Youth Media Team member, mentor and aspiring journalist – Glenn Wheeler – describes his experience of being a part of the media team at this year’s Sainsbury’s School Games.
The Sainsbury’s School Games is arguably one of the largest events of its kind in the world and it, without doubt, provides much inspiration for thousands of young people in Britain.
I have been fortunate enough to attend the last two instalments of this multi-sports event, not as a competitor, but as a member of the Youth Media Team that is run by the Youth Sport Trust in partnership with Supporter 2 Reporter. Last year, we travelled to London as the Sainsbury’s 2012 School Games was hosted by various Olympic and Paralympic venues and, a year on, we were covering the action taking place in Sheffield.
During the Sainsbury’s 2013 School Games, a huge amount of emphasis was placed on the the event being a major stepping-stone for the athletes who were fortunate enough to be selected to compete. Not only was this mentioned in various speeches during the VIP Reception and the Opening Ceremony, but many success stories of the School Games were referred to as well, including: Ellie Simmons, Jonnie Peacock and Hannah Cockroft. The latter was a prominent figure throughout the whole of this year’s Games as she watched plenty of the action and officially opened the event on Thursday evening during the Opening Ceremony. During a number of interviews that the double Paralympic gold medalist gave, she discussed how experiencing three School Games (in 2007, 2008 and 2011) helped her to adapt to professional life and focus on her races at the London 2012 Paralympics. Cockroft then continued to stress that the Games should inspire the athletes competing to push for bigger and better things, and that they should remember the experience if they do further their careers.
A stepping-stone for aspiring journalists
I strongly believe, however, that it is not just the athletes competing in the Sainsbury’s School Games that can benefit in this way. I am certain that some members of the Youth Media Team are aspiring sports journalists and broadcasters. How can I be sure? Well, I am an example of this. I have long held hopes of having a career in the media and my experiences at the 2012 and 2013 Sainsbury’s School Games have helped my development. Like the athletes who compete, I see the event as a step to a professional career.
There are many aspects of reporting at a School Games which, one can imagine, are extremely similar to reporting for a living.
During the Games, the Young Media Team produces multiple reports and the young journalists have to capture, edit and upload their footage all before a deadline, some of which are extremely tight. These reports are all uploaded to the School Games feed on www.makewav.es/schoolgames. This website allows young people to share reports and blogs in a safe and secure environment. Some reports, however, are utilised by the Youth Sport Trust and featured on relevant websites and YouTube channels. The Youth Media Team also works in the main media centre and so they are working in a busy, hectic and pressurised atmosphere alongside professional journalists.
The art of interviewing
Whilst all of this is crucial to the development of an aspiring reporter, I believe that the key skill taught to the Youth Media Team is the art of interviewing. Often around the Games there are many famous faces wandering from sport to sport and it is the Youth Media Team’s job to speak to these VIPs. This can be challenging for many reasons. Not only do the young reporters have to plan questions for their interviewees, but the process of asking someone for an interview can be a daunting task in itself. VIPs interviewed by the Youth Media Team at the Sainsbury’s 2013 School Games included Hannah Cockroft and Sue Campbell. Last year I was fortunate enough to speak to Tanni Grey-Thompson, Darren Campbell and Jason Gardener. From a mentor’s perspective, the way that the members of the Youth Media Team went about their interviews this year was exceptional, and it was great to see how their confidence increased as the Games went on.
Skills for the future
From a personal point of view, my time as a reporter at the Sainsbury’s 2012 School Games in London taught me a great deal. I pushed myself to the limit over five days of intense work and feel that I came out of it with improved skills. These skills would then be put under further scrutiny a few months later as during the summer of 2012 I was fortunate enough to be a Young Presenter at seven Olympic and Paralympic events. Without a shadow of doubt, I was able to settle into my role at London 2012 much easier due to my time at the School Games and, as a result, I was able expend all my energy on learning and presenting to the best of my ability.
Perhaps last year, I could not appreciate just how much I developed as a reporter at the School Games as I was so involved in it. After taking a step back into my mentoring role, this year, it was clear to see that every member of the Youth Media Team improved and honed their skills, became much more confident, and finished the weekend as better reporters.
I am sure that the Sainsbury’s 2013 School Games inspired many of the competing athletes but I am also certain that it inspired every member of the Youth Media Team. We will have to wait and see to find out whether or not any of the young reporters of 2013 become household names, but what I can say is that, if the Youth Media Team continues to play a prominent role, it won’t be long until it has a list of alumni as long as the list of former School Games athletes who are competing at a professional level.
Follow Glenn on Twitter: @GlennWheeler_