TJ Denault has never strapped on pads, worn eye black or put on a football helmet at Bishop Hendricken, but the senior is just as prepared for game-day as the defending state champion Hawks will be when they head to Cranston Stadium Nov. 21 to compete in their 13th consecutive state championship.
Denault is a member of Hawks Broadcast Network, a student-run club that produces live games and some school events at Hendricken.
Denault and his teammates don’t pull out their iphones and turn on Facebook Live.
The club is student-driven and covers all aspects of producing a sports broadcast. The network offers students a chance to experience play-by-play, color commentary, camera work, technical duties, research, writing, graphics, packages and more. The goal is to provide the students with hands-on experience while producing complete coverage for the viewers..
“My experience has been nothing short of incredible. The Hawks Broadcast Network opened up so many different doors for me and I’ve met so many people in the field. Since joining the club and learning all about broadcasting, I know now that (broadcast journalism) is what I want to do. It has prepared me for college,” said Denault . You learn so much about every aspect of a broadcast. It feels like I’m working on a real college broadcast.”
Christian Kabbas, Hendricken’s director of marketing and communications, oversees the Hawks Broadcast Network.
“We cover big games because not only do we want to make sure people have a place to watch the games if they can’t be in attendance, but we also want to put the guys working on the broadcast in front of big crowds….to give them the real big game experience.” said Kabbas.
“This is a different career path for sports,” said Sean O’Donnell, a junior and member of the Hawks Broadcast Network. “You don’t have to be a player or an on the field talent to be involved in sports professional level or collegiate level.”
But sports enthusiasts aren’t the only students who are involved in the school’s network.
“We see a lot of crossover amongst other activities, too, with the broadcast network. A lot of the guys in arts programs are interested in the network because it’s the idea of getting involved in journalism or public speaking…a lot of the skills they are learning in drama or media arts directly translate into the kind of stuff we do on the broadcast network,” said Kabbas.
Stone Freeman, the play-by-play voice of URI sports on Yurview, got his start in broadcast journalism nearly 10 years ago when he helped launch the Hawks Broadcast Network.
“I was the first one in the press box and the last one to leave,” said Freeman.. “I took advantage of the opportunity and pushed myself at Hendricken and I learned a lot.
“We were treated like professionals,” he added. “Best memory is getting the opportunity to travel with the Hendricken basketball team to Disney in 2014. Five of the sports network guys got to go and it helped grow us as broadcasters and our following. Parents back home were tuned in and it felt like we were “real” broadcasters, not just students.”
With each broadcast Freeman gained experience and honed his skills.
He would go on to study journalism at URI and gained experience by becoming actively involved in several media outlets from GoRhody and the Good 5 Cent Cigar to ABC6 and NBC10 to The Sports Hub in Boston. His hard work has paid off.
“By the time I got to URI I had a ton of experience and was ready to go. Hendricken and the Hawks Sports Network prepared me for college and my professional career,” said Freeman. “I’ve treated the Hendricken/Barrington football game on Friday night in September 2015 the same way I’ll treat a URI men’s basketball game in the A10 Tournament. I’ve always prepared myself in the same way and hoped for a moment like this and here they are so I have to take advantage right now while they’re here.”
Not everyone who participates in Hawks Broadcast Network envisions a career in the press box at the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament or in the broadcast booth for Monday Night Football, but the skills they gain from their experience as part of the Hawks Broadcast Network will extend far beyond the game-day.
“Public speaking, conducting research, the ability to be on air in front of an exorbitant amount of people and talk confidently and enthusiastically, writing and preparation are skills that are all covered by participating in the broadcast network,” said Kabbas.
“We want to make sure regardless of what the guys do here everything is geared to prepare them beyond Hendricken,” said Kabbas. “When we talk to the guys about interviews for the broadcast network, we are focusing on interviews in front of a camera or for researching for a story, but my hope is that this skill set translates when a kid goes in for a college interview, an internship interview and eventually a job interview.. The hope is that we are setting some sort of foundation for students to make that easier down the line and prepare for life after Hendricken.”
And for a fall/winter update on the RIIL, Stone Freeman interviewed RIIL Executive Director Mike Lunney…