In the spotlight: High school athletes and coaches adapt to increased media coverage
BY BARRY LEWIS World Sports Writer
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
7/13/11 at 3:39 AM
AFTER PITCHING Broken Arrow to victory in the Class 6A state baseball title game in May, Archie Bradley was surrounded by media - perhaps the most any athlete had faced after a high school event in Oklahoma.
It capped a school year of intense local and national media coverage of Bradley, a potential University of Oklahoma quarterback who was selected last month by the Arizona Diamondbacks as the seventh overall pick in the Major League Baseball Draft. Bradley handled the media attention as well as a veteran pro such as Derek Jeter or Peyton Manning.
"I say it kind of comes natural, but at the same time it's kind of weird," Bradley said. "It's weird that people want to interview me, take my photos, get my autograph, just because I can throw a baseball, you know? That's the hardest part for me to adjust to. But then if people are wanting to do that, it's the least I can do to be polite, be courteous, enjoy the moment, because you only go through this once. You might as well live it up."
Owasso's Dylan Bundy, also a subject of intense local and national media interest this spring and the draft's fourth overall choice by the Baltimore Orioles, had this view of handling the coverage: "It's been easy I guess. Annoying at times."
KTUL channel 8 sports director Chris Lincoln sees a big difference in media coverage of high school athletics these days compared to when he first arrived as the Tulsa television station's sports director in 1974.
"High school sports are more important to us now than when I came here, because all of our studies show that there is more interest in high school sports than anything else except our three main college teams - OU, OSU and TU," Lincoln said. "High school sports are so much easier to cover now because of cell phones and all the websites. All these kids have grown up with the media and handle the media much better than 30 years ago."
Union football coach Kirk Fridrich remembers when he first realized the Internet's impact on high school coverage.
"We learned a good lesson in 2004 when I was coaching at Stillwater," Fridrich said. "We were getting ready to play Owasso and one of our players said something in the local paper that wasn't bad, but it was bulletin board material. (Owasso's coach) Ron Smith said because of the Internet, he knew all about it in Owasso that afternoon the paper came out in Stillwater."
To help high school coaches, athletes and administrators understand the changing media landscape, former sports writer Andrew Gilman started Fusion Sports Communication in the summer of 2009. Gilman was the lead high school reporter for the Oklahoman from 2003-05. Gilman has made presentations on dealing with the media to high schools in Oklahoma and Arkansas, and is scheduled to speak to the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association convention in Indianapolis in December.
"Ten years ago, no one ever dreamed that all companies would need to have sexual harassment seminars at work," Gilman said. "I think soon it will be the same thing with all schools needing to have some type of media training for their coaches and administrators."
Gilman saw a big need for high schools to receive media training.
"No one has really talked to them before about how the media works," Gilman said. "For example, so many don't know the difference between a writer and a columnist.
"Coaches need to be informed. They need to read the paper. When a reporter comes to do a story, ask when it will run, know the focus of the story and who the reporter is. Understand the job of the interviewer. They also need to be quotable. And the media likes interesting stories. Tell the stories of your team. Return phone calls. Tell the truth. No texting while talking, and smile."
First impressions are important, according to Gilman.
"When I see Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo wearing their caps backwards, I don't think of them being football players," Gilman said. "When I see Peyton Manning, I think football player. You need to be careful of what you are wearing."
Gilman stresses that media is not just limited to newspapers and television and radio stations.
"Media is watching everywhere," Gilman said. "Media is far reaching, Media can be your parents and sometimes the kids. It can be texting or anything that can be of public record. Nearly everyone has Facebook."
Bixby football coach Loren Montgomery, who has heard Gilman's presentation, warns his players to be careful on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
"In a past situation, there was a picture brought to us where one of our players was at a party and he was in the background with an alcoholic beverage in his hand," said Montgomery, who was on Jenks' staff for 10 years before moving to Bixby.
"We had to suspend him. So I talk to them about if you're doing right, you don't have to worry about anything, but you also have to be careful of who you're around and what you're around. If there's alcohol in the picture, whether you're guilty or not, you are accountable for everything because you represent our program. We address these things all the time."
Broken Arrow football coach Steve Spavital has a Twitter acount, but don't look for anything controversial to come from him.
"I use Twitter mostly to follow people," Spavital said. "I am not really concerned who is following me. I might tweet something like 'Come and support us when we play Friday night,' or report something that happened in our game.
"When we play in Texas in September, I'll be able to go on Twitter and find out what's been going on in the games in Oklahoma that night. The coverage is awesome now. I like keeping track with what's going on at other high schools."
Dillon O'Carroll, a World All-Metro offensive lineman and starter on two Booker T. Washington state football title teams, had a Twitter account during his last two years in high school. He used it with extreme caution when commenting about his team, following the advice of Hornets assistant "Coach Ice," Reginald Terry.
"I always tried to be careful - anything I tweeted would be positive and supportive about our teams and school at Booker T," said O'Carroll, who will continue his football career as a freshman at Brown University this fall.
O'Carroll didn't have any complaints about media coverage of the Hornets when they won their two state titles or when an eligibility problem involving more than 40 athletes caused them to forfeit three wins in 2009 and resulted in coaching changes.
"I understand that what was being reported was news, and I thought the media coverage was fair," O'Carroll said. "In the years we won championships, it was fun reading in the paper about our team and listening to what they were saying about us on TV and sports radio."
Jenks boys basketball coach Clay Martin marvels at the media coverage of high school athletics these days compared to the early 1990s when he was a standout at Hale.
"There is so much broader coverage now," Martin said. "It's just not the marquee game of the week on Friday for football or Tuesdays and Fridays in basketball. And there is a lot more depth to the coverage now. I think it's a great motivator for our young people.
"We try to encourage our kids not to get too high or too low with the media. There's no question kids are more media savvy today."
Dealing with media: Do's and don'ts
Andrew Gilman of Fusion Sports Communication gives these suggestions:
DO (for athletes)
- Make the right impression or the one you want to make.
- Be informed and understand what "off the record" means.
- Do know the names of people who know your name.
DO (for coaches)
- Give media good human feature angles on your players.
- Worry about what you and your athletes are wearing.
- Familiarize yourself with how newspapers and broadcast media work.
- Warn your athletes about inappropriate activity on Facebook and Twitter.
Don't (for athletes)
- Put pictures on Facebook.
- Ignore your phone (do return calls from the media).
- Be careless about what you text and put on Facebook.
Don't (for coaches)
- Be negligent about filling out paperwork on media questionnaires and for postseason honors.
- "Friend" your players on Facebook.
- Hide from the media after a loss or fail to call in your scores.
World Sports Writer Matt Baker contributed to this article
Original Print Headline: In the spotlight
Barry Lewis 918-581-8393
Archie Bradley is interviewed by numerous media outlets after the Class 6A baseball championship at ONEOK Field in May. JOEY JOHNSON / For the Tulsa World