In this second part of Access, do :: or :: diso covers several topics: (a) how to ask for access; (b) what SIDs expect (for this section, do :: or :: diso interviews seven sports information directors / media relations specialists who provide insight to help you understand the folks who control your access); and (c) a brief mention of some “out there” sports.
The backdrop for this second installment is swimming and diving shots largely from a Division One meet this year between The University of Denver and The University of Wyoming. Pertinent to some of the comments below, I reached out to the DU SID in charge of the swimming and diving teams, told him about this article, and offered to share shots with the school. Then, especially pertinent to the SID comments below, I communicated about where I was and was not permitted to be to shoot the meet and arrived early on the meet day to get a “lay of the land.” The swimming pool is a tight environment and it was important to make sure I occupied only permitted territory.
A) How to ask for access. My suggestion is three-fold. First, explain succinctly who you are and why you would like access. Second, offer to share images. In the first category, it is helpful to have an on-line portfolio link of 6-10 images that the Contact can review quickly. This will provide credibility and show your understanding of the rules and respect for them. I once talked with a photographer who suggested that even though strobes are not allowed at most NCAA and high school games, he could get around that by having a couple of friends in the basketball stands with speedlights; he explained that “in reality” the lights did not really bother the players or “affect the outcome.” It really does not matter whether or not the lights bother the players and I would hope upon hope that no photographer would ever do anything that could affect the outcome of a game or match. The point is that if the rules prohibit the use of lights, that is all you need to know. Even if you disagree with the rules, respect and follow them or your attendance at a game will be short- lived and repeat attendance will likely be banned. You can see from the interviews below that the main concern of SIDs is compliance with the school and NCAA rules.
Second, share you images. If they are used, you will get attribution and that will help build a portfolio and add to your credibility. It also helps build a relationship with the SID. Third take an interest in the team you are shooting. The SID lives and breathes her / his teams and for the time you are with the SID, you should as well.
B) What SIDs expect. Let’s have a conversation with seven SIDs and media access folks and find out what they do and what they expect. The interviewees, their affiliations and the level:
Kurt Austin (“KA“) – Media Relations, Sporting Kansas City (Major League Soccer)
Danny Kambel (“DK“) – Sports Information Director – Pacific University (Division 3 – Northwest Conference)
Andrew Sogn (“AS“) – Sports Information Director – South Dakota State University (Division 1 – Summit League)
Marshall Fey (“MF“) – Sports Information Director – Northwest Missouri State University (Division 2 – Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association)
Ryan Prickett (“RP“) – Sports Information Director – Ft. Hays State University (Division 2 – Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association)
Gene Cassell (“GC“) – Sports Information Director – Washburn University (Division 2 – Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association)
Nik Busch (“NB“) – Assistant Sports Information Director – University of Missouri – Kansas City (Division 1 – Western Athletic Conference).
Let’s start with some information about the job:
Diso – What is the job of media relations / SID?
DK: The SID is a vehicle to help student-athletes, coaches, and administrators of past and present receive recognition. No routines and days are the same for the Sports Information Director.
AS: That is the million-dollar question, and one my mother still asks on a frequent basis. Along with getting paid to watch sporting events and interact with some of the most talented young men and women in our world . . . my standard answer is that the SID is the athletic department’s liaison to the media and fans, handling external publicity and increasing awareness for the athletic programs.
GC: I think of it as the PR wing for the athletic department … it’s more than just stats … your website is sometimes the first item of publicity people see for you institution so it has to look nice … we also produce all the game programs, media guides, social media graphics and handle the social media accounts for our school as well … then you have all the game administration items and the media requests which go along with it.
NB: It is promotion of the teams through social media, including developing graphics for post. . . . writing the releases that go with each team and in-game duties, including keeping stats and making sure the broadcast, both video and audio, is running smoothly. The last major aspect is acting as an intermediary between the players, coaches and any other member of the athletic department and the media.
RP: Beyond statistician and writer, some other skills we incorporate are graphic design, computer tech, communicator, desktop publishing, video production, social media coordinator, etc. Often times I see myself as a professional troubleshooter with software and other game day issues, because we have to find solutions to problems in a pinch.
MF: I’m paid to watch sports. Fairly tough to complain about that. I’m in charge of all statistics and media relating to our athletic department. Any time one of our teams competes, I publish those results to our website and report them on to our conference office and the NCAA. I make sure that any records are accurately kept. I also help coordinate any interviews and media requests for our teams.
Diso: What is your typical work day?
NB: There are two types of days; game day and non-game day. A typical non-game day consists of updating stats, game notes, preparing graphics, preparing programs, talking to coaches about the upcoming games, nominating athletes for awards, writing releases and fixing any issues with anything that has arisen. On a game day, I set up and prep for the game start, which includes setting up scoring computer, broadcast equipment, stat machines, printing programs and game notes, taking care of the media meal if there is one and that is all before the game. During the game, I make sure all the equipment is operating correctly, and all the stats and table crew are being handled correctly, so we can tweet and Instagram and use other social media. I get the coaches and media anything they need. After the game, there is tear down and game wrap-ups which include handling post games interviews, writing the story and distributing it to media, updating graphics and pictures, and updating stats and broadcasts.
RP: It is all the after-hours tasks we do that tack on loads of hours beyond the standard 40. We have to stat and help administrate games, which are often in the evenings or on weekends, so it’s very normal to work all seven days of the week and push beyond 60 hours per week on a regular basis. Then after-game tasks include writing recap stories, posting stats, and preparing information for the next day when there’s a quick turnaround. Whenever the sports are happening, we’re in work mode.
GC: The busiest time is crossover season when the fall sports are still going and basketball/track is start for indoor and then in the spring when basketball is wrapping up and the spring sports is starting … we have media notes for all our sports for upcoming games and matches and while those are happening we’re working ahead to complete media guides and then planning video shoots for anything we may need in the future as well as photo shoots for upcoming media guides and posters we have coming up to produce … then we have the games where we do take stats if it’s a home event and then load to the web, grab photos and then write recaps of the game and send out to our media list of more than 90 places.
KA: For those who don’t work in sports, the myth of a quiet offseason is the biggest misconception. In many ways, an offseason – though lacking the public drama of games – can be the busiest time of the year. And in Major League Soccer, the offseason is incredibly short. The championship is held the second week in December and the team’s preseason begins the second week of January. The handful of weeks in the offseason is packed with roster movement and drafts in addition to holiday obligations.
AS: The first few hours of the day are typically spent on game notes or sport-specific tasks for whatever program is in-season (fall is soccer, winter is basketball, spring is softball) and knock those out to free up the rest of the day. From there, I’ll check in with our head SID to see if he needs any help, and touch base with my coaches (head and assistants) to see if I can help with anything of theirs. The afternoon is spent finishing up media requests or anything else that came up from the morning before turning my attention to some long-term projects. Those can include media guides or preseason releases for the next sport I’ll handle. If there is a game that night, at about 4:30 or 4:45 p.m., I begin final preparations for the game (set up press conference, stats computer, media seating area, etc.) and check in with coaches again for any last-minute needs. Once the game starts, my focus includes social media and tracking game notes, while postgame is handling media requests, writing the press release and tearing down our area after the game.
Diso: How do you use photographers and photographs?
NB: Photographs are the main thing people see. With social media growing every day, photographs and visuals are what draw people in.
KA: More and more, the interaction between a sports team and its fans is happening in a digital space – whether that be television, Internet, mobile app, etc. – so it’s no surprise that photography is a leading priority. This is true well beyond the communications and digital departments. Photography plays an equally important role for marketing, retail, private events, sponsorship, etc.
DK: I utilize photographers to help tell the efforts of our athletic department.
AS: In a list of ten things I do on a daily basis, I would argue that photographs and photographers make an impact on at least six or seven of those tasks. For a social media post, I like to have a photo (or graphic with a photo) alongside the post to increase visibility and push the message. Anytime we send a press release on our website, it includes a photo. For media, a lot of their interview requests come alongside an action photo request for the article.
MF: The increased presence we have tried to create on social media means that we have relied more heavily on photos since we aren’t quite to the point of incorporating video in everything we do. We use a game photo for every event we publish.
RP: Having good quality photos helps promote the brand of our university and convey the message that we put a strong emphasis on our athletic programs here at Fort Hays State. We consider athletics a “front porch” of our university because it creates the opportunity to unify a university and bring people together. It also creates a source of entertainment and discussion.
Diso: Is there anything you would like the photographers of the world to know or think about as they interact with you?
NB: Most photographers are professional and know how to interact with a SID. Occasionally there are some who think they are our only priority and that we don’t have a million other things going on, but that is rare. Sometimes we may have to ask you to shoot something that seems odd or is a bland, inartistic shot, but those photographs definitely have a purpose for someone in the department. We aren’t trying to limit your creativity. Sometimes when we have student photographers at games, they will be in a spot they aren’t supposed to be and we will have to tell them to move, but that is all part of the learning process and is never a major issue.
RP: We are an NCAA Division II school where the budget is more limited in the services we can pay for. Photographers who help us out with reasonable pricing are a huge help. I’d much rather use a photographer that does it for the enjoyment of being at the games and capturing the moment than someone that sees every game as a business proposition. I appreciate photographers that communicate 1-on-1 with a SID prior to a game to fully understand the locations on or around the field/court where they are allowed. It’s always frustrating seeing a photographer that goes outside designated areas for photography to try and push the envelope and get shots from wherever they want. We are concerned about the safety of not just our athletes, but also the media that covers from the sideline as well. We designate areas for a reason and it’s frustrating when we have people push those buttons as we have plenty of other things to worry about on a game day.
GC: The biggest item is to just talk to the SID about some of the rules/regulations of the sports you are shooting and know where you can be on the court or field. You need to ask for a media pass, and not just show up on game day expecting it’s okay … I think communication is key on knowing the venues logistics on know where is okay to shoot from because every place has different rules/requirements … The other is the use of flashes indoor which are not strobes in the ceiling which is a no-no via most conference and NCAA rules.
KA: First, never assume the staff member has a keen understanding of your job as a photographer. There is a level of educating and openness with one another that is needed to find an optimal balance. Second, photographers should never be afraid to make an ask of their contact at an organization. Good media relations staffs will do everything they can to accommodate photographers, and their ideas, when given advance notice.
DK: Ask before you act is what I would like the photographers of the world to know. As the SID, I value their abilities and their skills; so, let’s work together. The main problem that I run into with photographers is when they do not know the limitations of where they can be during a sporting event. Their space is defined by NCAA and conference rules as well as the rules that we establish as an athletic department. Infringing on that space as well as that rules has been the root of our problems.
AS: Communication is the biggest key to positive interactions. If a photographer checks in with me pregame to visit about any potential photo requests, or any specific needs, that goes a long way. Additionally, if I feel I have a solid relationship with our photographer I’ll mention those needs/wants, should they pop up. I think problems arise when there is miscommunication, much like anything in life. For instance, if our website has a more horizontal layout and photos are all vertical, that creates a lack of usage. With all the social media graphics, website content and media requests for photos that arise, having a plethora of photos is a major asset for an SID, and having a variety of different subjects (student-athletes, coaches, fans), angles, types of photos, etc., can provide a major boost to coverage options and credibility.
C) Out there sports. As summer approaches a few of the more “out there” sports that you might consider are body-building, boxing, roller derby, and rugby. do :: or :: diso has discussed each in the past and all offer pretty easy access if you can find the promoter / sponsor and make the request. In other words, as you think of sports to shoot and gaining access, be creative.
Next month, do :: or :: diso’s take on the upside down world of gymnastics photography.
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