Sports Media Trainee Programme 2015-2016 ECC Blog

© WCF / Richard Gray

Patrick Butler and Laura Godenzi have joined the World Curling Federation (WCF) media team at the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships 2015 in Esbjerg, Denmark.

They are the latest competition winners of the WCF Sports Media Trainee Programme, which is sponsored by Global Sports Development.

Patrick Butler, 20, Journalism student at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
Laura Godenzi, 21, Communication Science student at University of Lugano, Switzerland

Among their duties this week is to contribute to this daily blog, recounting their experiences from their first international curling event.

Patrick Butler

© WCF / Richard Gray

Final reflections

It’s been over a week since the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships 2015 (ECC) in Esbjerg, Denmark and I’m still having trouble summing up my experience for people who ask about my trip.

Looking back, it seems like I got to do so much and learn from so many people. It’s hard to condense that into a sentence or two.

Working with the World Curling Federation (WCF) in Esbjerg was such a great opportunity. Over 11 days, I got to interview top-level athletes, pitch some of my first sports features and learn and write about teams’ stories and hard work. Most importantly, I got to watch reporters and media people in action behind the scenes and learn the inner workings of an international sporting event. There’s a lot more to it than you’d figure.

Little did I realise, it takes a substantial media crew from all over the world to cover an event like the ECC. The WCF Sports Media Trainee Programme opened my eyes to how much expertise and manpower goes into producing media for international sports and how much hard work it takes.

I’m back in Canada now, but the lessons I picked up in Denmark will stay with me for a long time. I appreciate everything I learned and how many people helped me make the most of my experience.

Big thanks to everyone who welcomed me on the team!

Day 8: Making the most of every opportunity

Round-robin play is over and done with here in Esbjerg, and from now on there will be fewer games to cover at the Granly Hockey Arena. But, the elimination matches that remain matter way more than the prelim ones did, and it’s great to see the bigger stakes bringing out more spectators and media to see how everything plays out.

Of course, like everyone on the WCF’s media team, I’ve been here since the beginning, so I took advantage of a post round-robin break in play this afternoon before the women’s semi-finals to get out of the arena, grab a coffee and do a little exploring in Esbjerg.

Being at the tournament venue can be like living in a vacuum. There aren’t any windows and you sort of fall into a reporting routine, so it’s easy to lose track of time. On our first day at the venue, we arrived before the sun came up and left after it had set. All to say, today’s brief get-away, in the daylight, to the city centre was much appreciated.

That said, in between today’s out-of-the-arena excursions, I also got the chance to try my hand at writing a newsfeed for one of the highlight packages the WCF puts together for broadcasters after every session. It’s the sort of thing a news anchor might read as viewers watch the latest draw’s best shots.

It’s harder than you’d think, though. The point is to fit as much information into as little space as possible, all the while keeping in mind that viewers at home, and newsreaders for that matter, may not know a lot about curling. You have to be succinct, but you can’t assume too much, either.

I kept up my usual routine today, too – interviews, B-Division round-ups, and feature writing (read my latest story, on the Slovenian men’s team, So I’m keeping busy. Looking forward to the work ahead.

Two days of curling left before I head home. Time to make the most of it.

Day 6: Finding my groove

Round-robin play continued today at the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships (ECC) 2015, and like the curlers, I’ve sort of settled into a groove here in Esbjerg. It’s by design: running a system and getting into a routine is key for reporting an event like the ECC, I’ve discovered.

One moment, you’re watching the games and checking on stats and scores, the next you’re grabbing quotes and writing session round-ups. Organisation is what keeps the journalists here on top of their game.

World Curling Federation (WCF) reporters are just one part of the giant machinery required to cover a tournament like this. Watching from home, you’d never realise the amount of people working behind the scenes on a single TV broadcast.

Take yesterday, when I got the chance to check out World Curling TV’s production truck. Outside, it looks like an unassuming white tractor-trailer. But inside, there’s over a dozen audio-visual technicians, editors and producers busy piecing a live, internationally televised broadcast together. There must have been 50 TV screens and thousands of buttons.

To the TV crew, it was another day on the job. For me, it was basically sensory overload.

Seeing how things work behind the scenes is one of the reasons I’m glad I’m here. This afternoon, I joined a TV shoot for World Curling TV, where we interviewed the Dutch men’s team. I’m doing an online feature about the Netherlands squad, so I was invited to help the TV crew out.

Like going behind the scenes in the TV truck, it was great to watch the WCF’s media people doing what they do. Being able to see the infrastructure and manpower it takes to create and package a tournament in Esbjerg and broadcast it to TV sets and computer monitors in another part of the world really opens your eyes.

After the past couple days, consider mine open wide.

© WCF / Richard Gray

Day 4: Hurry hard

The pace quickened for me today. Players to interview, recordings to transcribe and features to write – and, inevitably, curling to watch.

Pitching features at the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships 2015 is remarkably easy. The diversity in teams’ backgrounds – from powerhouse countries with forever-present A-Division rinks, to newcomer curling squads looking to make their mark – lends itself well to keeping journalist trainees busy.

Today featured three A-Division sessions: two women’s and one men’s. I’ve been assigned a B-Division beat writing short round-ups on what’s been happening at the Esbjerg Curling Club, which today sent me to watch Slovenia take on Belgium.

Later, I interviewed Swiss skip Peter de Cruz about his team’s victory over Italy, and the Belgian team about their curling club’s efforts to build Belgium’s first dedicated curling ice surface.

One of the great parts of being at an event like the Europeans is being able to cut my teeth interviewing athletes. It’s great practice, and it keeps me on my toes. A good question gets you great material, while a poor one (one where a skip gives a one-word answer, say) can throw you for a loop.

It’s been cool watching Mike Haggerty, our lead reporter, do his thing up here in the press stands. He’s quick and he’s got a good rapport with the athletes – and it pays dividends during interviews.

I think I fared alright with my interviews. But, then I remember Mike’s ease during his one-on-ones and I think, some practice wouldn’t go astray, either.

Good thing there’s lots of time left.

All for now. Over and out.

Day 1 & 2: Ready and raring to go

Two months ago, Esbjerg and the European Curling Championships (ECC) weren’t even on my radar.

But yesterday, primed with an extensive knowledge of curling – two years of family curling lessons on Saturday mornings when I was eight and nine, and a lifetime of yelling at the kitchen TV during TSN bonspiel coverage – I boarded a plane to Denmark to cover some of the best rinks in the game.

Typically Danish fall weather greeted my arrival: I landed on a dank and dreary day – all wind and rain. Couple that with over 12 hours of travel across the Atlantic, and I felt like a zombie by the time I reached my hotel.

However, after meeting the media team – a crew of been-here-a-million-times pros who could probably run the show with their eyes closed – any weather-dampened or travel-fatigued feelings I had turned to excitement.

I was in good company, and I knew I was about to learn a lot.

By day two, I was chomping at the bit to get started. It had been a couple quiet days around the arena – checking out the venue, scoping out how the World Curling Federation covers its competitions – and I was ready for draws to start and the chance to finally start reporting.

After a bit of pageantry in the opening ceremonies to kick-off the tourney (appearance by the Crown Prince of Denmark included), the first five women’s A-Division games began. We were off!

Soon, my first write-up was in and I was starting to see how a sports event like the ECCs gets covered. So far, so good.

Add together all the stories, blogs, flash quotes and features ahead of me, and you’ve got yourself a busy week. But the busier I am, the more I know I’ll learn.

Something tells me the next few days are going to fly by.

Laura Godenzi

© WCF / Richard Gray

Final reflections

It has been more than a week since I came back from the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships (ECC) in Esbjerg, Denmark, but I still feel the buzz of Esbjerg and I remember it like yesterday that I was on the ice shooting the medal ceremonies of the Championships.

I enjoyed the experience in Esbjerg very much and I am very glad that I had the opportunity to join the WCF Media team for 11 days. The people I met were exceptional and very welcoming, which made working on the team very pleasant and I felt comfortable in this environment during my whole stay.

In Esbjerg I also had the chance to get an inside view on how the coverage of an international sporting event works behind the scenes and how much it takes to provide excellent coverage.

Being in Denmark at the ECC also allowed me to improve myself as a photographer as I could spend many hours shooting the action on the ice while getting feedback from my mentor and co-workers as well.

It was a pleasure to be part of the WCF media team in Esbjerg and I will carry this new experience with me while facing new challenges in the future. At this point I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who made my WCF trainee experience a great one and I hope to meet all of them again at more Curling Championship!

Day 9: My top three shots

Many people I have been talking to here in Esbjerg told me I had a different view on curling, that my pictures look different than others and that is probably because this has been my first time shooting curling. As we are on the penultimate day of the Sports Media Trainee Programme in Esbjerg I thought it was the perfect time to make a list of my top three photographs from this week. It was very hard to choose three out of the thousands of pictures I took while being here at the [Le Gruyère] European Curling Champs, but the ones below are definitely my favourites:

© WCF / Laura Godenzi

#1 I chose this shot because I love Anna Sloan’s facial expression while she is screaming and giving instructions to her team-mates. You can feel the tension and hear the yell just by looking at the picture. Her clear blue eyes match the colours of the background and of her jacket, which makes the picture very harmonious to me. In fact, Anna is one of my favourite athletes to shoot as I think she is extremely photogenic and she was always very expressive.

© WCF / Laura Godenzi

#2 My number two is “panic shot”. I came to Denmark with the goal to master this kind of shot as I have never really tried it before and I am very happy with the result. What I absolutely love about the “panic shot” and especially about this one, is the motion, which captures the dynamics of curling perfectly. I am happy I got Torger Nergard’s eyes, which are pointing straight forward and push the image more into that dynamic forward direction. Last but not least, I am crazy for the Norwegian men’s pants; they look totally great on pictures and add a funny twist to them.

© WCF / Laura Godenzi

#3 I picked this shot because I like the composition very much. I captured the fierce faces of the two German curlers and most importantly the eyes, which adds lots of liveliness to the picture in my opinion. I also really like that you cannot only see the German skip, but also the Swiss curlers, which are attentively watching the draw of their opponents.

© WCF / Laura Godenzi

Day 7: Q&A with Laura Godenzi

I [Patrick Butler, WCF journalism Sports Trainee] caught up with Laura Godenzi, the World Curling Federation’s photography Sports Media Trainee at the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships (ECC) 2015, while she was in between shoots at the Granly Hockey Arena in Esbjerg, Denmark.

Laura, 21, grew up in Chur, Switzerland, but now studies in Lugano, in the country’s Italian region. This is her first time covering a live curling event, although she first cut-her-teeth taking sports pictures at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China and the 2015 Pan-American Games in Toronto, Canada.

Here’s what she had to say about her experience so far:

Patrick (P): What have you been up to so far at the ECC 2015?

Laura (L): I’m a WCF photographer, so I’ve been taking pictures of all the games and everything that’s been going on around the ice.

P: How many pictures would you say you’ve taken?

L: I’d say 5,000 or so (laughs). I mean, I took 500 hundred just then, probably a bit more actually. But, obviously I take a lot of pictures and then I make a selection. It’s not that all of them end up being great. There’s a lot of useless pictures.

P: Do you have a favourite team to photograph?

L: With the men, it’s the Norwegians because of their pants. They look so great. Everyone else should have something like they do. The Swedish guys are good as well. Maybe the Finnish guys too. But there’s this one guy on the Finnish team, the one with the blonde hair (skip Aku Kauste, pictured above), he has his eyes always covered by his hair. It’s so long, so I can never see them. But I made it today – it was great. On the women’s side, I really like photographing the Swedish women with the colours of their uniforms, and the Russians as well.

P: What do you find the hardest part about photographing here at the ECC 2015?

L: It’s not even the photography itself, but just staying in the curling hall. It can get so cold. That’s the hardest part. I just switch between taking pictures on the sheets and going to get teas.

P: Before you came here how much did you know about curling?

L: I’d seen it on TV a couple times and I curled once before. So, I tried it out once and I informed myself a bit about the rules before coming here, obviously, but it’s safe to say I’m not a curling expert.

P: What have you learned about taking sports pictures, though?

L: I learned about the workflow and some new shots, especially this “chaos shot” I’ve been working on. I’m learning how to use my camera better and how to move around to get better shots. I’d photographed before at the Youth Olympic Games and the Parapanam games, but every time I was there it was different events. I’m learning more every place I go and every new experience I have.

P: Has anything surprised you about working at the ECC 2015?

L: Well, the people are very nice. Not that I expected bad people here, they’re just especially nice. They’ve welcomed us on the team and I feel very comfortable working with them. It’s a great experience.

P: There’s still a few days left to the ECC 2015, but what do you think you’ll remember most from your experience?

L: I’ll remember all the curlers yelling (laughs). But seriously, having fun, being with the people here, learning new things, having a new experience. It’s been great.

Day 5: New learnings everyday

We are already on day five of the trainee experience and the time is flying by. Today was an intense day of shooting curling. The first task on the programme was the fourth draw of the men’s competition and I was glad to see the Swiss team securing confidently their second win in the tournament. By now I would say that I have figured out what works well to get great pictures and I am happy to see that I am improving each day.

Also today, the TV crew started broadcasting the tournament. Their first game was Sweden against Denmark. One thing that impressed me was how professional the TV set-up is here in Esbjerg. Around 40 people are giving their best producing live-streams of selected games with the goal to make curling more popular around the world.

During the second live game, Patrick [Butler, journalism trainee] and I had the chance to take a quick tour in the TV production truck, which is the size of a motorhome. Al [Gowen], the World Curling Federation web designer, showed us around. What I saw was incredible!

Three small rooms full of screens showing the different camera takes and intuitively thousands of different buttons to either regulate the sound and the colours or buttons to switch to the right camera. Having never seen anything like this before, I was really impressed and amazed how well the crew works together, so tightly to provide an excellent TV production.

I really do not stop learning here in Esbjerg and the experience has been great so far. I also found out that tomorrow I get the morning off and I have time to explore Esbjerg a bit with some of my new colleagues. I’m looking forward to it!

© WCF / Laura Godenzi

Day 3: Feeling like a pro

We’re only on day three of the Sports Media Trainee Programme, but it feels like Patrick and I have been part of the WCF Media team way longer. The team of media professionals from around the globe makes working here in Esbjerg very enjoyable and exciting. If there is something I learned very quickly it is that curling is not only about the sport, but also about great company and having fun together.

Personally, I work closely with my photography mentor Richard Gray, who has been taking pictures for the WCF for the past five years. As I have never shot curling before I know I will benefit a lot from his experience and tips. Today for example he explained to me how to do the “chaos shot” – a shot where the main part of the picture is blurry and seems as if the subject is moving. After a few unfortunate attempts, I made it and caught this shot [above], which I’m really proud of.

Even though I am here as a trainee, it feels like I am working here like a professional with a very intense schedule. Yesterday, I spent the day mainly taking headshots of the women’s and men’s A-Division teams and I had the chance to catch the Crown Prince Frederik throwing the first stone at the opening ceremony on my camera. Some little curling action followed the ceremony, but the real action started today (Saturday 21 November).

Today we had three curling sessions and I had plenty of time to work on my photography skills, to find good angles and figure out how to move around the curling sheets. For instance, I did not expect it to be so cold in the arena, but luckily my suitcase, which got lost on my way to Denmark got here yesterday, so I am not cold anymore, wearing two super-warm jackets.

The third session is still going while I am writing this blog and there is still much work left today, before another day packed with curling starts tomorrow. By the end of this programme I will be a curling pro for sure!