Argyle Students Learning The Ropes

Stacy Short believes that the best way to learn something is by doing it. So when she heard this summer that the UIL was lifting its ban on live broadcasting Friday night football games, she didn’t hesitate to get her students involved.

Actually, the word “involved” doesn’t do Argyle High School’s new broadcasting team any justice. If you’ve been to an Eagles game lately — or you watched it from home on the Argyle Sports YouTube account — you likely did a double-take when you heard that students were running the live feed. These students, some as young as sophomores, are receiving professional coaching and real-world experience doing everything related to on-air work. This includes running cables, equipment setup, working with the Eagles’ adult play-by-play and color commentators, operating cameras on the field and from the press box, and creating graphics, highlight reels, feature packages, and everything in between.

With the help of many, they are part of something much bigger. And the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I just advise and make sure it all goes okay,” Short said with a laugh. “My whole reason for doing this was to get these kids chances to build their resume and portfolio. And now they have the material to do it. They are learning what it takes to be a professional, and we’ve received great feedback from the community. To show that to the kids motivates them even more. It has opened up so many possibilities.”

Short never saw herself doing something like this when she started teaching 30 years ago. She had a journalism background, but she was an English teacher at the time. Now, she’s the faculty advisor for Argyle’s student news website, The Talon News, and teaches film, audio-visual production, photography, writing, digital and traditional animation, and now broadcasting. She has anywhere from seven to eight students designated specifically for live broadcasts.

“We’ve had to troubleshoot along the way,” she said. “Our home games run pretty smoothly because we have the equipment there and the whole setup. But when we went to Celina, we had to set up in the bleachers and drop a 300-foot cable beneath the bleachers. When we went to Texarkana, we were also outside. I think I walked around 23,000 steps up and down the bleachers just at that game alone. It was crazy, but the kids are learning as they go.”

Jaime Ramirez, a senior at UNT majoring in converged broadcast media, is the director for the live broadcast. He agreed that Argyle students such as Bobby Volling, Rylie Talk, and Delaney Lechowit are as professional as it gets on game nights.

“That is the thing that has separated this crew from others that I have worked with,” Ramirez said. “They are some of the most patient human beings I have ever worked with, and the experience for me has been irreplaceable. And not just the students, but also people like Blake Jones, Andy Smith, and everyone on the Argyle staff. It’s been great to have a team like this working together. It’s a full-blown operation, and Mrs. Short has done a great job preparing them.”

The idea to have students running Argyle’s live broadcast would never have come to fruition had it not been for the UIL switching gears on its long-established rule of not allowing live broadcasts. In the past, Argyle games could be broadcast 45 minutes after the game ended. Highlight reels would then be created and posted to The Talon’s website the next morning. This summer, the UIL said it would allow live broadcasts to accommodate fans who could not attend due to COVID-19 reasons or stadium seating capacity restrictions.

Short had been visiting with one of the Argyle football coaches about the team’s social media accounts when she first heard the news. Her ears immediately perked up, and it didn’t take long for everyone on campus to jump onboard.

“A few days later, I got a text from [Argyle football coach] Todd Rodgers saying that we were ready to go,” Short said. “The booster club and Argyle Sports Network were on board, too. They had the announcers; they just needed us to operate the cameras and run the equipment. The booster club supplied most of the equipment we needed, and it’s just taken off from there. Andy Smith and Blake Jones know how to make everything work together, and the kids have taken their new roles and run with them.”

Ramirez agreed, adding that Argyle’s football team isn’t the only one taking the ball and running with it on game nights.

“These students are growing up with the mindset of, ‘I need to learn as much as I can so that I can help anyone in the industry,’” he said. “It’s satisfying to hear that mentality. I know that the future of this industry is very bright.”