This feature is presented to you by the University of Nebraska - Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration
By Chase Kostellic, @kostellic
Whether a team is having a championship run or going through a stage of rebuilding, you can always guarantee that there will be passionate members of the organization on the sidelines recording content to share with beloved fans and beyond. Austin Koon, Football Videographer at Rutgers University, is doing just that.
Koon, who was raised in Columbia, SC, is a graduate of Clemson University. He grew up with a passion for film and sports, which makes it fitting to say that he has landed right where he belongs.
During his youth, it was the norm to see Koon with some sort of recording device in hand. Whether it was digital camera, old school home video recorder or a cell phone, it was a guarantee that he could be found filming anything going on. His filming included just about anything you can think of. Neighborhood stunts as a child, acting skits, wrestling matches and football games are a few examples that only scratch the surface of his passionate portfolio.
Along with a passion for film, Koon and his family were big fans of Clemson sports. They watched anything and everything Clemson. Koon knew that it was the school for him and decided to tie it with his love for film by pursuing his education there and making sure he had an involvement with videography.
Koon originally attended Tri County Technical College, where he would eventually transfer to Clemson from.
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He already had some connections at Clemson that were involved with the school’s communications department, which led to him getting a message one day from a friend about the opportunity to help with video and social media for Clemson Football.
He rightfully jumped at the opportunity while the team was still in a digital media transition process and was quickly brought on as an intern, thanks to his skills in film and supporting portfolio.
“They originally didn’t give me much direction on what to create, I was free to make whatever I wanted), so I started off by making highlight reels for different games. Then, at the beginning of my junior year, Jonathan Gantt and Nik Conklin were brought in, and they gave it a lot of structure. They made sure I was on board and started guiding me from there.”
As the changes started falling into place at Clemson, Koon was in the heart of it and learning as he went. He considers it being at the right place at the right time.
“I spent two years helping create content for them and developed an understanding of the social mediums for sports, all while filming. It was one thing after the other with constant development. I’m lucky to have been a part of it and be surrounded by some of the biggest influencers in the field.”
The work that Koon and his fellow interns did under tremendous direction resulted in a lot of exposure for the team and those involved. This is another moment where Koon felt at the right place at the right time, as it led to an opportunity where the door was open and waiting for him to walk in.
“Soon after I graduated, Rutgers reached out to me and told me they were interested in my work and encouraged me to apply for their videographer position. I applied and had to a video tryout, which led to a job offer, and that’s where I’m at today.”
Koon credits the exposure to the previously mentioned staff of Clemson for building a name and skill set for everyone involved that other organizations were drawn to.
“Our work was constantly being promoted. If we made something, Gantt (Jonathan) made sure that our name was on it and shared with others. He helped make Clemson a big name influencer, and other people started looking at us as a result. The folks at Rutgers were part of that crowd and they reached out to me through LinkedIn as a result.”
Now, at Rutgers, Koon is doing similar work and is consumed with football and videography year-round.
“I do anything involved with creative video for football. Whether it’s social media, the team website or scoreboard, if it involves football, I have a role in it with my camera. It changes on a day-to-day basis based on the needs of the team or time of year, but ultimately there’s always a need for some kind of content related to the team, so I produce videos year-round on all of our mediums.”
One would easily think that during the offseason, things slow down a bit, but Koon is always busy at work making sure every need is covered, including multiple offseason events.
“During the offseason, it’s all about recruiting and team promotion. This can be our location, former players, coaches, workouts or anything relevant. When the season is over, there’s still plenty of work to do that benefits the team and recruiting process.”
When Koon has a little time away from the camera, he makes sure to stay connected with people in the field and build relationships with mutual benefit. His advice is to explore and find out where your passion is while connecting with people in the field.
“Make sure you have a passion for something first and build your resume accordingly. For example, if you want to work in video, start creating some on the side and build your portfolio. You also have to be inquisitive and find answers from the right people. If I see something I’m interested in, I reach out to those involved and ask them questions.”
For Koon, his passion for film and meaningful connections are what he considers his biggest reward throughout his journey.
“I’m doing what I love. I can be filming all the time and never realize I’m doing it as a job. It’s exciting to be a part of and never gets old. Mixing that with building relationships is even better. The people in sports are an amazing, passionate group that are fun to be around. My closest friends came from connections through the business, so I’ve been able to be good friends and co-workers with them at the same time.”
An important aspect to note amidst all of the reward is that working in sports requires you to be aware of what’s happening in the field at all times.
“You can never turn the switch off in any sport that you’re involved in. Something is always happening, which means you always have to be on the cutting edge and aware of everything going on around you. In today’s world, you have to be plugged in at all times and adapt to all the changes.”
In order to keep up with the changes, Koon notes that understanding the message of your employer’s brand is crucial as well.
“A major aspect of any role in sports is to always keep storytelling in mind. If you understand the story of your team or organization, then you’ll be able to better understand how to use evolving platforms and technologies to tell it in any role. If not, you can easily become obsolete.”
In conjunction with staying with the speed of sports in terms of changes, Koon also points out that the speed plays a role in the amount of hours you have to put in each day.
“I come in every morning around 7 a.m. There are some nights, during the season, where I don’t leave until 8 p.m. or later. Excluding the actual game days. On top of that, weekends are popular with sports and a lot of games take place then. Working in sports means long days, late nights and weekend commitments. If you love what you do and have a passion for it, it’s enjoyable, but you have to be prepared going into it.”
It’s clear that Koon’s journey is one of reward, hard work and perseverance, and he makes sure to note that the staff at Clemson deserves their rightful share of credit in helping him build it.
“Gantt (Jonathan) and Conklin (Nik) have given so much to me and are such important people in my journey. They aren’t just bosses, they’re leaders that constantly look out for and guide their students with patience. I want my interns to feel the same way about me and I can definitely say that if it weren’t for them and what they taught me in every aspect, I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now. And that goes for the rest of the staff at Clemson including Don Munson and Thad Turnipseed who hired me originally and guided me along the way.”
Koon left us with a few final pieces of advice: remain persistent and always look for ways to develop.
“Be relentless in whatever you are doing. Never be too prideful and always be willing to learn. The quickest way to let yourself become stagnant is by letting yourself get comfortable. If you get comfortable in sports, you’ll fall behind and lose your drive at the same time. Have fun with it, but always look ways to stand out, educate yourself and talk with other people. Remember that you should always be a student. And finally, enjoy every minute of it. If you get to be a part of this industry, it is definitely a blessing.”