WMDCC 2016: Sports Media Trainee Blog

Emily Dwyer, Hamish Irvine and Linzi Armstrong have joined the World Curling Federation (WCF) media team at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship 2016.

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

Emily Dwyer, 22, Public Relations student at Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Canada
Hamish Irvine, 20, Photography student at Leeds College of Art, Leeds, England
Linzi Armstrong, 29, Broadcast Production student at the University of the West of Scotland, Ayr, Scotland

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

Emily Dwyer

Emily’s final reflections

After an early rise for our 6 a.m. bus to Stockholm, a flight to Frankfurt, then Toronto, then finally Halifax, I made it home. My last night in Karlstad was spent at the closing banquet. It was different seeing everyone dressed up rather than in their curling gear, as Hamish [trainee photographer] said, “out of their natural habitats.” I had a great time chatting with different teams, and breaking a couple of moves on the dance floor.

Curling is one of the few sports where at the end of a World Championship everyone gets together at the banquet for a fun night out. For someone who doesn’t curl, it can be quite shocking to walk into a room and see the two teams who played each other four hours earlier to be laughing together with Gangnam style playing in the background. It’s one of the joys of curling.

Now that I’ve been home for a few days, all I can think of how incredible my time in Sweden with the WCF was. I wish I could do it all over again. Going into the week, I didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do what they asked of me, and I was self-conscious of my work. By the end of the week, I became more and more confident in my abilities to do my tasks. Cameron [WCF Communications Manager] never failed to ensure me that I was doing a good job, and that I should believe in myself more. Coming from him, I took that as a great compliment. I will treasure all of the heart-to-hearts and life advice conversations I had with everyone.

I’ve always had the goal of working in sports media and communications and after having hands-on experience at a World Championship, I’m going to try my best to make it happen. I truly enjoyed every aspect of the job, and I was working alongside an amazing group of people. The WCF media team work so hard. They work tireless hours and each person does an amazing job in their respected position. I never realised how much a media team relies on each other, and how important deadlines are. In sports, the information relayed to the media needs to be timely and in order for that to happen, everyone must be on the same page. The WCF made it look easy.

Well, this is it. Thank you to the WCF and everyone who made it possible for me to join you at the World Mixed Doubles Championships. It was an absolute honour to be a part of the team. Everyone I met had an impact on my experience in a different way and I learned from all of you, even if you don’t know it. I wish you all the best, and hope that we can meet each other again someday. To those thinking of applying for the Sports Media Trainee Programme, I have two words of advice for you: do it!

Day 6: Loving every minute

After three days of added experience from my last post, I finally feel like I’ve gotten into a routine here. The jet lag has worn off, the teams are sorting themselves in the standings, and I’m improving with my interviewing and writing. A typical day on the WCF Media Team is non-stop and lengthy. Luckily for me, I can truly say I love every minute here.

Since there are a record number of teams here [42], there are five sessions a day. Most other World Championships have three sessions a day, so you can imagine how much work there is to be done. Every day I’m at the arena for three out of the five sessions, which is about ten hours a day. During the games, I keep an eye out for when the games are about to end, then I interview the players for the “They said it” section on the WCF website. After that, I transcribe the quotes, write the post-game round-ups [summary of each game], update the website and prepare for the next session. During the games, I work on feature articles and keep an eye out for key shots to write about. In Mixed Doubles, the games are exciting since there are so many big ends scored – there have been a lot of epic comebacks.

Yesterday I had a change in scenery and headed to the World Senior Curling Championships to work with Mike Haggerty [WCF Journalist]. The seniors had a great social atmosphere and the players were fun to chat with. Many of them have curled their whole lives and have countless achievements including Olympic and World Championship showings.

I also took advantage of some free time yesterday and explored Karlstad. We are located between Stockholm and Olso, Norway. It’s a small town and most places are in walking [or biking] distance. Hamish [Trainee Photographer] and I went to some shops, enjoyed delicious ice cream and mocked each other’s ‘English’ accents.

My favourite part of this experience has been getting to know the teams and hearing their stories. I didn’t know the teams on the first day – I didn’t know who was related, or who practiced on hockey ice at first. Now, when I look on the ice I find myself cheering when someone makes a good shot, and feeling bad when someone misses. I’ve met such amazing people from one side of the world to the other, all with such different curling backgrounds.

I’m looking forward to covering some great games in the play-offs!

Day 3: No where I’d rather be

In 2011 I played in my first curling event that was covered by media. The Canada Winter Games (CWG), in my hometown of Halifax, Canada. I was in my final year of high school, trying to decide what to pursue in university. During the CWG, I noticed all of the jobs going on behind the scenes – the organisers, the TV crew, the journalists, the photographers, the list goes on. I thought to myself, “what can I do to get involved in this? This is what I want to be doing.” After some research I found out there was a great Public Relations programme at the university close to me. Perfect!

I went into the PR programme with hopes of working in Sports Media and Communications. In my final year of the degree, I came across a Tweet on Twitter that said “Apply now for Sports Media Trainee Programme!” from the World Curling Federation (WCF).

My application was sent in, and my fingers stayed crossed. I didn’t get my hopes up though, because I knew there would be many strong applicants.

Not too long after, I received a phone call from Cameron [Communications and Media Relations Manager] asking me to join the team in Karlstad, Sweden for the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship while I was in class. I couldn’t believe it! I instantly began to cry because of how much it meant to me.

Now, six months later and here I am! Sitting next to Cameron and the whole WCF Media Team, on the infamous ‘royal blue media bench’ seen at most World Championships, in the beautiful Löfbergs Lila Arena. From the moment I met the WCF crew, they have been nothing but welcoming. I could tell right away they were a down to earth, hardworking group. Exactly the type of people I want to work with.

On the first day, I had no idea what I would be doing – I figured shadowing Cameron, and getting a gist of how a World Championship runs. I was wrong. After the second draw, Cameron asked if I could interview the teams coming off the ice. I was honest with him, I had never done an interview in my life and I was really nervous. So, I watched him interview Team England and then before I knew it, it was my moment to shine. I spoke with Team Japan and asked two simple questions about the game. Whew, I’m basically a professional journalist now.

After two days I’ve done ten interviews with players from around the world. I’m getting more comfortable with it, but I’m still trying to find my style and rhythm. I’m sure it will come along with practice. I’ve also helped out with post session round-ups, and I’m looking forward to writing the feature articles.
There are 42 teams here in Karlstad, which makes for very entertaining match-ups. I’m in heaven between doing write-ups, gathering quotes, and watching curling for a week straight. I know this will be a challenging and tiring week, but there’s no where else I’d rather be in the world.

Hej då för nu! Bye for now!

Hamish Irvine

Day 5: Achieving new skills and challenging myself to improve

We’re halfway through the round-robin, and I’ve now photographed around 70 games of curling, and there’s still many more to go. In my last blog, I talked about bettering my efficiency and image turnaround speed. With the help of Richard [Gray, WCF Photographer], I’m now able to have an image ready and sent off for a social media post minutes after the match has finished, a skill I’ve always wished to have. It’s thrilling to see my images get posted on the internet and ultimately across the world.

With the experience I’ve now gained, I feel much more confident in my curling photography. I have a mental bank of angles, lens choices, timings of when players are most likely to react in a game. The challenge for me now is coming up with new creative ideas that push my images to look different to the last ones, session by session. I’m struggling as I’ve found with this sport, there’s many factors that have to come into play at the same time to create a successful, contextual, emotional image that tells a complete story in one image. I’m coming along in learning more skills to capture these types of photos and I’m getting there.

Day 2: Speed and efficiency, the aim of the game

Hallå, hälsningar från Karlstad [Hello, greetings from Karlstad]! I have no idea how that is meant to sound, but at least I can write it.

Here in Karlstad, the World Mixed Doubles Championships are now under way. After one day, I’m now about 4000 pictures down, and half a hard drive full… we’re doing well. It’s an astonishing media machine the crew have working here. The speed that information is being created and shared out of this arena is simply astounding. Seeing my mentor, and all round ace of a chap, Richard Gray turn around an image in under two minutes yesterday left my jaw dropped on the table. By tomorrow, I’m determined to do the same.

The efficiency of the whole team is something to seriously learn from. Seeing the synergy between all the mediums; journalists, videographers, photographers, working together to produce one major package at such immediacy is what defines an excellent media team in today’s modern world. Luckily and gratefully, I’m at the heart of it all, and I know that after this week I’m going to come out of this experience with some career defining skills.

On the ice, I’ve been out to capture the emotion and the incredibly skill the players demonstrate. Here’s a couple of shots from the first day that I hope convey what I’ve seen so far.

Photos: WCF / Hamish Irvine

Linzi Armstrong

Linzi’s final reflections

Coming home from Karstad and trying to settle back in to ‘normal’ life was hard, everything seems a little duller after my time away at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship.

I’ve known for a while that I want to work in live sports broadcasting and this was originally due to my love of football.

The experiences that I’ve gained during my time with the WCF and Live Channel are invaluable and I’ve learnt a lot about curling along the way, which I had absolutely no prior knowledge of before joining the team in Karlstad. I now know that I’m not just limited to football for what I want to work with in future – any live sports broadcasting is of interest to me and this experience helped me learn that.

To be trusted by the guys to control things like the graphics, sound, replays and highlights during a live broadcast was a great confidence booster and everyone was so great and patient teaching me how to work everything.

Some of the days were long but the media team were great and the time flew in. Working with so many great people from all over the world was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

The trainee scheme is probably the best thing to ever happen to me career-wise, you just need to look at some of the previous trainees who are doing brilliant with their careers since being a trainee. For example 2014 trainee photographer Céline Stucki works at a lot of the WCF events now and that would probably never have happened if it wasn’t for this programme, I just hope that I can do half as well as Celine has.

Anyone thinking of applying should 100% do it, it would be foolish not to. For me it was the best work experience ever and I’m still sad to be home!

Day 4: Thrown in at the deep end

Since the start of the lives games on Saturday I’ve had a great few days working with the TV crew. It still feels a bit surreal that I’m actually here in Sweden doing what I’m doing!

So much effort goes into each live production it’s amazing to watch the guys work and get trained to help make that happen. So far I’ve been able to shadow everyone in the control room and get a feel how things work.

I’ve watched how Bo makes the replays, how Martin controls the sound and how both Berth and Marcus make the graphics and direct the team.

On Sunday I actually got to do some of the graphics myself which went out on the live broadcast online. This was controlling the bug at the top of the screen which shows how many stones each team has left.

The director would let me know through the headphones whether he wanted the bug on or not at each shot and I needed to make sure to put it on and take it off at the right times. It was nerve racking at first because I was worried I’d get it wrong but I soon got the hang of it, although I think there was a couple of times I maybe went a bit too early.

I stayed with controlling the bug on Monday and even went a bit further by controlling the player names too. I was meant to be doing this for the second game (we’re filming 3 games per day just now) but unfortunately Martin had to go back to the hotel as he was ill (maybe my fault I think I’ve gave everyone the cold!) so I was thrown in to control the sound myself!

This was scary, I’ve not worked much with sound myself but it was good fun and went well…I hope. Next step is working the cameras.

I’m so glad I was picked for this. I’m having an absolute blast and know that this is definitely what I want to be doing as a career. The whole WCF media team have been brilliant which is why it’s been so good so far, I don’t want to come home!

Day 1: Planes, trains and automobiles

My journey to the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship 2016 in Karlstad, Sweden started with a 4am taxi to Glasgow airport. That was followed by a plane to Amsterdam then another plane to Stockholm where I met up with WCF TV Broadcast Manager Joanna Kelly.

Joanna and I took a short train ride into the main Stockholm train station and had a bit of lunch before making the final part of our journey, a two and a half hour train ride into Karlstad. The hotel was only a ten minute walk away so very easy to get to. At night we met up with Swedish TV Production crew Live Channel, who produce and stream most of the World Curling Federation’s (WCF) events. As a group we all went out for something to eat and a couple of drinks before heading to bed ready for the early start the next day.

The first two full days were spent entirely on setting up the production ready for the live games. I never realised how much work goes into it and how time consuming and tiring it was. We had to unload the packed can and move all the equipment from one end of the arena to where we needed it to be, which was the VIP room we were using as an office.

The boys from Live Channel had to set up four towers to run wires across the ice which held two remote control cameras, one at either end of the sheets. This itself took a full day and looked quite complicated having to make sure all the wires were in the correct places so that nothing fell down. The rig setup also included running cables, setting up all the other cameras, the mixing desk, sound desk, replay machine, graphics station… the list goes on. After a couple of slight hiccups everything was ready to start filming the next day. By this point the two other trainees – Hamish Irvine (photographer) and Emily Dwyer (journalist) – had arrived along with the WCF staff, so we all went out for dinner again.