Cameras, graphics, control room all run by students at state tournament
It started with a request a couple years ago from Mick Hoffman, the executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
A former Vancouver Public Schools administrator, Hoffman had seen the excellent work of VPS Game Time, the student-produced sports broadcasts for football, basketball, and other contests in Clark County.
He wondered if those students could do their magic in Tacoma, to produce the broadcasts of the state championship games to go out over the National Federation of State High School Association’s network.
Nick Voll wasn’t sure his crew would be ready back then.
After no tournament last year, Hoffman asked again.
“Let’s give it a shot,” said Voll, the television production supervisor for VPS.
So Voll and 11 high school students representing Columbia River, Skyview and Union went up to the Tacoma Dome last week and did their thing.
If you’ve seen a Game Time production of a football game at Kiggins Bowl or a basketball game at, say, Skyview, well, you already know what happened in Tacoma. The broadcast was superb.
“Really positive,” Voll said of the feedback.
He posted a few comments on a couple Facebook groups featuring others who are in video education.
“We got lots of good comments there. Teachers from all over the country are reaching out to me, trying to get tips,” Voll said. “They’re trying to do the same thing. The kids have been extremely excited. They’re getting props from their friends and teachers and community members.”
Students did the camera work and were in the control room, directing the operation.
The original plan was for the student-led crew to produce the four championship games. They ended up adding four more games to the schedule.
Voll said he drove to Tacoma, with all the needed equipment, and started setting up on Wednesday. The students showed up Thursday and did a few games for training. In other words, they worked games as if they were broadcasting them, but their work was not for public viewing.
Voll figured they were ready. So the student-led broadcasts started Friday, with the last two games of the night on the championship court at the Tacoma Dome. The crew did two more trophy games Saturday before broadcasting the four championship games, one after the other: 4A boys, 4A girls, 3A boys, 3A girls.
“We’re already talking with Mick about how to make this a repeat thing,” Voll said. “This could be a huge reward.”
Voll noted that basketball players train all season, and the best teams earn the right to go to the state tournament. The same can be said for the students who work on sports broadcasts all year. The top students can be selected to go to state.
For this trip, it was Ethan Reyes, Sam Mosier, Derrick Ruggles, Marcus Vela, and Holden Halldorson of Columbia River; Noah Cowan, Sam Howard, Alexis Bergeron, and Kaleb Mason of Skyview; and Max Weimerskich and Molly Hoesch of Union.
Union, of course, is from Evergreen Public Schools. One of the VPS Game Time coaches is a teacher at Union, who asked if they could be involved, as well.
In fact, Voll likes the idea of having more schools involved.
“The long-term goal is to start branching out and getting kids from all over to do it,” he said.
In fact, the WIAA has partnered with the West Valley High School video team in the Yakima Valley SunDome for the 2A and 1A tournaments since 2020.
“The partnership is not only a way to bring fans a professional-style broadcast, but an educational opportunity for students interested in broadcasting careers,” Hoffman said. “As an education-based association, it is exciting to have students producing our broadcasts. This is yet another way the WIAA is working to increase student participation in events.”
After a successful basketball weekend, Voll said he would be interested in other opportunities to broadcast WIAA events, including taking his crew and equipment to the Tacoma area for state championship football games.
“We’d be open to it,” Voll said. “I do know there is a lot of excitement around it.”