New approach to the job interview leads McGehee to DII position

Josh McGeheeSports coaches encourage their players to “keep pounding the stone” through tough times. Eventually it’s going to break. When the sports broadcasting job market got tough, Josh McGehee kept pounding the stone. Now he’s accepted a Graduate Assistant position to be the lead broadcaster at Upper Iowa University.

“This position gives me an opportunity to do play-by-play and color commentary for sports I haven’t had the chance to do yet,” he says. “It also allows me to be the singular voice of a Division II athletic program, which is a huge honor.”

A new strategy

McGehee learned of the opportunity in an STAA Job Leads email. At the interview, he chose to be more emphatic than he had been in unsuccessful interviews for other jobs. “I had never been able to clear the final hurdle during my pursuit of different positions. So this time, I made sure to state my claim as to why I was the best person for the job,” he recalls. “I also had questions prepared for each person on the interview panel to show how prepared I was and how much I wanted the position.”

The change in approach was key for McGehee, who had grown tired of being told “no” by employers. “Not just being told no, but the overwhelming silence from potential employers concerning job openings. It’s very easy to succumb to negativity when it comes to breaking into this industry, but the best way to fight it is to stay active. I ended up creating my own show that I recorded out of my laundry room. You just have to get creative in order to make something positive out of a bad situation.”

Referred to STAA

McGehee joined STAA in 2017 upon the recommendation of former Cincinnati Reds Major and Minor League Broadcaster Jim Kelch. Kelch is also an STAA member. “He came to speak to one of my classes at Bradley University and mentioned how STAA did an excellent job of posting job openings,” McGehee remembers.

One STAA resource McGehee especially values is his STAA Talent Page. “I really appreciate how much STAA organizes all of your application materials into one, centralized location. It’s much easier to provide potential employers a link to my Talent Page instead of a handful of attachments.

“I also appreciate the consistent flow of job postings STAA alerts us to. If it wasn’t for that email, I might never had known about the position with Upper Iowa.”

McGehee smiles when he adds, “Hopefully, this will provide the basis for my broadcasting career going forward.”

UNCP latest piece to fall into place for Zach McKinstry

ZachGrasping the degree of sacrifice required for a successful sports broadcasting career was challenging for Zach McKinstry. Now, though, the pieces are falling into place. Just months after being hired by a summer collegiate baseball team, McKinstry is adding more college sports to his resume. He will be the Director of the University of North Carolina-Pembroke (UNCP) Sports Network for the coming season.

UNCP offers McKinstry the chance to broaden his skill set. “Not only do I get to expand my broadcasting range, calling several different sports for the school, but I also get to work on some video production, creative media, and marketing and promotional projects.”

Following up his application was crucial in McKinstry earning the job. “I thought the interview went well, but when I hadn’t heard back in a while I stayed persistent and it helped get me the position.”

Learning the sportscasting industry

A 2021 graduate of the University of South Carolina, McKinstry admits to not initially understanding the discipline required for success in sportscasting. “It was really challenging for me to embrace and understand the grind it takes to be in this business,” he recalls. “At school I would sometimes feel like I was missing out on time with friends to work on my craft on a broadcast late Friday night or the weekend. My last year of school, and this long college summer ball season, has helped me find how to balance the two. It’s helped me stay passionate about following my dream.”

The UNCP position fits neatly with McKinstry’s summer schedule calling baseball for the Western Nebraska Pioneers of the Expedition League. “After I accepted a seasonal position with a summer league baseball team, I wanted something that could allow me to work into the spring. I looked for all the school broadcasting positions I could, and this seemed like the perfect fit.”

Help from STAA

McKinstry joined STAA this year upon the recommendation of his college roommate and fellow STAA member Dillon Clark. “Both jobs I have had post-grad have come from STAA,” he says. “The league I’m in now, every broadcaster is in STAA. And it’s relieving to have a space where we can share professional thoughts about the industry together, and also pick up pieces of advice from colleagues to make us better.”

Wengert lands full-time role as U. of Lynchburg play-by-play voice

Pardon TJ Wengert if his voice sounds scratchy. He will be calling play-by-play for more than 150 games per year as the new Director of Digital Media/Play-by-Play Voice at the University of Lynchburg.

“It’s an awesome opportunity as a young broadcaster to get a ton of play-by-play reps as we plan on broadcasting 175 games or so for the 10 sports that are broadcasted,” Wengert enthuses.

Additionally, the University of Lynchburg is the only NCAA DIII school with a contract to broadcast their games on ESPN3.

Wengert joined STAA last year on the recommendation of Longwood University Lancers voice and former STAA member Sam Hovan. He found the Lynchburg opportunity in an STAA Job Leads email. “Once I saw the description, I immediately started to work on my cover letter and sent off my application.”

Versatility

Wengert spent recent summers broadcasting baseball in the Coastal Plain League, first with the Morehead City Marlins and later the Tri-City Chili Peppers. “I love baseball, but college broadcasting was always in my mind as where I wanted to go if I got the chance. At my alma mater, Longwood University, I was blessed to call all eight sports that we streamed on ESPN+. The challenge of doing different sports was one that I wanted to have again.”

Calling 10 different sports at Lynchburg also allows Wengert to broaden his skill set. “It will push me to be a better broadcaster and storyteller overall as I will have to adapt to the sport. You don’t call a basketball game like a baseball game because the pace is so different and I love being able to do both. So for me, I wanted the chance to get back to that.”

STAA assist

Since graduating from Longwood last year, Wengert credits STAA with helping him overcome the growing pains of a young sportscasting career. “Just like young athletes make mistakes that can cost themselves and/or their team, I think young broadcasters do so too,” he says. “[STAA] helped me understand what qualities make up a great broadcaster and showed me the little things that we should look for in how our colleagues call games.”

Wengert adds that STAA has also helped him polish play-by-play and format his resume. “[STAA Owner Jon Chelesnik] has been so helpful with giving me feedback on plenty of play-by-play samples I’ve sent his way. He’s helped me retool my resume and he’s built a community of sports broadcasters who are all looking to help one another. So I’m beyond grateful to be a STAA member and a part of that community.”

“Jon also took my disaster of a resume and helped me make it something that won’t repel potential employers upon looking at it,” he smiles.

Scratchy voice or not, Wengert is fired up for his new opportunity. “A combination of getting to call a lot of games for a wide variety of sports and getting to do so for a high level DIII school on a great platform made it a great chance for me to improve as a broadcaster!”

Kirkwood launching NCAA broadcast career at Frostburg State

The four years Colin Kirkwood spent covering sports as a student at California University of Pennsylvania prepared him well for his newest opportunity. Kirkwood is the new Athletic Communication Broadcaster for Frostburg State University.

The Bobcats play 22 varsity sports at the NCAA DII level.

“Having 4+ years of Cal U experience, I know quite a bit about the Super Region I in the DII,” Kirkwood grins.

Broadcasting won’t be all Kirkwood does for the Maryland school. Other duties will include developing game notes, pre/postgame interviews, feature story writing, development of student broadcast workers, athletics website maintenance and assisting with social media.

Kirkwood has been an STAA member since 2020. He found the FSU opportunity in an STAA Job Leads email and believes his STAA Talent Page was a difference maker in his application. “Having a portfolio website with everything that an employer could want to see — broadcast demos, writing samples, creative video, etc. — readily available is very important and something that everyone should consider having,” he suggests.

Kirkwood adds, “I joined STAA for a mix of great leads, constant access to a network of professionals who are willing to help in any way they can, and for something to always help me improve my work.”

There will be plenty of opportunity for Kirkwood to continue his growth at Frostburg. And his familiarity with DII athletics will help with the transition.

Monty leaving baseball for full-time radio in Missouri

Brandon MontyBrandon Monty has spent two of the past three summers broadcasting baseball. His long-term goal, though, has been to call various sports as a full-time radio station employee.

Mission accomplished.

An STAA member, Monty is joining Alpha Media in Moberly, MO as an On-Air Announcer and Play-by-Play Broadcaster. He learned of the opportunity through STAA.

“It will allow me to be versatile and improve my skills at several different jobs in radio, including play-by-play, hosting, interviewing, and gathering news,” Monty says.

Changing course

Monty is spending this summer in Washington broadcasting baseball for the Walla Walla Sweets. He’ll move to Moberly at season’s end.

“I’ve always loved the game of baseball since I was a little kid,” Monty recalls. “I’ve also always loved radio and wanted to find a full-time position at a station. I wanted to find a place to settle in for a bit where I can be there year-round and call different sports.”

Always say yes

One key for Monty in building his sportscasting career has been always saying yes to opportunities. “The one thing I was told repeatedly throughout college was that you should try to expand your abilities and learn as much as you can. The last few years have provided me the opportunity to do just that.”

Customizing his cover letter to Alpha Media also helped Monty earn the job. “Find something unique or interesting about the job that you can put in your cover letter,” he suggests. “Letting the employer know that you did the research on the position goes a long way.”

Help from his friends

Monty joined STAA in 2020 upon the recommendation of his Ohio University classmates and fellow STAA members Gabe Genovesi and Jake Hromada. “When I transferred to Ohio U my junior year, I knew little to nothing about the true nature of the business and what it was about,” Monty recalls. “With the help of all my talented colleagues at OU and through my membership at STAA, I have made great strides as a sportscaster, both ability-wise and job market-wise.”

Now Monty is taking what he’s learned to Alpha Media.

“I’m extremely grateful to be welcomed into an organization and stations that will allow me to improve in different areas in sportscasting while learning from the talented veterans that are already on the staff.”

2020 college grad Garrett Jones lands DI job at HBU

Garrett JonesGarrett Jones is a Division I football and basketball voice just one year after graduating from college. And he doesn’t have to relocate for the opportunity. An STAA member, Jones is the new voice of the Houston Baptist University Huskies.

He succeeds fellow STAA member Lonnie King.

The way Jones found the opportunity is a common one. “Through an STAA Job Leads email, of course,” he grins.

STAA learned of the opening when King notified the agency that he was retiring from the position. STAA shared the openings with it’s members, then sent the most qualified candidates onto HBU’s hiring manager. ” I pounced on it right when I saw they had an opening,” Jones recalls.

Houston ties

Jones moved to Houston last year to be with family after graduating from the University of Missouri. He’s been doing fill-in play-by-play for the University of Houston and Rice University but the HBU gig is one he’s watched closely. “I feel super lucky to have been able to call games for several great schools in an awesome city in my first year as a professional. Broadcasting college sports is right where I want to be, so I feel like getting the radio gig at this point in my career is the perfect spot. It’s also nice to have a home base after mostly freelancing for a year.”

Smart follow-up

Following-up his HBU application with what he calls “polite persistence” helped Jones distinguish himself from other candidates. “I followed up multiple times, including what turned out to be very early in their hiring process, but I didn’t go over the top. Just enough that they knew I was really interested,” he remembers.

Jones’ follow-up also included one extraordinary step. “I recorded a demo tape using a HBU game from last year and sent that in instead of the football tape I had previously.”

Traveling man

One aspect of the job that Jones is eagerly anticipating is traveling. “I’m excited to get to New Mexico in September — that’s road trip number one. But HBU basketball has played several big time programs in the past few seasons — Michigan, Michigan State, Arizona, Oklahoma, Wisconsin. And of course, winning at Wake Forest. Those trips to the Power 5 schools are going to be a lot of fun.”

The Huskies also play at Rice in a few years. “It will be great to broadcast from the visitors booth at a school that helped me get my start,” Jones enthuses.

The STAA edge

Jones joined STAA in 2019 on the recommendation of fellow University of Missouri alumnus and STAA member Ben Wilson. Jones adds, “I also got wind [of STAA] through social media, and applied for the Jim Nantz Award each of my last two years of school.”

Jones’ reasons for joining STAA were simple. “To learn, grow, improve, network and be the best broadcaster I can be,” he says.

Now Jones is taking the skills he has polished to Division I HBU athletics.

“I’m incredibly excited to get started and bring games to the airwaves for Husky fans!”

Chillot jumps from NAHL to AHL’s Checkers

TJ ChillotTJ Chillot thought it was a long shot for to move from the NAHL to minor league hockey’s highest level. However, he also understands that the only way to score is to shoot the puck.

So he shot.

And he scored.

Chillot is the new Director of Broadcasting for the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL.

“I had known that Jayson Shaya, the former voice of the Checkers, moved on to Utica when Charlotte opted out of the 2020-22 season,” Chillot recalls. “After talking with [STAA Owner] Jon Chelesnik regarding openings in the world of hockey, he mentioned that Charlotte had yet to announce Shaya’s replacement — among other openings he knew of. Jon recommended that I reach out to the Checkers. The timing couldn’t have been better as they were beginning their search right at that time.”

Big leap

Chillot leaps to the AHL from the NAHL where he spent the past three years with the Austin Bruins. He understood that the jumping to the AHL might be unreasonable – not because he couldn’t handle the job, but because of the optics.

“It’s not often you hear of a play-by-play broadcaster going from the NAHL to the American Hockey League,” he says. “Sure, I have experience working in professional hockey as an intern in the AHL and as the broadcaster for the now defunct Mississippi RiverKings of the SPHL, but I knew that on paper there were likely many more candidates who looked stronger.”

Preparation

Chillot, though, trusts his skills. “All I needed was for a team to look beyond the paper and have a conversation with me. I felt that all I needed was a chance to interview because I know that I bring a lot of intangibles to my organization that can’t be viewed on a resume or heard in a demo.”

Several of Chillot’s colleagues contacting the Checkers on his behalf further strengthened his candidacy. “There were so many people who went to bat for me during the course of this process – and without them, I don’t know that I would have even gotten through to the second round. They helped me get that interview so I could showcase my unique skill set.”

One advantage Chillot creates in the sportscasting job market is knowledge. His habit is to learn as much as he can from each organization where he has worked.

“I absorbed all the front office information I could, from ticketing, to community relations, to, of course, media relations and social media. I like to think of myself as well-rounded because of this. It helped me fit into a very unique mold that the Checkers had made. From my days as a car salesmen before my radio career began, to being a board-op and talk show host, to running a community hockey league, to teaching myself graphic design, it’s all become skills that round me out as a broadcaster and a person.”

Perseverance

Working in the AHL seemed like a pipe dream in 2018 when Chillot’s team, the Mississippi RiverKings of the SPHL, ceased operations. “I had just started my career as a broadcaster and wasn’t sure if it was over before it truly ever began. STAA helped me find the Bruins, which bloomed into a great three years in Austin.”

Chillot joined STAA in December 2016 when his parents bought him a membership as a gift. “STAA is the whole package for us in the industry,” he says. “I talk to some broadcasters who say they only subscribe when they’re actively looking for a job. To me, that’s just backwards. We should always be looking to improve, even when we’re not actively looking, and STAA is the perfect place for that. Sure the job lead emails are GREAT, but there’s so much more for us on the site. From the community discussions boards to ask questions and share successes with others, to the resources that Jon posts, and all the other tips and tricks.

“By subscribing to STAA year round, and not just when I was actively looking, I continued to improve so that when the time did come for my next step, I was more than ready.”

More than ready, indeed. There is a saying that success is when preparation meets opportunity. As Chillot has proved, that is true even when the opportunity seems like a long shot.

Moon hired as Sports Director at LocalNews8 in Idaho

East Coast to Idaho is a big move in terms of both miles and mindset. It’s the move Eric Moon is making, though. The STAA member is the new Sports Director at KIFI/KIDK LocalNews8 and News3 Now in Idaho Falls.

Moon admits, “No doubt, it was a little scary to move from Virginia all the way to Idaho less than a month after graduating college.” But after weighing the pros and cons of moving to Idaho for work, Moon says he couldn’t come up with a con.

“This job presented a fantastic opportunity for me to start my career in a great role in a great market. Starting as a sports director is an incredible opportunity straight out of college. Plus, this job would give me a chance to explore another part of the country I have never been to before and cover some different teams and sports too.”

Job market strategies

Moon did two things that were especially helpful in his pursuit of the position. The first was not limiting himself. He applied for sports anchor/reporter, play-by-play, and production jobs across the country to get his name out there. He wanted to give himself a better chance of finding a great job to start his career.

The second was improving himself. Moon tried to keep a positive outlook and get help from friends and coworkers on his reel, resume, and cover letter. He admits, “Before [the station] contacted me, I actually had not been contacted for an interview by anybody from any other places I applied to. But, with the help of friends and coworkers, I knew I was doing the right things and something great would eventually happen, and it did.”

Mentors

One of those coworkers was Scott Hecht, his boss at ESPN/ACC Network Syracuse where he worked during his four years at Syracuse University. Moon says, “Scott Hecht has been a wonderful mentor to me.” He adds, “In those four years, Scott, Kristin Hennessey, and many other great coworkers helped me learn the industry and gave me tips for how to attack the job market and how to breed success in this industry.”

Moon first heard of the opening with KIFI/KIDK through an STAA jobs leads email and applied within a couple of hours.

Moon has been an STAA member for three years. “My dad actually found STAA and I subscribed once I got to college. He searched for sites or places I could use to help start my career and I’m grateful he and I stumbled on the STAA site.

“My STAA membership has been beneficial for making connections and learning the industry. I know I can, for example, post my reel on the site and not just get helpful feedback from industry professionals, but also connect with those professionals through the feedback. I’m very happy with my membership and it’s been very beneficial to my career and the career of many other friends and coworkers.”

Self-promotion helps Shelley move to the ECHL

Mark ShelleyMark Shelley has been diligent about posting his work on social media in the two years he has broadcasted in the NAHL. That self-promotion is helping him take a big step forward in his career. An STAA member, Shelley is the new Manager of Media Relations and Broadcaster for the Greenville Swamp Rabbits of the ECHL.

Self-promotion

Mark Shelley has spent the past two seasons in the NAHL, first with Amarillo and most recently with St. Cloud. Sharing his work online has been a habit at both stops. He explains, “It wasn’t about getting likes and comments, but it was about getting the right people to take a look.”

It paid off. Greenville broadcaster Matt Trust was resigning his position and looking for his replacement. Shelley says, “He had been following along with all of my highlights, graphics, and videos that I would post on social media and that helped get me a leg up.”

Shelley will bring a variety of skills to Greenville. He shares, “I’m ready to wear as many hats as I’m needed to in Greenville.” That’s because his time in St. Cloud has given him experience juggling management, operations, and sales alongside media and communications.

Assist to Fisch

Hershey Bears Broadcaster and former STAA member Zach Fisch referred Mark Shelley to STAA in 2017. Shelley was studying at Mansfield University and says Fisch has been a huge help in answering questions and showing support.

His STAA membership has also been a huge help to Shelley. “Being able to read about other broadcasters’ successes, struggles, and questions has been a great benefit. I can connect with all of these stories and it makes me feel a part of a community who deals with the same ups and downs that I do.”

Traveling man

Shelley is no stranger to moving. This will be his fourth straight summer of relocating for a new job. He admits, “Bouncing around has been tough on me over the last few years.” But he’s confident he’s always had a good reason for moving on, whether it’s a dead end or uncontrollable circumstances.

“I’ve unpacked everywhere I go,” Shelley adds. “I’ve always planned on staying, but sometimes situations change and you have to do what is best for you. Greenville is best for me, and I’m not going anywhere else anytime soon!”

Jelnick to lead FOX17 Nashville sports department

Jill JelnickAfter working in a variety of broadcasting roles in San Antonio over the past three years, Jill Jelnick is ready to again focus on sports. An STAA member, Jelnick is moving to Nashville, TN to take over the sports department at FOX17 WZTV.

“I have always had a passion for local sports and knew I wanted to get back to being on TV daily in a great sports market,” she smiles.

Growing in San Antonio

Jelnick moved to San Antonio in 2018 to co-host and report for a daily sports show called Sports2Nite. “Our show grew in two years and went from one 30 minute show a day to three 30 minute shows a day,” she recalls.

Sports2Nite was canceled around the time the pandemic hit. “I began doing daily digital sports reports for Sports2Nite.com and did a weekly sports talk TV show, ‘Sports Weekly,'” Jelnick says. She also started hosting a travel/lifestyle show last summer.

Returning to Tennessee

Jelnick was ready to focus on sports after balancing such a varied and challenging schedule. The Nashville opening was emailed to STAA members in early May.

“Applying was a no brainer,” Jelnick grins.

Two years that Jelnick spent as a weekend sports anchor at WRCB Channel 3 in Chattanooga from 2016 and 2018 made returning to Tennessee even more attractive. “I knew I loved the state and also the sports market.”

Wearing many hats

Jelnick has strategically made herself more marketable by wearing as many hats as possible. “I made sure over the last five years that not only was I consistently sharpening my anchoring and reporting skills. But I was also sharpening my producing, writing, editing, shooting, and social media skills. Being able to add all these tools to my toolbox I believe helped me market myself as the ‘full package.'”

Developing a broad skill set has also meant tackling a variety of freelance experiences for the former college softball player. “I was the color analyst for the 2021 American Conference Softball Championship Tournament on ESPN+ and most recently started the Texas Collegiate League [baseball] season as the solo play-by-play for TCL TV. Baseball has always been my bread and butter. It was exciting to test and challenge my knowledge in a completely different medium than reporting and anchoring. Because there are not as many female baseball play-by-play broadcasters as there are male, I took pride in being given the special opportunity.”

Jelnick is ready to lead the FOX17 sports department. “It is a one-person sports department so I will be calling the shots and taking on a much larger role than I have in the past. It will be extremely challenging running the department by myself, but I am looking forward to that challenge.”