Mustangs TV links fans to games

Armed with only a camcorder, microphone and a desire to be sportscasters, Christine Clark along with fellow student Kat Campbell set out to bring Western University athletics to the world. But even they couldn’t foresee the explosion in popularity – and technology – of Mustangs TV.

“It’s something that I want to do with my life, and being a part of it and seeing it grow from a camcorder and a mic to now having a full production crew and streaming online is great,” said Clark, who has been part of Mustangs TV for all three years of her university career. “It’s just so much more intense. To be around it and be a part of it, it’s just amazing.”

Today, Mustangs TV is a volunteer-driven production bringing Western basketball, hockey and volleyball to a global audience.

A crew of 60 students provides live coverage – from camera work to production to play-by-play – of 70 games a year on the Ottawa-based Streaming Sports Network Canada, SSNCanada.ca, a site dedicated to webcasting Canadian amateur sports. In addition to the broadcast, the crew produces a weekly recap of the week’s games (think SportsCentre) on Mondays for the Mustang Athletics YouTube channel.

On a typical night for Mustangs basketball, when games start at 6 and 8 p.m., Clark and Co. begin trickling into Alumni Hall around 3 p.m. for set-up and jobs assignment such as production crew, instant replay, switching, cameras and on-air talent. With the last game ending around 10 p.m., takedown can have the students heading home close to the midnight hour.

But no one seems to mind, Clark noted, as everyone keeps coming back.

“It’s all volunteers, but if it’s something you’re passionate about and love doing, you might as well put as much time as you can into it,” said the third-year Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS) student.

Dan Durack, Mustang Athletics events/video co-ordinator and Mustangs TV executive producer, was asked to begin live-streaming Mustang sports last spring, which he did with the limited equipment on hand. But thanks to a small financial investment from Western’s Sports and Recreational Services over the summer to upgrade cameras and other equipment, the pace began to quicken and Mustangs TV began to take hold.

“It’s not even night and day; it’s more ice age to now,” Durack said. “I think a lot is it’s attributed to Christine (Clark)’s hard work, but also the product we are putting forth is much superior than we have had in the past. So the kids have kind of gravitated toward that.

Durack attributes the surge of volunteers to the work experience offered.

“It matters to them and it’s going to help them fill their toolbox, so to speak, and have a better skill set,” he said. “That’s how I’m trying to sell it to the students. I want them to learn every aspect of our broadcast, so when they leave and go on to other places, they are going to be able to shoot, edit, voiceover, package and hand it off to a producer.”

Third-year FIMS student Jeremy Goldstein caught the Mustangs TV bug this past October and continually looks forward to game nights.

“It’s the magic behind the broadcast. It’s something cool to be a part of,” he said. “I used to volunteer with Rogers but was really only given the opportunity to do camera. But with Mustangs TV, they give you opportunities to jump around to different positions to give you a feel for it all. It’s a little bit of everything.”

While a large majority of the viewership is family and friends of the student-athletes, a strong alumni base is tuning in. And with the use of social media within the broadcast, the connection is immediate.

“We’re able to engage them and talk to them during the broadcast. We’re not limited to a regional telecast; it’s global,” Durack said, noting they’ve received tweets from as far away as England, Russia, Germany and Thailand.  “We see these and we’re going ‘wow,’ and the students are getting excited about it because people are staying up all around the world to watch the games.

“And the more excited they get the more they want to learn and participate.”

Therese Quigley, sports and recreation services director, attributes the success of Mustangs TV to the huge investment of “sweat equity” from Durack and the student volunteers.

“Mustangs TV is amazingly creative and has served to connect our alumni and friends around the globe,” she said. “I watch these students at work and they are learning something every day. They are an awesome team that, like any other successful team – are committed to being the best they can be in every production.”

Clark is thrilled to see so many first-year students eager to volunteer their time, especially with the prospect of adding other sports down the road. And while there is a lot of pressure on the volunteers to cover the games without a hitch, it’s something Clark won’t give up.

“There’s no other club like it at Western where you can get this kind of hands-on experience. It’s the whole production aspect,” she said. “It’s a chance to get to do it with Western students, in the Western community, get behind the scenes and, if you’re into sports, you get to go to all the games.”

LIGHTS, CAMERA, MUSTANGS

Check out some the behind-the-scenes action that goes into producing Mustangs TV on this YouTube clip.

Mustangs TV volunteers Jeremy Goldstein, Christine Clark (seated) and Melissa Bagnoli, all third-year Faculty of Information and Media Studies students, go over some pre-production work prior to the start of a Mustangs women’s basketball game.

Mustangs TV volunteers Jeremy Goldstein, Christine Clark (seated) and Melissa Bagnoli, all third-year Faculty of Information and Media Studies students, go over some pre-production work prior to the start of a Mustangs women’s basketball game.