Working for Ohio Athletics

This is a feature on what it is like to work for the Athletic Department at Ohio University. I wrote this for my final for my Multiplatform Reporting Journalism class.

Walking into the Convocation Center each day for work is an eerily strange experience. For a place that is usually bustling with hyped-up, cheering fans, it is uncharacteristically quiet when it’s not gameday.

Instead of squeaking sneakers, the radio voice of the announcer, or buzzers signaling the end of a period, I only hear the slight tap of my feet as I walk through the almost never-ending circular hallway toward the media room. No one is here in this thirteen-thousand seat arena except for me.

©2015 Calvin Mattheis | Ohio Athletics

©2015 Calvin Mattheis | Ohio Athletics

As I walk into the media room, the lights flicker on. I open my computer and begin the day’s work: organizing and archiving photos from games shot during the past few weeks. I can hear myself chew the cheetos I bought for my haphazard lunch for the day and the methodical clicking of my computer mouse soon starts to sound like a beatbox. “Men’s Basketball vs. Buffalo” is the first folder I open.

This is what it’s like to work for Ohio Athletics behind the scenes. The fans see the players on the court, but I get to see the athletes over and over again, sometimes witnessing some very raw emotions. As I open up the folder of the game against Buffalo, memories from that game day flood my brain.

I close my eyes and I can almost feel the heavy air on that day in the arena as Treg Setty walked off the court after his final moments of playtime in the Convocation Center. Fans clapped and cheered as Treg high-fived them on his way to the bench. I snapped a photo. For a moment that was so incredibly loud in reality, every time I see that photo I think of a player that’s at peace, recognizing that his long journey with Ohio Basketball is finally over, trying to keep a tear from falling out of his eye.

The Ohio Bobcats men's team's only senior, Treg Setty, gives high fives to fans as he walks off the court after a 103-96 win over Buffalo. Setty earned a career-high 24 points during the game. ©2016 Sarah Stier | Ohio Athletics

The Ohio Bobcats men's team's only senior, Treg Setty, gives high fives to fans as he walks off the court after a 103-96 win over Buffalo. Setty earned a career-high 24 points during the game. ©2016 Sarah Stier | Ohio Athletics

The best part of my job working for Athletics is that I see the athletes in a more humanized way, rather than the “famous” players up on the banners around campus. While the fans see Treg as an Ohio Basketball icon, I see him as a kid whose dream of playing division-one basketball is coming to a close.

Although I’m not a part of any OU varsity team, my job allows me to feel like I am. I’m part of the media team, cranking out late nights of work after MAC Volleyball Championships or the CBI Basketball Tournament. We’re all in this together, working on deadline, combining all of our skills to try to showcase the athletes’ best aspects.

“I love working with our student-athletes every day. I’m privileged to be the person who gets to tell the story of their achievements on the playing field and in the classroom, be it through writing articles, social media, or pitching stories to the media,” says Mike Ashcraft, sports information director for Ohio Men’s Basketball. Ashcraft notes that he’s lucky to have found a career in which he can combine his love of sports, writing, media, and technology.

Besides being a part of the media crew, I feel grateful that the athletes allow me into their space, making me feel like I’m a part of their team as well. I share quiet moments with them in the football locker room before a game, and I share in the celebration afterwards if they win. I’m in the middle of the football huddle, surrounded by fifty sweaty, bulky guys towering over me. I started out just taking their photos, but over time I have become their friend.

“The best part of my job is getting to see all the hard work that student-athletes put in on and off the field. On the occasion that all that hard work pays off and they get to celebrate, it’s incredibly rewarding,” says Sara Legarsky. Legarsky is the sports information director for soccer, swimming, and softball.

There is no greater feeling than being able to photograph a celebration. I flashback to Ohio Football’s “Battle for the Bell” game against Marshall University. The Bobcats prevailed, and next thing I know, fifty football players are barrelling towards me, eager to hoist a large bell that the winning team claims each year. They’re chanting the fight song, hands are flailing everywhere, trying to get a finger on the sought-after bell.

Members of the Ohio Bobcats Football Team hoist the bell that they claimed after a 21-10 win over Marshall on September 12, 2015. The "Battle for the Bell" game originated between the two schools in 1905. ©2015 Sarah Stier | Ohio Athletics

Members of the Ohio Bobcats Football Team hoist the bell that they claimed after a 21-10 win over Marshall on September 12, 2015. The "Battle for the Bell" game originated between the two schools in 1905. ©2015 Sarah Stier | Ohio Athletics

Flash-forward to the Ohio Men’s Basketball buzzer-beater against Miami. I was sitting on the sidelines, inches away from the players on the bench. I could’ve been turned toward the game, I could’ve been focused on the action. But sometimes the best sports photos are those that are separate from the action itself.

With my camera trained on the players on the bench, I was able to capture several moments of them screaming with excitement, jumping up and down, overjoyed that Ohio had just won in overtime.

Ohio Bobcats players react to points scored during the game. The Ohio Bobcats bench was featured on ESPN earlier this month as giving competition to ESPN's current "best bench in basketball," the Monmouth Hawks. ©2016 Sarah Stier | Ohio Athletics

Ohio Bobcats players react to points scored during the game. The Ohio Bobcats bench was featured on ESPN earlier this month as giving competition to ESPN's current "best bench in basketball," the Monmouth Hawks. ©2016 Sarah Stier | Ohio Athletics

My job has given me access to things that many students will never get the chance to do or see. As I photographed the bench athletes, I was sitting on the baseline of the court, closer than most people will ever get to a basketball game. As I photographed the celebration after Ohio Football’s Marshall victory, I was on the football field in the middle of the celebration. While everyone else watches from the outside, I get to experience it from a more unique perspective - the inside.

Ohio University sophomore Taylor Saxton high-fives her teammates as she is introduced before the Bobcats' game against Western Michigan on March 26, 2016, in Athens, Ohio. The Bobcats won the three-game series that weekend. ©2016 Sarah Stier | Ohio Athletics

Ohio University sophomore Taylor Saxton high-fives her teammates as she is introduced before the Bobcats' game against Western Michigan on March 26, 2016, in Athens, Ohio. The Bobcats won the three-game series that weekend. ©2016 Sarah Stier | Ohio Athletics

“Working for athletics has provided a real world work experience that has prepared me for my future. It is a unique opportunity that has allowed me full access to 16 division-one sports teams. Showing up for work is always a blast because I truly love what I do,” says Dan Kubus, a senior at Ohio University and Athletics photographer.

At the end of the day, gameday or not, I’m always one of the last to leave the office. There’s a lot of work to be done - cameras to be taken down, photos to be edited down and toned, and an online gallery to upload.

“The Athletic Department gives our photos a lot of play online,” says Ohio University junior and photographer Calvin Mattheis. However, sometimes it seems like I do a lot of work that only gets seen by a select few people.

When the day’s over, I pack up my bag and grab my cameras, ready to head out and finally get some sleep. On my way out of the office, though, I notice an Athletics program laying on my boss’ desk. A smile crosses my face when I realize that the photo on the cover of the program is mine.