Friday, September 26, 2008

So You Want to Work In Sports?: Greg Mescall, Media Relations Manager

Over the next several weeks, HHR will be interviewing 20 and 30-something-year-olds in various careers in professional, amateur and collegiate sports to get a take on how they broke into their respective industries and to offer tips how ambitious sports-related job seekers might do the same.

Today, we interview Greg Mescall, 26, Media Relations Manager for the USA Water Polo Association. Prior to that he had stints in various sports-related positions, including PA announcing and television production. Fresh back from Beijing, Greg talks about those roles.

Name: Greg Mescall
Age: 26
Position: Media Relations Manager
Organization: USA Water Polo
College Major: Communications (Radio and TV)
Prior Sports-Related Experience:
  • Play-by-Play Broadcaster on Yahoo Sports
  • Sports Information at Wagner College
  • Sports Producer at WWOR-TV/WCBS TV
  • Freelance Producer Tim McCarver Show

Tell us how you got your position with the Water Polo Association and what your duties are in the position?

I got my position with USA Water Polo through luck I would have to say. When my time at my last job Wagner College was done I was searching all over for jobs and just happened to email USA Water Polo even though they had no openings. As it turned out the person in my position had just left and I called at exactly the right time before they could even post the job.

In my role I'm for the most part in charge of our website, and the daily updating of that. Sometimes it's a ton of updating, sometimes not as much. I'm the editor of Skip Shot magazine, a quarterly publication that serves our membership base with everything water polo related. I handle all media inquiries for USA Water Polo and our mediums whether it be the Olympic Teams, lower levels of the National Team, age group based tournaments or anything else that may come up. I also attend most of our major tournaments and assist in a media role there whether attempting to get media to cover the event or writing recaps, pa announcing, or whatever else may be needed. I have sold the occasional candy bar.

What sort of hours does the job require?

The hours vary, in the summer they increase tremendously. This last summer, while a little different because of the Olympics still presented a host of events and extra things that required more hours. A decent amount of weekend work during the summer or during an event or working some weeknights if a game comes up that night. Our next event is the Speedo Top 40 which will run October 24-26 (a weekend), I will be there for just about every hour of that event until it is completed. In the lesser busy months the hours are traditionally 8:30-4:30.

What experience best prepared you for the job?

Well it definitely helped that I worked with a water polo team prior so that gave me a little previous knowledge of the game and a few limited connections to reference when meeting new people. At the same time the fact I knew almost nobody on the California end of the equation helped because I didn't owe anyone anything. There had been alot of turnover in our organization and alot of negative things done in the past and I was kind of oblivious to the "old way." I guess ignorance is bliss on occasion.

What is your role in helping to raise the profile of the sport?

Ideally in the promotion of the sport through media coverage that helps to increase the awareness of the sport and hopefully gets people more interested. During an Olympic year the sport's profile is always going to be raised so that is a help. A real key is just getting kids in the water, there are a ton of people in this country swimming, just need to get a ball in their hand. A large part of that is our sport development people who are situated throughout the country to try and better develop the game in areas that aren't hotbeds such as California where about 75% of our membership resides.

How much autonomy does the Water Polo Association, and you as a their media relations manager, have in relation to the US Olympic Committee?

My situation is somewhat different than that of the organization as a whole. The organization has to answer to the USOC on many fronts as the USOC helps to fund both of our national teams. In my situation unless it involves a national team it doesn't necessarily concern them, so age group water polo, for a example a story about a 16 and under club from Santa Barbara is not really on their radar. I am pretty free to do what I like although I do work with them on many things concerning the national team and am required to submit certain things relating to national teams. When working at an event such as the Olympics I essentially work for the USOC so at that point in time whatever they say goes, I believe it is similar for the Pan American Games but I am not positive.

You blogged extensively while in Beijing with the teams. Can you briefly sum up the experience from both a sports fans perspective and as a tourist?

Just an event like any other. From a sports fan perspective it is unlike NBA or NFL or MLB or any of that because it is about country vs country. If you were unsure you had American pride, go to an Olympics and you will find yours. Everybody is just pumped up pulling for their country and in my case I'm there for water polo and within the first two days everyone is talking about how fencing can pull out a Gold Medal. Maybe I'm skewed a little from being somewhat on the inside but it was just a great experience and a medal ceremony is quite different than handing over the Lombardi trophy. When the volleyball team wins Olympic Gold, they weren't able to swing a deal for a libero at the trading deadline, this has been the group they have gone to battle with for a while and now it's all paid off. On a tourist stand point, just a very different place in regards to China, different language, tons of people, the Great Wall was pretty great.

You have a diverse sports communications background, which did you find best suited your career interests?

I'm not sure I have found that yet, this job allows me to write, and occasionally announce and those are two things I really enjoy, I'm not sure what that profession will be until I know it.

Tell us about the producing gigs. What did that entail?

Depending on where it was while at WWOR I was a sports producer on a freelance basis filling in where needed. At one point I was producing the Toyota Golf Report, a four minute portion of the show which afforded me more golf knowledge than I ever wanted, PGA, LPGA, Euro Tour, Nationwide, Champions (Seniors). I also assisted with NY Yankess postgame show, again affording me more knowledge of the New York Yankees than I ever wanted. That was a real fast paced production as video was being turned around moments after the game ended and airing minutes later. Producing TV news is fun because you get to see the results of your work within a few hours, and it is fun to be able to get something on the air in a pinch and have it air as if everybody wasn't just running around like maniacs behind the scenes. Working on the McCarver show was a variety of jobs, sometimes it was helping put in the graphics that routinely pop up, or helping time show as it progresses, I also would screen video to use as cover video during the program.

Is McCarver as pompous as he comes off?

I really didn't talk to him all that much, when he arrived he was just ready to get down to work and that was that. Seemed like a nice enough guy.

You seem to have a penchant for announcing, is that something you'd like to get back into?

Definitely, I really enjoy announcing, if I could do that on a full time basis and not live on food stamps I would love to do that, so at some point we'll see about a segue back in.

Rumor has it you worked with female professional football players. Do tell.

HAHA. Yes, the New York Sharks based out of Queens. They needed an announcer and I answered their call. Some of thee most intimidating women I have ever encountered in my life. I will say they were all pretty athletic, it was kind of like watching high school football on some levels, only they didn't throw deep that much. The one girl, a lineman once appeared on Regis and Kelly, I think her name was "Tonka" Tate. She was quite the tackle.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

That is a good question. Likely back on the East Coast for one, unless my movie career takes off. Other than that I could really see myself in a variety of positions so I don't think I could pinpoint one.

What's the most rewarding part of the job?

It's nice to see one of our teams win an important game, or a nice story about one of them in a prominent newspaper or magazine. I enjoy those things.

Biggest perks?

Free food. I seem to have come across a ton of free food in all these jobs I've worked. In a media role you just often fall backwards into buffets, unlimited soda, perhaps cookies, these things are always nice

Biggest hassles or obstacles?

Annoying people. I know a cliche answer, but it's what I kept coming back to when thinking about this question

Anything you would have changed during college to better prepare you? Relevant courses or internships you'd recommend?

During college I probably would have tried to do more television than I did, but I had a pretty good stranglehold on any and all sports media so I'm not really sure that would be feasible. Internships, I did as many as the school allowed me to do and they were somewhat varied, I think they all gave me good experience, but I think internships are essential. Do as many as you can if you are in college.

What advice would you offer those looking to follow in your footsteps?

If you have the grades or the money and you are looking to do communications attend schools like Syracuse or Fordham. While you can make it coming out of other places, this will make things much easier on you provided you are a go getter and good at what you do. Their alumni base is tremendous, well-connected, and they help their own.


See all our "So You Want to Work in Sports?" Features Here.

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