The denizens of the media workroom at One Buccaneer Place are mostly seasoned veterans, print and television reporters who have expertly covered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for years. During the Buccaneers' 2010 training camp, however, there were some fresh young faces mixed into the media crowd.
As part of the Sportz Ventures' Internship Program, a handful of local high school students who are interested in sports media careers were invited out to this year's camp. Over the course of several days, the fledgling reporters interviewed dozens of Buccaneers players and coaches, reporting on the lighter side of the team and its training sessions.
Sportz Ventures provides internships to high school and college students who wish to pursue careers in sports management, public relations, events planning, broadcasting, journalism and videography. The organization gives interns the opportunity to interview professional athletes and publish projects on their school's athletic websites, helping to build their resumes and paint a clearer picture of what a career in sports media entails.
Bringing that pursuit to an NFL team's home was eye-opening for the young reporters. For instance, East Lake High School senior Emily Blair was initially a bit timid about interviewing some of the Buccaneers but she left training camp with a new appreciation for the media.
"I didn't expect it to be this fun," stated Blair. "I understand how much hard work [people] actually do here. I guess I wasn't expecting so many people, all kinds of cameras and media everywhere."
Blair (East Lake), Destiny Ferrer (Seminole), Adam Gaetz (Dixie Hollins), Diana Gorman (St. Petersburg), Stephanie Juergens and Billy Rogers (Osceola), and Caitlyn Smith (East Lake) were selected through an application process with Sportz Ventures. Each student was granted media credentials and on-field access to conduct interviews with Buccaneers players, coaches and front office staff. Their questions touched on a variety of topics, from holiday traditions to what players kept in their refrigerators.
"We asked them what their favorite Halloween costumes were," said Juergens. "The funniest answer was a nurse. Someone said they were a nurse when they were younger."
Juergens also asked the players about their taste in music, learning that the team's preferences varied throughout the locker room.
"We asked them what the most embarrassing song on their IPod was and Carrie Underwood and Faith Hill came up a lot," said Juergens. "I was surprised that some of them even listened to country, so that was pretty funny."
Along with learning the team's musical preferences, the students took away a valuable lesson from interviewing Buccaneers staff: the importance of volunteering. Gaetz, who was the only student to visit One Buccaneer Place on two different days, was eager to find a way to balance his school work and an internship.
"I'm definitely going to try to volunteer no matter what," said Gaetz. "This is a top priority. This is the career I want to go into and it always has been since I started it my freshman year in high school. I had never touched it before, but once I started my freshman year, I knew this is what I had to do."
One highlight of the students' experience was an opportunity to sit down with Buccaneers' General Manager Mark Dominik. Dominik shared his personal story with the students and gave them advice on pursuing a career within the sports industry.
"He was so down-to-earth and gave us real advice, life-lesson advice," said Juergens. "He sat down and actually talked to us in a small group and he really had a heartfelt conversation with us. I thought that was really nice of someone who is so famous and so high up that he would actually take time out of his busy schedule to talk to us."
After speaking with staff members and players, some students left One Buccaneer Place with new career paths in mind. For Blair, a number of different roles in the industry seemed appealing.
"I would love to be the general manager of a football team," said Blair. "I would love to do behind-the-scenes work, public relations, and I would really love to be an ESPN anchor."
Having spent a full day at an NFL training camp, Blair and her counterparts were now one step closer to turning their dreams into a reality.
"I think they got a perspective of the job duties of what media members do and it broadened their horizons of future opportunities within the industry," said Jenny Corace, vice president of public relations for Sportz Ventures. "Hopefully, we will be able to come back and make this a yearly thing. It always adds to the experience when people take time out of what their duty is with the Bucs to come and tell the kids what they are doing."
For many students, the Sportz Ventures internship would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For the group that visited One Buccaneer Place, hopefully it was the first of many more to come.
"You need experience to get to where you are going," said Juergens. "If you just have a major or degree in communications or broadcasting, it's not going to get you that step further unless you get your foot in the door and get experience."