This month, I celebrated four years at Coastal Carolina University. Consequently, it also marked four years since I have worked at the University of Montana. When I was employed there, I had the opportunity to do a lot, but nothing defined my time more than the work I did to enhance (or at least attempt to enhance) the gameday experience.
Although I no longer play music for 26,000 people in Washington-Grizzly Stadium, develop crazy mascot skits, write public address scripts, or introduce in-stadium social media promotions, I still think about my “past life” from time to time.
Several months ago, I had the opportunity to remember what I used to do by living vicariously through the guy who is responsible for the gameday experience here at Coastal Carolina University. Alex Souza, who served as the director of gameday experience and promotions since 2015*, allowed me to shadow him up in the control room of Brooks Stadium during a couple of football Saturdays this past season.
No, I wasn’t creeping in the press box simply to satisfy some nostalgic itch of mine. I was assigned with writing another feature for Coastal Magazine. While planning the publication early in the fall, it was determined that an all-access story chronicling the amazing work put forth by Alex and his team be told. Based on my background, I was assigned to write it.
I embraced the opportunity to shine the spotlight on the magic that Alex creates, hoping it would also pay tribute to the hundreds of other athletic department employees across the nation who work tirelessly to create engaging gameday presentations. As someone who is especially sympathetic to the reality, many times folks don’t know the planning and labor that is dedicated to making sure fans leave the stadium happy, win or lose.
So, as mentioned, I watched behind Alex’s shoulder as he directed a couple football games. Once again I was in a booth with a spotter, video board guy, P.A. announcer, and technical support personnel. It was like a time warp! It wasn’t just the people I was surrounded by that brought me back. I also felt the stress, excitement, pressure, and comradery that became all too familiar during my days at Montana working in a similar role.
After the observation period, I had a long sit down interview with Alex. I questioned him as a reporter, making sure not to add any experiences or opinions of my own. However, I would be lying if I said that deep down inside I wasn’t relating with everything he said.
The actual writing portion of the piece was fun but also challenging. It was a topic I very much wanted to write about but I wanted to portray Alex’s role as accurately as possible. Knowing that I could make no excuse for messing it up, I put pressure on myself to produce something that did the Coastal Carolina athletic department justice.
Thanks to helpful editors, a creative design team, and the perfect subject (Alex happily and promptly answered the numerous follow up questions I had) I think the piece turned out well. It was nice to write something that I felt a special connection to for such a prominent publication. Alex Souza is incredible at what he does and I thank him for letting me write Behind the Games. Don’t Blink.
*Director of gameday experience and promotions no more! Alex was recently promoted to assistant athletic director for digital initiatives.