JHS students explore new air spaceFebruary 26, 2015
By JOSEPH FANELLI
Herald Sports Writer
One of the first lessons Derek Beckman and Austin Hopf learned about radio is that space is always a premium.
“We tried to call a football game, but that didn’t go over so well,” Beckman explained.
“It was like senior night. It was raining. We weren’t allowed in the press booth so we were up on the top,” Hopf added. “We had to borrow a tent from someone. It wasn’t a good time.”
The two Jasper students also quickly realized that having the right equipment is half the battle.
“Our first (volleyball) game we were just using hand-held microphones,” Beckman said.
“If it got a bit loud, it was just ...” Hopf said as he mimicked shouting into a microphone inches from his face.
There have been many more on-the-fly experiences — like memorizing the other team’s players beforehand and always planning ahead for dead time — but the play-by-play team for 93.7 FM “The Scratch,” Jasper High School’s student-run radio station, has sprawled headfirst into sportscasting and the learning curve that comes with it.
“That’s what’s awesome,” said Evan Elrod, who teaches TV and radio classes at JHS and is the faculty adviser to The Scratch. “I really didn’t teach them a whole lot. Maybe some basics here and there, but it really wasn’t an overwhelmingly ‘I’m going to sit here and hold your hand’ type of experience. ... They’ve really done a great job.”
Elrod, who worked in radio in Kentucky, Tennessee and locally at WBDC, started the media program at JHS when he transitioned to teaching three years ago. The school now also airs a TV news show, while The Scratch broadcasts 24/7 to the Jasper area as one of about 20 student-run high school stations across the state.
Student-run game broadcasts have started for the first time this year with Beckman, a senior, and Hopf, a junior.
“I was always interested in sports (and) told Elrod I wanted to do sports,” Hopf said. “Mr. Elrod found two guys like us that wanted to do sports and put us together to call the games.”
Their first foray into broadcasting went as well as could be expected. There were obstacles like learning to handle those dead periods during games, like timeouts and free throws.
“At first, it was just a bunch of ‘uhh,’ scratching our heads,” Beckman said. “Now it’s just kind of like, ‘Austin, what do you think of that play that just happened?’”
“Being prepared is the biggest key to it all,” Beckman added.
There was also the outdated equipment. The station is funded by the school and local underwritings from the community that Beckman has worked to secure as the station’s underwriting/promotions director. His efforts are what obtained the money for the professional-grade headsets the pair now use during broadcasts.
Beckman and Hopf have also learned to clearly define each of their on-air roles. Beckman is the play-by-play man because “he was able to pick up the names quicker,” Hopf explained, while Hopf provides the color commentary. They’ve worked mostly girls basketball games but have picked up a few of the boys contests for local rivalry games against Southridge and Forest Park.
Their biggest contest came this past Monday when the Jasper girls took on Princeton and Notre Dame commit Jackie Young in the first round of the regional. While Hopf tends to keep his cool, Beckman is an unabashed Wildcat supporter. He’s the one who cheers on air and won’t hesitate to question calls from the officials. They both just about it lost on Monday, though, when Jasper senior Elisabeth Ahlbrand drilled a 3-pointer to a cut what had been a 17-point Princeton lead to just five points with less than two minutes to play.
“I was like, ‘Nice shot!’” Beckman said. “Austin here, he gave out a good ol’ ‘Yes!’”
“It’s just like the basketball players,” Hopf added. “We feed off the fans. If the fans are into the game, then we can get into the game a little bit more.”
As of now, the station is limited to calling home games because broadcasts are dependent on the school’s Wi-Fi network. Beckman and Hopf do have plans to call some baseball and softball games this spring, too.
Beckman and Hopf have allowed The Scratch to dive into sports, but the station is mostly dedicated to alternative rock. There are exceptions though — and Jasper junior Luke Foster, who also plays for the Wildcat boys hoops team, is making sure the student body receives its share of hip-hop.
Foster hosts a weekly show that runs from 6 to 7 on Friday nights (he records the show during his study hall) that plays exclusively rap and hip-hop music.
“Anything you want to play, (Elrod will) let you play,” Foster said. “There’s a girl who has a Broadway music hour. ... There’s a country hour. There’s all sorts of stuff. If you have enough music to make an hour for it, he’ll let you play it.”
For Foster, that means playing tracks from some of his favorite artists like J. Cole, Eminem and Wiz Khalifa, but he’s not too picky, and he’ll blast some oldies from hip-hop’s infant era.
“There’s old stuff, there’s new stuff,” Foster said. “I’ve played ‘Baby Got Back’ (by Sir Mix-A-Lot). I’ve played the newest stuff that hasn’t been on the radio for the most part.”
Foster is part of a junior class that will have to replace a senior group that’s been involved with the media program since Elrod first came on board. Hopf is already dreading finding a replacement for Beckman and weaving through the awkward growing stages once again. But he’s done it before and, like any process, he’ll have to do it again.
“It’ll be next man up, just like everything else in sports,” Elrod said. “You’ll miss some certain players and you’ll miss some certain students, but there’s always going to be a new crop of students that’s interested in doing this or taking part of the action.”
Contact Joseph Fanelli at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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