Senior Sendoff: How to sportsball

Devin Abell (right) pictured with his father who rocked a mean turtle neck and Jesus piece back in the day. Photo courtesy of Devin’s mom.


With the days growing longer, the Irwin goose reclaiming its stomping grounds on the South Mall and potholes slowly — but surely — being filled around campus, it can only mean two things: spring commencement is nearly here, and my mundane undergraduate career at Butler University is coming to an end. 

As I sit here in the twilight of my senior year, I’ve been drawn to reflect on my legacy and what I have done to pay it forward to the next generation of students who will be shortly following in my footsteps. 

While I have done a great deal in my own social endeavors to leave a positive mark on the university, I find myself wondering — what have I contributed in furthering my fellow peers’ education and skills for their future careers?

During my time in the sports media program in the College of Communications, I’ve watched this program grow and develop to meet student needs. However, as being one of the many students who is a part of the budding program, I was subjected to growing pains that come with establishing a newfound major — leaving myself and others with the feeling that we’ve missed a few professional skills or opportunities along the way. 

Be that as it may, I find the best way I can make amends for my own shortcomings is by passing on the knowledge I’ve gathered through my own experience as a soon-to-be alumni of the sports media program. In turn, I hope I can help the next generation of sports media students find the resources they need to be successful in preparing for the career they want to pursue in the world of sports.

Without further ado, here is a comprehensive list of skills and where you can develop them during your time in the sports media program at Butler University.

1. Writing

Above all else, no matter what you do in the sports media or the communications field — it will involve writing.

Your writing is your first impression, and with the shift into the digital age your introduction as an individual — more often than not — will frequently come from behind a screen. Similar to introducing yourself in the professional world with a limp handshake, inarticulate and incomprehensible writing will make a bad impression and leave you with a poor reputation that can be difficult to shake off. 

From sending an email, to putting together a script or crafting a witty tweet, you will have to be able to display your ability to write cohesively and effectively to your audience in some way,  shape or form.

Organizing your intentions into a clear and concise manner will make your objective in your writing direct and understable to your audience. Additionally, not only will it make you an efficient communicator, it will also establish your credibility as a well-versed individual and you will likely see the results that you desire from your readers.

Courses to develop skill: JR 210, JR 312, JR 412

Opportunities to develop skill: Butler Athletics SID internship, The Butler Collegian 

2. Speaking and verbal communication

Have you ever had the displeasure of listening to someone tell a long, drawn out story, where they jump between multiple facets of the plot and take an eternity to get the point? 

Pretty terrible, right? Now imagine that, except that said person is you, and you’re giving a presentation to your team or supervisor and you’re fumbling through each major deliverable of your report. Not only did you probably embarrass yourself in front of your colleagues, but everyone in the room is now dumber for having listened to your incoherent babbling.

On par with writing, being able to verbally communicate with others in an effortless and understandable manner is essential — especially in such a fast-paced industry like sports media. Day in and day out, the sports industry is a constant revolving door of news, requiring a sense of urgency and the ability to relay information in a timely manner. 

Whether you’re in the media, event operations or work behind the scenes at an organization, you are expected to stay on task while simultaneously dealing with the inevitable surprises that will pop up along the way.

In order to be able to uphold this delicate balance, you will need to be a direct communicator that can tell others the necessary information in as few words as possible. Learning to consolidate information and eliminating unnecessary pauses — such as “um” and “like” — by briefly thinking before you speak, can bestow confidence in your words and prompt listeners to be more receptive to your message. Otherwise, you’ll be relegated as the office Booger McFarland.

Pro tip — improving your writing skills will help you become more persuasive and expand your vocabulary, thus making you a more affluent speaker. 

Courses to develop skill: COM 101, JR 113, JR 213, JR 313

Opportunities to develop skill: Butler Athletics event operations, Butler+, Butler speech and debate team, Speakers lab

3. Photo/video shooting & editing

What would sports be without the ability to capture and share its magical and wonderful moments with avid fans from around the world? From the sidelines to the press boxes and even aerial drone shots, camera operators surround venues to broadcast what’s taking place on the other side of the lens.

Sports photography and videography is the closest way to get into the action — without being in said action. It puts you in the position of curating what the audience sees and how it’s presented to your viewership.

However, to be in this position, it requires a keen eye and attention to detail to identify, “What would the audience want to see most in this instance?” Understanding visual cues and how to set up shots in order to capture the right moment is the difference between turning a lackluster clip into a legendary one.

Additionally, half the battle of this is taking time to learn the equipment and the ins and outs of its functionality. While it’s not necessary to know the instructions manual from front to back, you should still be able to identify essential settings and use them in applicable situations. It may be daunting to pick up a thousand dollar piece of equipment that you may have no idea how to use, but you won’t be able to get better with it by not practicing.

Finally, learning all these techniques and fancy gadgets would be all for naught if you can’t do anything with the footage. In order to produce professional quality content, you will need to make a considerable effort in learning applications in Adobe Creative Suite like Premiere and Aftereffects.

Admittedly, these programs at first use might seem comparable to that of learning astrophysics — or rocket science, if you will — but with hours of practice and a few projects under your belt, you too will be able to churn out videos in a timely manner that meet the professional standards of today’s digital world.

Courses to develop skill: CME 109, CME 209, JR 312, JR 427, SPM 220,

Opportunities to develop skill: Butler+, The Butler Collegian, CCOM internship, IndyBlue 

4. Graphic design

The next time you attend a sports venue, take a good look around at your surroundings. Look at the walls lined with banners from past and present players, look at advertisements hung around the stadium, look at your $14 souvenir cup filled with mostly ice that has the team logo on the side, look at your ticket stub and program that you grabbed when you entered the stadium. 

What do all these things have in common? They were all made by a graphic designer.

Graphic design and sports go hand-in-hand with each other, with graphic design being essential to the aesthetic of modern sports. In a brand-centric world, image is everything, and organizations are looking to find ways to set their identity apart from their competition.

Not only are designs present in the physical sports world — they are littered all over the social media landscape. Take a look at Instagram or Twitter next time Giannis Antetokounmpo has monster night on the court, and you’ll see more graphics highlighting his stats than anything else on your feed.

Developing your skills in graphic design is a mandatory requirement in this day and age if you want to work in anything related to content creation, communications or marketing in the sports industry.

Similar to photo and video editing, you will need to delve into the Adobe Creative Suite and spend hours of trial and error in Photoshop and Illustrator, learning all the nooks and crannies of the enigma that are those programs. 

If you dedicate your time to your craft and crack the code, then maybe one day you could be as good as @designsbyrl.

Courses to develop skill: STR 251, STR 351, WDD 108, WDD 306 

Opportunities to develop skill: Butler Athletics marketing internship, CCOM internship

5. Social media

There is no better way to put all the aforementioned skills to use than by utilizing social media. Social media provides a platform for you as an individual to connect with others and promote yourself as a figure in sports media.

Your platform allows you to build your brand no matter what you pursue in sports. From analyst, content creator, graphic designer, reporter, public relations specialist to community and fan outreach partner — you name it — you can cultivate your reputation amongst your peers.

It’s crucial to understand how each platform operates and what kind of content is most successful in receiving engagement. Developing an understanding of SEO and how to relate your posts to similar content can help you engage with the target audience you’re trying to reach.

In addition to current social media platforms, the continued rise of streaming platforms has the sports media industry looking for ways to break into this broadcast medium. Understanding the digital landscape and needs of your consumer can make you an invaluable asset as an employee in an ever changing industry.

A word to the wise — separate your professional accounts from your personal accounts. Mixing your livelihood with dank memes could be a recipe for disaster, and it could ultimately hurt your career beyond repair.

Courses to develop skill: STR 330, SPM 140, SPM 325 

Opportunities to develop skill: CCOM internship, Butler athletic team social media internship, The Butler Collegian

6. Networking & interpersonal skills

Nevermind that this skill sits at the bottom: it is hands down the single most important one of them all. Every other skill listed above doesn’t mean jack sh*t if you aren’t able to connect with people — and I’m not just talking about LinkedIn connections.

The sports media industry is the pinnacle of, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Now before you call me a narcissist that thinks he is just owed success  — let me explain in further detail. 

Life is about cultivating relationships with others. Human beings are social creatures by nature, we thrive off the interactions we have in our lives and feel our sense of belonging through our shared bonds. Therefore, if we spend our time in our personal lives doing this, why would the workplace be any different?

No matter where you find yourself in the sports world, you will likely be working 40 hours a week minimum — with upwards to 60 and 80 hours depending on your circumstances. 

Now picture this — you’re working 80 hours a week, and you’re constantly around an individual that is rude and is a displeasure to be around. Doesn’t sound too fun, right?

A wise mentor of mine once told me, “People don’t choose organizations for the prestige or popularity that they provide. People choose people.” 

Nobody cares if you’re the smartest or most qualified in the room at a certain task. If people can’t have a simple conversation with you because you’re an as*hole, then what value are you adding to that team? What is success without having others to share that success with?

As a cynical introvert with a dry sense of humor who struggles to hold a conversation that doesn’t enthusiastically interest me — I shoot myself in the foot more often than not and miss out on building relationships.

Heed my warning and don’t be like me. Make a genuine effort to listen to people and relate them on a personal level. You may never know when the opportunity presents itself for your name to be mentioned in a room where they are searching for great people to bring onto their team.

Courses to develop skill: SPM 101, STR 356

Opportunities to develop skill: Ascend Indiana, Butler Athletics, Butler+, career fairs, Indy Sport Corps, internships, volunteer opportunities, talk to Ross Hollebon

I hope my self reflection over my undergraduate career can provide someone out there with knowledge to be able set their sights on their career goals and be able to access the resources available to them to achieve their goals.

After four years and 43 articles later: for the final time, Devin Abell, signing out.


Devin Abell



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