MONTCLAIR, NJ - Nearly 100 students interested in a career in sports journalism gathered on the campus of Montclair State University during the months of July and August to attend the Write On Sports summer camp.
The camp brought together students primarily from Essex, Union and Passaic Counties to provide an opportunity for them to learn what it takes to become a professional sports broadcaster/journalist and also what goes on behind the scenes. They practice their interviewing skills by reviewing bios and statistics, learning the do’s and don’ts of journalism, and how to prepare a series of questions.
The camp was founded by Byron Yake after he retired from a 30-year career with the Associated Press.
Yake had started as a sports writer covering sports in Pittsburgh and wanted to provide an opportunity to help students write. Yake figured that sports would be a good point of entry for students to write about.
“Students don’t often get to choose what they write about in school, and it tends to be very task-oriented,” said Yake. “It’s about the learning process, writing to learn, and seeing writing as something that can be enjoyable.”
The camp’s curriculum is to help students improve their writing by writing about sports without making it feel like school.
“What I’m most proud of is that students come away learning some important things while also having a good time,” said WoS instructor Andy Beutel.
Camper Luca Favetta of West Orange stated, “I enjoy how it’s not like school and it’s more like having fun. This is my first time here, and I will definitely come back next year.”
The camp was broken down into several locations, including Newark, Hawthorne/Clifton, and Roselle Catholic. However, there were occaisions when campers were brought together at MSU to listen to guest speakers.
Campers were paid a visit by Harold Reynolds; a former second baseman for the Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles, and California Angels. Since his retirement, he has become a television analyst for MLB Network and Fox Sports. Reynolds discussed the importance of perseverance and the key elements of professional sports reporting.
“Always listen when somebody is talking,” said Reynolds. He also mentioned how “Baseball is a metaphor for life; being able to stay focused on what’s important. How do you handle the highs and lows?”
Reynolds also talked about the most impactful moment of his career. He got kicked out of a baseball game in high school, and a scout for the Toronto Blue Jays was present.
He wrote down “bad attitude” in his notes. “I threw my helmet to my coach, which was against the rules. I went from the 2nd in the country to a 6th round pick. You only get one chance to make a first impression.”
During the summer, WoS campers also received a visit from guest journalist Matthew Stanmyre and guest athlete Jesus Rosas, a recent West Orange High School graduate headed to Rider University in the Fall.
The Newark Camp, which was held at the Prudential Center, took a tour of the Rock with New Jersey Devils play-by-play announcer Matt Loughlin to get a behind the scenes look of both a player and a broadcaster.
While everybody has varying ambitions and goals in life, programs like Write On Sports can help kids determine what they are or are not comfortable with. It also teaches them writing skills that they can utilize in non-sports related assignments, such as final exam papers and college application essays. For more information on Write On Sports, visit https://writeonsports.org/.
Natalie Heard Hackett contributed to this article.