Practice. Off-season training. Game planning.
Behind the scenes, the Cedar Crest football team puts in a lot of hard work to get ready for games. So, when the lights come on Friday nights, the Falcons shine bright.
But so do members of the CCHS Today team. They allow the football team to shine even brighter.
Quite unintentionally, CCHS Today has become engrained in the Cedar Crest football culture.
An extension of the high school’s broadcast video curriculum, CCHS Today is a student-run TV enterprise that brings more visibility to the program and creates stronger ties to the community.
“I personally think it enhances the football experience at Cedar Crest,” said Cedar Crest broadcast video teacher Cody Hassler, who oversees the CCHS Today crew. “What do football players watch on TV? NFL football, college football – and now themselves. I like to think they’re thinking, ‘Hey, this is going to be on TV’ and in a small way it helps to motivate them. They’re playing for their teammates and everyone else watching.”
“One of our main jobs is to shine light on the good things happening around school,” said senior Zack Marsh, CCHS Today’s livestream producer. “Not everyone can go to games. It’s also important to family members. A main part of it is bringing the community together. It helps more people get involved with extra-curricular activities.”
Supervised by faculty advisers, CCHS Today teams of three to five students organize, produce and broadcast all five Falcon home games from Earl Boltz Stadium. With former Cedar Crest boys’ tennis coach Mike Rohrbach performing play-by-play duties and Falcon boys’ basketball coach Tommy Smith providing color commentary, CCHS Today broadcasts the home football games over its own YouTube channel.
At any one time during Friday’s 21-13 loss to Wilson, more than 400 viewers – supporters, friends and even family members of the visiting Bulldogs – were tuned into the broadcast.
“I grew up watching football, a lot,” said Marsh, who directs and coordinates during the broadcasts. “I’m familiar with what they do during broadcasts. It’s helpful to know what stuff works. Not everyone has that working knowledge of football.”
“The smallest thing can go wrong, and I get bothered,” said Hassler. “I have to be reminded it’s a student broadcast, and I try to be hands-off. If you sat back and looked at it from behind the camera, there’s constant communication and one snag can through the entire thing off. We’re running around. It’s not a calm process.”
Students involved in extra-curricular activities are more likely to be more productive in the classroom. Studies have shown that kids perform better when people are watching.
“I remember when I was a kid in high school at Cocalico, I was on the football team and Blue Ridge cable would come to a game once a year,” said Hassler, “and we felt like celebrities. I’d record it and then watch it on Saturday mornings, and I still have all of them. The players today can have this forever.
“But there’s so much more to it than that,” continued Hassler. “If you can’t physically make it to a game, you can watch it at home. But above all, this is opening students’ eyes to a whole other career path. It’s also a way to stay connected to the school.”
Hassler teaches three levels of video broadcast at Cedar Crest High School, to over 100 students. Students aren’t required to participate in CCHS Today broadcasts, but they receive classroom credit if they do.
“Hands-on learning is beyond beneficial for education,” said Hassler. “Students have to get out and do it. We’re professional. We’re trying to get stories out there. Eighty-five percent of my class is hand-on learning. After the formal classroom training, there’s more hands-on learning. It’s a class, but it’s more like coming to work and I’m the manager.”
“I’m in charge of getting the livestream set up,” said Marsh. “When we’re broadcasting, I’m directing everyone. I’m telling people what to do. I’m in control of which camera is on the screen.”
Communication, teamwork and problem solving are all key elements of successful CCHS Today broadcasts – many of the same principles that guide the team it covers. They are principles more easily grasped outside of the classroom than in it.
“You have to be able to work with people and communicate with them,” said Marsh. “I’m on headsets talking with them, ‘Hey, get a shot of this person.’ There’s a lot of team effort that goes into it. There are a lot of different roles that go into getting stories done.”
“They love it. They own it,” said Hassler of his students. “They pick it up pretty quick. They’re very serious. The kids are there to help and do any part they can. The production doesn’t just happen. It’s a lot of work, just like anything you see on TV. As far as hours, I couldn’t put a number on it, but it’s a lot.”
CCHS Today also broadcasts senior nights and select games in other sports, as well as the prom, pre-school graduations, high school commencement, holiday programs, plays and musicals. It began livestreaming home football games during the pandemic, and just never stopped.
“This is important to people,” said Hassler. “The first football game we did was against Manheim Central, in an empty stadium. That’s when it all began. It’s spiraled into something unique and awesome for kids. I don’t think we’ve done a livestream where we haven’t done something new to improve it. It went from very simplistic to something that looks a lot like a professional set-up. It’s very elaborate.”
Last year, 14 graduates of Cedar Crest’s video broadcast program went on to major in a similar field in college or got a job in the field.
“I’m looking at something in the broadcast field or film,” said Marsh. “After doing these livestreams, I’ve really started thinking about something in the sports broadcasting field. I’ve learned a lot about what goes on behind the scenes. It’s taught me a lot about how different streaming things work. It’s taught me a lot about general broadcasting things. It teaches me how to communicate with people.”
“Sometimes when they get a taste of it, it becomes something they want to do,” concluded Hassler. “It says a lot about our kids and how much they believe in our program. They love it. Our broadcast program is second to none locally. They’re some of the most creative and talented kids we have here at Cornwall-Lebanon.”
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Editor’s note: This article was updated after publication to correct attribution in a quote.