Coach's Corner: Meet 4 Glenbrook South grads living the dream in sports broadcasting
It is, without question, one of the most coveted careers, but also toughest fields to enter, for young men and women these days: sports broadcasting. The jobs are numerous, yet the competition is great.
But despite its many challenges and potential pitfalls, the allure and the excitement remains a dream for many young high school- and college-age students -- a dream they are willing to chase while facing tough odds.
In this week's column, we meet four of Glenview's best and brightest just starting their journey into the field, ready to take on the peaks and valleys in a profession that offers the Glenbrook South grads the opportunity to work at something they love: Ben Wittenstein, 26, Class of 2013; Tyler Aki, 24, Class of 2015; Doug Wattley, 22, Class of 2017; and Manny Martinez, 22, Class of 2017.
This is their story, in their own words.
Coach: What first got you interested in sports broadcasting?
Manny: I used to get in trouble for talking too much in school. One day, my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Pierce, suggested maybe I should do my own TV show. I liked the sound of that. Really, from that moment on, television became my passion.
Ben: Being the insightful young high school student that I was, I realized early on, despite my love of basketball, that I wasn't going to make it in the NBA. I wanted to stay in the sports realm, and sports media seemed a good way to do that.
Doug: I always enjoyed sports but realized early I wasn't going to play any of them professionally. So, I audibled and figured I would carve out a spot in the field I'm passionate about.
Tyler: It started with radio classes at Glenbrook South. A friend told me about a teacher, Doc Oswald, so I gave the radio class a try and I loved it!
Coach: Tell me about your experiences in high school and college.
Doug: GBS radio was more than just a class, it was a family. Doc Oswald instilled that. I got to broadcast shows on Saturday mornings and do some of the football and basketball games. At college, Indiana's program really expanded my knowledge base, and I was able to get experience in all areas of sports media.
Tyler: GBS offered more than I ever could have imagined. I got to call varsity football and basketball games, as well as host shows. "Doc" Oswald cared so much about us as students, and he was more than a teacher, he was a mentor (and sometimes therapist as well). I went to Syracuse for college and got to work in the student-run radio station. We got to travel to many road games and saw all kinds of cool sports venues. It was a great experience!
Manny: GBS was incredible! I was in radio all 8 semesters. We had a chance to do our own radio shows, but we also learned about broadcast writing and developing succinct conversational-based scripts. Syracuse just furthered my GBS experience. I was part of a student-run television station and got to be an anchor and analyst on our political show, "Talking Points." I also did a two-hour radio show on Saturday mornings and we were on the air when outlets called the election for Joe Biden, so that was pretty cool.
Ben: People from other schools are always amazed when I tell them at GBS we had our own radio station. The type of hands-on experience I got from GBS was crazy good for high school level. Going to a Big Ten school like Indiana was really valuable. I was able to do work for The Big Ten Network, and because of the scope of what you are covering, you get to meet some of the top sports journalists in the field. Oh, and I should mention Indiana is now a Top 25 football school, too!
Coach: What experiences have you had post college?
Tyler: Right now, I am a producer at ESPN 1000 in Chicago. I work on a number of shows, including the 6 to 8 p.m. Bleck and Abdalla show, as well as some White Sox baseball and a weekend hockey show. I also host a couple of podcasts and do some play-by-play for school stations at DePaul, UIC and Loyola.
Manny: I took a job in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. At WBTW news, I am a MMJ (a multimedia journalist). It has been really fun so far, but also very stressful. I moved to a place I have never been before, and viewers expect me to be well-versed in just about everything. I was supposed to be the weekend reporter, but just last week got promoted to Monday-Friday daytimes. It will be a challenge, but I am looking forward to it!
Ben: So, I made the move many of us in sports journalism have to make and moved to a small town in Missouri to work for a radio station. I literally did everything from play-by-play to hosting, meteorologist to reading obituaries. It was great experience in helping you "find your voice" without the pressure of a huge audience. Currently, I am back in Chicago and working as a social media content producer and podcast host for a sports network called Stadium.
Doug: As of now, having just graduated, I haven't started my professional experiences. It was tough finding internships last summer because of the pandemic. But I'm optimistic I will find something soon.
Coach: Were you concerned about all the competition in the field of sports journalism?
Manny: I knew finding a job in Chicago was going to be next to impossible, so I was concerned about having to move to "the middle of nowhere," but luckily found a job in Myrtle Beach. My boss discovered me through posted YouTube videos, which is the way it is done now, instead of sending out tapes. It was really cool signing a contract while I was still in college. I felt like a multimillionaire ballplayer!
Ben: That was literally my number one concern when I started college. Everyone wants to work in sports, it seems. So the fact that the talent pool is so large and the jobs so few is certainly daunting.
Doug: Let's put it this way, when I decided to study sports media, I was not oblivious to the risks. The pandemic definitely hurt some of my chances for additional experiences, but after thinking it through, I stuck with it, because I felt like that is what I am best at and what I am most passionate about.
Tyler: I wouldn't say I was concerned about finding a job, but it was definitely frustrating at first. I heard a lot of "no," or "check back later," or simply got no response. But I am glad I was patient with it.
Coach: What is your ultimate goal? Your dream job?
Ben: I might be at my dream job right now, honestly. I get to work on Twitter and Instagram all day interacting with people, and I get to host a podcast about the NBA and sports betting. But, if I had to say my dream job? It would be doing play-by-play for the Chicago Bulls.
Doug: If I had to choose right now, I would say being TV director for CBS college basketball. The director is the one who decides which camera to use, from full court action shots, to the coach who is barking at the ref, to the crazies in the student section. I think that would be pretty cool. Or doing Cubs games or golf. That would be pretty exciting. I still have plenty of years to decide.
Tyler: Ultimately, I would love to be a sports talk host in Chicago. I also enjoy calling games, and college basketball is my favorite sport, so a dream would be to call games or be a studio host for big-time college hoops.
Manny: My ultimate goal is to anchor television news in Chicago. I am happy to gain experience elsewhere and learn a completely different way of life, but I love the city of Chicago! Nothing compares to Chicago, so one day I want to return home to work.
So there you have it. Four of our young Glenview professionals just starting out in the world of broadcasting and journalism.
The look upward is steep and the challenges immense, no doubt, but you get the feeling that, with some hard work, some good, old-fashioned stick-to-itiveness and just a little bit of luck, these four will somehow find their way to the top.
One thing is for sure, though: When you love something and are passionate about it, the journey -- even with all the work involved -- becomes so much easier.
Oh, and don't forget to enjoy the process. So many successful folks have reminded us over the years to make sure to "enjoy the ride." Often it is the journey itself that provides greater thrills than the ultimate destination.
• Jon Cohn of Glenview is a coach, retired PE teacher, sports official and prep sports fan. To contact him with comments or story ideas, email firstname.lastname@example.org.