This fall will be the start of something new for 56 students at the Rockdale Career Academy in Conyers, Georgia.

Building on a program that is entering its 10th year, the Sports Broadcast Institute (SBI) gives students opportunities to create real, relevant video products.

The SBI is an adaptation of the state of Georgia’s AVTF 2 and 3 curriculum standards. Students will work with the three traditional high schools (Rockdale Co., Salem, Heritage) in the county to produce live sportscasts, newscasts, documentaries, commercials and more..

Four years ago, the Rockdale Career Academy video production program began streaming select sporting events throughout the county; since then, the program’s streaming efforts have increased to over 150 broadcasts each year on the NFHS Network. In 2014, the NFHS Network listed RCA as one of twenty elite programs and as a finalist for the School Broadcast Program of the Year.

The program was designed in an effort to create an engaging environment to challenge upper level students. Institute director, Tom White, used the Georgia DOE’s AVTF 2 and 3 standards to guide the direction of the program but relied on industry and post secondary institution input to create the overall experience. By reading many sports media, sports journalism, and sports marketing syllabi from colleges from around the country, the curriculum was created and leveled for the demands of a high school classroom. White’s original plan was “thrown out of the window within the first five syllabi drafts. I realized that I was essentially doing the same thing as in the past but putting a pretty sticker on it. It wasn’t real or relevant.”

After more syllabi drafts, White created a model that allows the students to spread their knowledge base in an engaging platform as well as create content that people will care about.

The new format gives students an opportunity to work in four main areas in sports media production - live broadcasts, studio shows, commercial/feature production, and marketing/graphics production. The students will work in these concentrations on two-week rotations.

During their time with the live broadcasts, each student will have to be a part of at least one live broadcast. This is going to open the coverage to more sports as well as allow us to give more students the experience. The live broadcast team each week manages all elements of the live broadcasts - booking talent, checking/packing equipment, loading content, producing the show. These students will also be responsible for creating short highlight packages for each broadcast.

The studio show team will give students the experience of creating a real news broadcast. The shows will have a sports slant with a mix of anchor lead reports and preproduced packages. The content for the show comes from the live broadcasts, reports from coaches, packages produced by other groups in the program, and some school announcements.

The most diverse group will be the commercial/feature production group. These students create custom commercials for clients’ advertising during our broadcasts and short feature packages that will air as stand-alone pieces and during the live broadcast and newscasts. This group will also work to edit the various coach’s shows which will be carried on the website for our local newspaper.

The graphics/marketing group will produce promotional marketing items, plan the social media marketing efforts, as well as produce promotional videos for broadcasts, announcements and more. This will also be a time for students to work on their portfolios and reels.

The final grade for each semester will be a portfolio review and interview. This gives students an opportunity to receive feedback as well as experience an interview with an industry professional inside the confines and safety of the school setting.

The primary goal of the SBI is to give students a real, relevant, and safe environment to experience production expectations and deadlines. As the world of sports and news production expands, the deadlines and the need for professionals with the tools needed to meet those deadlines are going to increase dramatically. The SBI will provide as close to a real production studio experience as possible in the school setting.

The ripples of the SBI go far beyond the walls of RCA as the athletics programs of Rockdale, Salem, and Heritage high schools will benefit when SBI students create content and coverage for the sports teams. The plan is that the content will be of such quality that the students who produce the content and the students that are the focus of the content are proud enough to promote the content through their networks. The exponential marketing power of pride will push the athletics programs throughout the county to a level never experienced.

As the launch of the SBI approaches, students are finishing their summer assignments while crews finish installing new turf fields at the stadiums and school system employees prepare for the roll out of the 1:1 initiative, where all high school students will receive a laptop, a perfect storm is brewing where students will utilize their new tools to create content for a sector of our community that is already a buzz with excitement with the new fields and changes that come with a new school year in a high school. This year is going to be exciting for the world of high school sports in Rockdale County.

The Sports Broadcast Institute student work can be viewed on www.RockdaleLive.com.