The Write on Sports camp experienced a successful expansion campaign at Roselle Catholic High School.
A total of seven campers – who declared themselves The Sports-Savvy Seven by the end of the two-week experience on Raritan Road – and two teachers combined to make Write on Sports’ initial offering at Roselle Catholic nothing short of a home run, a touchdown or a slam dunk.
From July 7-18, the seventh-grade, eight-grade and ninth-grade students convened in a Roselle Catholic computer lab, where they learned interviewing techniques, completed a video story and a print feature story and wrote blog entries. Highlights of the two-week camp included a trio of visits from journalists and athletes and a trip to a minor league baseball game.
Write on Sports, founded by former Associated Press Sports Editor Byron Yake in 2006, is designed to inspire middle school students to improve their writing skills by tapping into their passion for sports.
The camp’s curriculum was written primarily by Dr. Erik Jacobson, an associate professor at Montclair State and a program director at the Write on Sports camps in Newark. Write on Sports held its ninth annual camp at Montclair State University this summer.
This was the first summer the two-week program is being offered at Roselle Catholic, which became a Write on Sports host site after RC President Dr. Robert Stickles met on several occasions with Yake.
“The collaboration of Roselle Catholic and Write on Sports is incredible,” said Erin Sisk, one of the RC instructors. ”This program allows students to not only hear about what it means to be a journalist, but allows them to become the journalist.”
Traveling to Roselle Catholic were sports journalists Jerry Carino, from Gannett New Jersey, and Frank Giase, who pens a weekly soccer column in The Star-Ledger. In addition, New York Daily News Sports Editor Bill Price shared his expertise with the enthusiastic campers.
“I almost didn’t come to the camp because I thought it would take too much time off my summer, but I’m glad I did,” camper Nick Hiel said. “I think the camp is great. Interviewing the famous guests was awesome.”
“I love how the camp is a small group, which keeps everything calm,” Kennth Taylor said “I like how everybody makes the environment a nice, friendly place that makes you feel comfortable to share your feelings.”
Each of the seven Write on Sports campers at Roselle Catholic chronicled the guests visit with a “spot story”/blog entry.
When Price from the Daily News visited Roselle Catholic he was joined by 6-foot-8 Tyler Roberson, a Roselle Catholic High School graduate, who led the Lions’ basketball team to the 2013 Tournament of Champions title. Roberson and Price addressed the class and humbly explained to the campers how they achieved success in their sport or sports-related field.
“I thought the guests were inspiring and interesting to learn about,” said 12-year-old Elisa Neri.
“When we were joined by Mr. Price and Mr. Roberson at camp, it really was a fun experience because it allowed me to learn more about what goes into the success of both of those people,” said camper Amiri Tulloch. “It was interesting to hear their background stories and what got them to their heights.”
After a brief Q&A period with class instructors Roberson and Price took questions from Write on Sports campers in a press conference format.
Campers identified themselves – all representing Write on Sports – before delivering a query to the guests. The guest appearance ended with a locker room-type setting, when campers surrounded the guests for a brief period to ask a final question or two.
“That’s a good question” Price – the number two man in the sports department of one of the nation’s largest newspapers – said to campers on multiple occasions.
“It was a really great experience to meet a sports editor of a very major sports paper,” said Hiel, 13. “Mr. Price really gave us some great advice and told us about his life as an editor.
“I loved meeting and speaking to Tyler Roberson. I liked how he answered the questions honestly and he gave me a very useful quote for my feature story.”
Price, who also writes the “Bitter Bill” blog for the NY Daily News website, explained the jack-of-all-trades that a sports editor must be in 2014.
“When Bill Price said he had to juggle one million things, I thought that’s weird,” said 12-year-old Jack Thompson. “I thought editors just edited. Now I know it’s so much more.”
In addition to Roberson returning to his alma mater – he’s been in the gym for a few workouts this summer – the guest appearance marked a bit of a homecoming for Price, who was an assistant coach with the RC freshman boys’ basketball team for the 1992-93 and 93-94 seasons.
“We are so grateful for Bill Price taking the time out of his schedule to meet with our campers and being so candid in his interview,” Sisk said. “It is always nice to have a Lion back in The Den so we were happy to host Tyler Roberson for the camp session. And the RC teacher in me is glowing with pride to see what a wonderful young man Roberson has continued to grow into.”
Seton Hall University women’s basketball star Ka-Deidre Simmons and Gannett New Jersey sportswriter Jerry Carino literally took Write on Sports campers at Roselle Catholic into the fire of a post-game locker room to help paint a realistic post-game picture for the aspiring journalists on a sweltering July morning.
During the press conference portion of the guests’ visit to Write on Sports, campers are allowed to ask questions, with no topics off limits, after they raise their hands, identify themselves and their affiliation (Write on Sports).
The guests’ appearance ends with a locker room-type scenario, when the campers surround the guests in opposite corners of the room and continue the queries in rapid-fire fashion to gain additional information for a story each student will write as soon as the guests conclude their visit.
At the suggestion of Carino – who covers Seton Hall men’s basketball game as part of his NJ Gannett beat and writes the popular Hoops Haven blog followed by Garden State hardwood fans – the campers pretended to interview Simmons and Seton Hall women’s coach Tony Bozzella (portrayed by Carino) following the Pirates’ 64-56, road victory against Big East Conference rival Villanova at the Pavilion on Jan. 9.
Write on Sports campers were given a written account of the game and a box score, which showed Simmons finishing with 25 points and six assists in 40 minutes, to help prepare for the assignment when Simmons and Carino arrived at Roselle Catholic on July 10.
The Write on Sports contingent left the comfortable, cool confines of a Roselle Catholic computer lab for the stifling girls’ locker room, which was refurbished last summer.
A trio of WoS campers grilled Simmons, who sat on a bench in front of a locker with a water bottle in hand, while a quartet of campers asked questions of Bozzella/Carino in a coach’s office a few feet away. After a couple of minutes, the campers switched interview subjects.
Following the exercise, campers returned to the computers and keyboards and delivered a short game story. After lunch, the students, ranging in grades seven through nine, wrote a profile on one of the guests.
“I thought that the guests today were really great,” said camper Nick Hiel of Fanwood. “Both were very enthusiastic about talking to us and answering our questions. I had more than enough information to write a blog about DiDi Simmons.
“I thought that the way we pretended to interview them right after the game was really cool and fun.”
Simmons turned in what was arguably the greatest season for a point guard in Seton Hall women’s basketball history. She was a First-Team All-Big East and Big EAst All-Tournament Team honoree, the first Pirate to receive both of those accolades since Dana Wynne in 1996.
Simmons ranked fourth in the league in scoring at 16.7 ppg and her 174 assists set a new SHU single-season record, breaking Kathy O’Reilly’s mark of 158, which had stood since 1988. She became just the 20th player in program history to surpass 1,000-career points and currently ranks 14th all-time with 1,139 points over three seasons.
Simmons, who graduated from Seton Hall in May, missed all of the 2011-12 season following knee surgery. She helped tradition-rich Shabazz High School of Newark with the Tournament of Champions in 2008.
The Pirates, under the direction of Coach Bozzella, in his first season at the helm of his alma mater, enjoyed the most success in nearly 20 years. Seton Hall finished with a 20-14 overall record and received an at-large berth to the WNIT.
For the Pirates it was the first 20-win season since 1994-95 and just the eighth time reaching 20 victories. The WNIT berth was the first since 2007, with SHU advancing to the third round of the postseason tournament for the first time in program history.
“I enjoyed interviewing both guests,” said Elisa Neri. “They were so nice and it was so cool to interview such an accomplished journalist and basketball player.”
Carino, who was part of a Big East Conference championship team during his track career at Seton Hall, has taught a sports writing course at several colleges, including Kean and Rutgers University.
Both Carino and Simmons said they were impressed with the Write on Sports campers at Roselle Catholic, remarking “good question” on multiple occasions.
There was little doubt that Write on Sports campers got a kick out of the sixth day of camp at Roselle Catholic.
Soccer-related guests Giase and Kelley Jane Carvalho paid a visit to Roselle Catholic on July 14th, the third set of guests to visit the middle school students and aspiring journalists.
“It was different because both people were experts on soccer, which is a sport I play and enjoy,” said camper Nick Hiel. “They were very happy to provide information about their jobs and lives and were very kind. I really enjoyed the visit from Mr. Giase and Ms. Carvalho.”
Giase is approaching his fourth decade a sports writer, primarily covering all levels of soccer, from high school to international matches. Giase’s long list of credentials includes being a beat writer for the New York Red Bulls (formerly known as the Metro Stars) since Major League’s inception in 1996.
“Frank Giase was a great guest because he provided us with good information on the best way to write and cover stories,” camper Amiri Tulloch said. “He gave us good answers on not only writing topics, but on general soccer questions as well.”
Giase, who covered the 1994 World Cup in the United States and the 2006 World Cup in Germany, answered camper questions about the just-completed World Cup and how the event might affect soccer in the United States. For the past 14 years, Giase, who also designs and edits high school sports pages, has written an international soccer column for The Star-Ledger and before that at The News Tribune in Woodbridge.
After playing soccer (and running track) at Roselle Catholic, Carvalho enjoyed a successful career, on and off the soccer field, at Centenary College in Hackettstown.
An internship with the New York Red Bulls led to a job offer for Carvalho, who completed her degree in December and spent some of the spring traveling abroad. Carvalho is the training programs coordinator for the N.Y. Red bulls.
“I do a lot of marketing and back end work for our grass root programs,” Carvalho told the campers.
“Kelley Jane Carvalho was very informative and answered all of the questions – she was one of the best interviews we had in class,” said Colleen Badalis, a Linden resident, who’ll be an eighth grader in September at St. John the Apostle.
The guests – as has been the case with all of the visitors to Write on Sports at RC – were equally impressed with the campers.
“They were well prepared and asked great questions,” Carvalho said. “I was very impressed with the campers’ enthusiasm.”
After the first question of the press conference – asked by Nick Hiel, who identified his affiliation as “Write on Sports” – Giase complimented the camper for clearly stating his name and affiliation before his query, something he failed to do when he questioned a professional golfer more than 30 years ago.
“I can’t remember the golfer’s name, but I’ll never forget what he told me,” Giase said. “I learned a lesson.”
Following the press conference portion of the visit, the Write on Sports “locker room” segment – featuring a small group of campers questioning the guest – took place near the goal on Roselle Catholic’s soccer field, Chakey Field.
The seven Write on Sports campers from the Roselle Catholic affiliate joined roughly 70 fellow WoS students from other sites of the camp, including venues in Newark and Montclair State University, to report on a professional baseball game at Yogi Berra Stadium on July 16.
Prior to the New Jersey Jackals’ 3-1 victory against the Rockland Boulders – in the first game of a doubleheader (two seven-inning games) that started at 11 a.m. – the WoS campers interviewed the home team’s manager and a trio of pitchers.
Instead of using pen and paper to request autographs – Write on Sports employs a strict no-autograph asking policy – the aspiring journalists carefully took notes and quickly wrote down answers as ballplayers were peppered with questions.
“I loved meeting a professional manager and pro players,” said Nicholas Hiel, a Fanwood resident, who’ll be an eighth grader at Holy Trinity in Westfield in September.
“They gave us some great information,” Hiel said. “Going to the Jackals game was really fun, especially because I’m a baseball fan.”
“To be able to interview the players and then take in the game was pretty cool,” said Najlaa Williams, a seventh grader at St. James in Springfield.
Jackals’ manager Joe Calfapietra met with the campers on the stadium concourse. The subject of Calfapietra’s 700th career victory – a 4-3, 10-inning victory against the Quebec Capitales in Quebec on July 7 – was raised by several of the young reporters.
Pitchers Tom Vessella, Ryan Fennell and Brady Adamek took turns conducting Q&A sessions with the campers before the start of the Can-Am League game.
“It was nice to interview the pro players and see that they weren’t full of themselves,” said eighth grader Colleen Badalis, a Linden resident.
“I loved meeting the players, the coach, (mascot) Jack the Jackal, and Trumpet Guy,” said camper Elisa Neir, a Union resident and St. James student.
The trip to the minor league baseball game was clearly a home run as the majority of campers called it the highlight of the two-week experience.
Campers returned to Roselle Catholic following the game and were required to write a story/blog post on any aspect of the visit to the ballpark, which included a hot dog lunch. Following the game-day assignment, campers continued to work on their profile stories and video productions as camp deadline approached.
On the final day of Write on Sports Camp at Roselle Catholic in 2014, the WoS campers started their day with a visit to The Lions’ Den to chronicle the action from the Roselle Catholic Basketball Camp.
The aspiring journalists interviewed the aspiring basketball players, who ranged from ages eight to 14, coaches and counselors for their final story of the two-week program.
Camp ended with a pizza lunch for the campers and parents and the presentation of the Write on Sports campers work. Roselle Catholic’s Dr. Stickles offered remarks during the gathering.
THE SPORTS-SAVVY SEVEN
Write on Sports Camp
at Roselle Catholic
Colleen Badalis, Linden
8th grader at St. John the Apostle in Clark
Nicholas Hiel, Fanwood
8th grader at Holy Trinity in Westfield
Elisa Neri, Union
8th grader at St. James the Apostle in Springfield
Kenneth Taylor, Union
7th grader at St. James the Apostle in Springfield
Jack Thompson, Edison
7th grader at Woodrow Wilson Middle School
Amiri Tulloch, Woodbridge
9th grader (homeschooler)
Najlaa Williams, Union
7th grader at St. James the Apostle in Springfield