Teaching sportscasting from behind the mic
(February 12, 2007) Jon Chelesnik (left) is not good at math. He doesn’t know how to change the oil in his car. He can’t even cook. All that Chelesnik knows in life is sports and he has found success in the broadcasting business.
After his tenure as an ESPN Radio host, he has turned his life long passion into a hands-on course at Palomar.
Growing up, Chelesnik’s life revolved around sports. It was the only thing he knew. He said he would watch games on television every chance he had, listening to legendary announcers along the way.
Chelesnik grew up in Del Mar and attended Torrey Pines High where he took part in baseball, football and basketball.
His love and skills in basketball landed him at Kansas State, where he was a two-year player for the Wildcats. After realizing basketball would not turn into a career, he decided to focus on studying radio and television.
"I wanted to think of another way to get paid to go to games," Chelesnik said. "Being a sportscaster seemed to be the best thing for me."
The first job Chelesnik got after college was in a small Kansas town. During his time there however, San Diego frequently was on his mind.
Chelesnik thought about his home and a potential job at what was then know as XTRA Sports Radio 690 and finally decided to go home after three years.
While working at XTRA Sports Radio he received an opportunity to audition for ESPN Radio.
He said the audition for ESPN was not as nerve wracking as one would think because as Chelesnik puts it, he already had a job and experience to fall back on.
"I still would have been gainfully employed," Chelesnik said [if he wasn’t hired]. "The toughest part was staying awake for the show. It aired live between 2 and 6 a.m!"
As Chelesnik started working at ESPN, he said he realized it wasn’t as easy as some make it appear.
"It was hard work," Chelesnik said. "But it was some of the most fun I have had in my career."
Knowing that he had reached a certain area of the industry that few would ever get to, he said he would refer to a small note everyday reminding him not to take his job for granted. The note read "Working for ESPN is a privilege. Never take it for granted." The hand-written note, which was placed in a thick three-ring binder, reminded him never to give less than his best.
"To this day, I look back and I wonder how in the world did I end up on ESPN Radio," Chelesnik said. "I didn’t want to screw it up, because the easiest way to screw something up is to take it for granted. So I wrote a note that I saw every night before I went on the air."
After working at ESPN, the NFL Network and after offering his voice as a play-by-play broadcaster for the Arena Football League and the International Basketball League, Chelesnik’s career continued.
Among his accomplishments, he has also started the company Sportscasters Talent Agency of America (STAA), where he helps prospective sportscasters find jobs all across the country. Many of his clients have gone on to successful careers in the NBA and other professional sports.
Chelesnik has since decided to bring his expertise in sports broadcasting to Palomar.
The course he teaches is Radio and Television 197, which gives students hands-on experience doing live broadcasts of Palomar football, basketball and baseball games.
Students also get the opportunity to host the weekly radio talk show, "The Starting Lineup," which airs Thursday nights at 6 p.m on 1320 KKSM AM.
"It’s nothing like an English class," RTV 197 student Jason Golden said. "You are getting real job experience. It’s real unique and fun – that’s for sure."
Chelesnik said he is very excited about the direction STAA is headed, and even more excited about being able to teach aspiring sports broadcasters.
"He is always challenging us to do more than we think we are capable of doing," KKSM Sports Director Bryan Hilton said. "Oftentimes it seems he has more confidence in our abilities than we do. I think that speaks well for his teaching style and the way he handles the class."
Chelesnik said he appreciates the opportunity to transfer his success to aspiring broadcasters.
"I thought ‘wow!,’ if I could share with young broadcasters everything learned from my mistakes alone, then I can help accelerate their career," Chelesnik said. "Plus, all the positive things I learned to throw on top of that."
Chelesnik has brought his experience and words of wisdom to create a program rare in other schools, Radio and Television 197 – or in other words ESPN 101.