By Molly Loughman
Boston is the nation’s sports capital and Emerson College is the training ground for rising sports broadcasters like Sam DeCoste ’22, who moved up from New Jersey three years ago to chase his dream. Recently, the Sports Communication major accepted a National Student Production Award on behalf of the student-run sports talk show, The Box Score, which he hosts and co-produces.
During an award ceremony this June, DeCoste and his co-producers, Cameron Manning ’23 and Owen Conti ’22, represented their 33-member crew when the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) presented The Box Score with the Outstanding Sports Program Award for Fall 2021—the program’s 12th season.
As creative producer, DeCoste has a say on each episode’s topic and talent. Now approaching its 14th season, The Box Score operates under the visual media arts organization Emerson Indepent Video (EIV), where DeCoste was also a sports correspondent for a student-run news show, Evening News. He was also sports director and news director for WEBN, the college’s student-run broadcast news organization; sports correspondent for Good Morning Emerson on college network, The Emerson Channel; and co-creator/co-producer of Emerson’s esports studio talk show, Critical Damage. This summer, DeCoste is a part-time newscast writer for WHDH 7News Boston and interns at NESN.
Regarding the competitive nature of the National Student Production Award, DeCoste says, “New England is a very cutthroat region with all the sports journalism schools and it’s a very special feeling that we were the ones picked — the show I give my heart, blood, sweat and tears to. The award shows us we know what we’re doing and we really belong in this industry after we graduate, and that we’re going to make it.”
ET: A significant number of students contribute to producing The Box Score. How would you describe the various roles?
SD: It varies by semester, but there were 33 students on the most recent crew, including three executive producers (creative, technical and logistics); associate producers who help write the script, build the control room rundown, or produce out-of-studio segments; the control room team (director, assistant director, technical director, camera operators, playback operator); the studio crew (a lighting team, audio team, stage manager, camera operators and on-screen talent; editors; photographers; and production assistants. There’s about 25 people on set for each taping.
Production meetings take place bi-weekly between all five episode tapings. In those meetings, the talent, producers, and social media crew determine the content of upcoming episodes. After topic ideas are pitched and chosen, the talent discusses the topic to demonstrate their knowledge and passion for it. The social media team proposes content and the segment team pitches out-of-studio packaging/abbreviated news style packages. By the end of the meeting, talent, content and deliverables are chosen. All preparation work is done in one week’s time before taping.
The production meetings are really fun because most of us are sports fans and they become sports debates. It’s really entertaining to watch, especially because that’s how topics and talent are chosen, so it can be high stakes…
ET: What else goes into making each episode?
SD: Episodes are targeted to be a half hour, 40-minutes. Every episode takes a two-week cycle. We started going live on YouTube this spring, so whether or not something goes wrong, we have to keep going because everyone is watching. We wanted to go live because in the real world, it is live. We wanted to turn up the heat and challenge ourselves by making a live sports show because the experience of working on a live set takes it to the next level. There is something exciting in the air when you go live, the stakes are higher, and it really brings out the best in everyone on our crew. And for us, it gives invaluable experience to say we’re part of a live sports show.
The Box Score is open to all majors. We have a really strong balance of different majors. You don’t have to be a sports fan to be on the show, unless you want to be talent. If you’re not a sports fan but want to be part of a professional quality show and live set, and you’re a hard worker, and team player—then we have a spot for you.
ET: What gets you most jazzed regarding your engagement with The Box Score?
SD: We’re students just trying to learn and have fun, so the camaraderie we have on set is really second to none in any production I’ve ever done at Emerson. I just feel so connected with people on set, and I’ve made so many new friends doing this show.
Also, I recently landed an internship at NESN. There’s a former [Box Score] talent who I kept in touch with, and when I applied for this internship that he used to have, I asked him who I could follow up with. Without asking, he recommended me to the hiring producer. When I interviewed, they knew who exactly I was, and I could tell my Box Score experience weighed heavily on their decision.
There was one episode when the control room had technical difficulties with the system that sends recorded segments. When it was finally fixed about two hours later, we had very limited time, so we had to film the entire show in one take and get out. And that is really what taught us that we are capable of going live. We ended up filming our best episode yet at that point. So being able to put our heads together and cram it together like that and make a really high quality product was really invigorating to do.
I also appreciate that as a producer, I’m helping people become the best versions of themselves and find their calling, and helping them learn new things about the industry.
ET: What do you value most about sports communication and what do you look for to bring out that experience?
SD: The reason I want to go into sports broadcasting is that I love sports. It’s thrilling. It’s entertaining. It’s dramatic. It’s poetic. It’s a great platform for storytelling, both in terms of what’s happening on the field and off.
People love sports; it’s a great bridge between cultures, people from different walks of life. For example, I’m a die-hard Buffalo Bills fan. When I came to Emerson, I immediately met people who are Patriots fans or Eagles or Giants fans, and while we don’t have [a favored team] in common, we all love sports and are connected over that. It’s a great conversation starter, a great way to meet people.
Further thoughts from…
Co-producer Owen Conti ’22:
“I was excited to take on the challenges of reworking the show visually and rebuilding the crew. The experience of working on The Box Score was invaluable to me. I was able to form new friendships with the crew and talent that we recruited and I was able to strengthen friendships I already had. I learned the value of proper training as we made sure all of our crew members were confident and excited about their positions. I also reaffirmed my value that ensuring everyone feels welcomed and respected in a team environment will lead to great success. It has been a true honor to be recognized in this way. To me, this award will be something I’m proud of for the rest of my life.”
Co-producer Cameron Manning ’23:
“Every part of the Box Score experience is a thrilling one. From being in the pre-production meetings to seeing the sets get built and helping put together the set, I have truly done it all for the show since I first came in freshman year. …This kind of recognition means the world to us, because we truly bust our tails off to put out the best product possible. Even through the rough patches we have been able to create great shows and that’s just another testament to our amazing crew and talent who put in the work and make The Box Score…. Since Sam joined as host, he has truly transformed the Box Score into something special. I am so happy to share this award with him and our Tech EP wiz Owen Conti who is one of the hardest working guys I know.”
Crew members who made season 12 and 13 of The Box Score possible, in addition to DeCoste, Conti, and Manning, include: Joseph Cho ’23, Brendan Walker ’23, Christopher Black ’22, Mikayla Pinto ’23, Lela Schroder ’23, Thomas Coughlin ’22, Lily Sexton ’22, Avi Scheinberg ’25, Hengyu Hu ’25, Julia Murphy ’23, Loralai Falchick ’25, Millan Jain ’25, Caden Lisa ’25, Jack Morhaim ’25, Toby Lichtenwalter ’23, Jenna Ventrice ’23, Gillian Cameron ’23, Charlotte O’Connor ’24, Victoria Pater ’24, Jackson Tolliver ’24, Jaclyn Galvin ’21, Joseph DuBois ’21, Michael Logerwell ’22, Benjamin Sher ’22, Jeff Grundy ’23, Danielle DuBois ’25, Faith Pinnow ’25, Christopher Consoli ’23, Cooper Sherman ’23, Lexi Semanchik ’22, Kyle Bracco ’23, Doran McCormack ’23, Jackson Stuckey ’23, Niklas Walker ’23, Nicolas Rocca ’23, Annie Kew ’22, Jared Valluzzi ’25, Ellie Carlin ’25, and Jackson Shock ’25.