadth of careers within the sports industry.
Even though almost 8 million students play high school sports in the U.S., less than half of 1% of them will have the opportunity to play professionally. But that’s not the only way to make a career in sports. By 2030, sports-media jobs are projected to grow by 22%, and the global sports market is anticipated to reach $826 billion.
“You don’t have to be the athlete on the field to participate in sports,” said Wendy Menefee, vice president and board director for Write on Sports. “There’s a myriad of other kinds of occupations, whether it’s coaching, management or media and journalism. Camp participants get to see that there are different ways that they can follow their passion, which is sports.”
During the most recent Write on Sports camp, students met Denver sports-media members such as Ryan O’Halloran from the Denver Post, worked on podcasts with MSU Denver affiliate faculty member Ronan O’Shea, shot interviews with MSU Denver athletes and former Bronco Ryan Harris and watched from the press box as the Colorado Rockies won a game at Coors Field.
“(O’Halloran) inspired me because I am a person who hates writing essays,” Gonzalez said. “But once he gave me an idea on how to start and get more into it, I thought it was lot easier than I expected.”
That’s music to the ears of Jim Epstein, founder and executive director of Write on Sports Denver, who said the camp started as strictly a writing program. “We think writing is important for everything from applying to a job to writing an email,” he said. A couple of years ago, the program introduced podcasting, video and other digital forms of communication.
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Alfredo Sanchez, assistant professor of Journalism at MSU Denver and a board member and instructor for Write on Sports, is passionate about teaching the upcoming generation the principles and ethics of journalism in a field that’s constantly evolving.
“Now, pretty much everyone with a cellphone can potentially be a journalist,” Sanchez said. “So as educators, it’s our responsibility to teach this new generation of potential journalists the basic principles of what a journalist can be. We want to widen the gap between (journalists and) the YouTubers and media influencers.”
Maxie Alexander, an eighth-grader at Arvada K-8, said the digital-media sessions were her favorite part of the camp.
“Getting to interview all these athletes and famous people like Ryan Harris, Chris Dempsey (who covers the Denver Nuggets for Altitude Sports), Reggie Rivers (a former sportscaster and Denver Bronco) and Ryan O’Halloran inspired me to work hard to follow my dream,” Alexander said. “I’m glad that everybody gets this opportunity to work on social skills or team-building or to try something new. It’s been a pretty cool experience.”
And the experience doesn’t have to end when the camp is over. MSU Denver has created a pathway for students to keep working toward a career in sports. After attending the camp, students can enroll in the Arvada High School Sports Business Institute and then attend MSU Denver to receive a bachelor’s degree in Sport Management or minor in Sport Media.
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It’s all about staying true to the core mission of Write on Sports: providing opportunities for at-risk students to improve their creative-writing skills by tapping into their passion for sports.
“And we hope that they improve their critical thinking, self-esteem and confidence as well,” Epstein said.