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Geneva students serious about duties at VSN

Geneva juniors Kevin McCarthy, left, and Jack Housenga call play-by-play action during Friday's game against visiting St. Charles East.
Geneva juniors Kevin McCarthy, left, and Jack Housenga call play-by-play action during Friday's game against visiting St. Charles East.

GENEVA – Big-ticket sports broadcasts inevitably include references to announcers’ off-air interactions.

Jim Nantz and Phil Simms of CBS meet with a football coach at the team hotel, or ESPN’s Dan Shulman spots a bulky power forward traipsing across a college quad.

In their first season together on Geneva’s online Vikings Sports Network, Jack Housenga and Kevin McCarthy have also channeled what they know during boys and girls basketball games. For the longtime friends and Geneva juniors, that often amounts to cafeteria conversations and hallway head-nods.

So it goes with a student-run endeavor aimed at developing teens’ on-air work amid a background of play. Housenga, McCarthy and their cohorts still can smile while scratching the surface of their budding professional sides.

“You can kind of see the progression through each individual game and then through the course of the season,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think it took us long to click at all. ... It was a few minutes into the first quarter, and this was the first game I’ve ever done, and I’m like, ‘This is easy for me.’ ”

What started as Geneva Television – a student television curriculum developed by former faculty member Cheryl Weintraub – has advanced under Jason Santo. A former sports broadcaster in Michigan before switching career paths to teaching, Santo, the GTV moderator, helped launch VSN late in the 2011-12 school year, his first at Geneva.

VSN, found online at, is a pilot program for the Virginia-based Rising Up Sports Network, founded by Geneva alumnus Chad Ciesil. It is an offshoot of Geneva’s broadcast club, not a course.

With Santo often serving as public address announcer during boys and girls basketball games, students work as broadcasters, cameramen and producers for select athletic events.

Seven of the 30-plus football and basketball games GTV has broadcast have been streamed live online. The rest are available on the website shortly after the game’s conclusion.

“We’re the only ones we know of in the area where kids are completely running the show,” Santo said. “You tune in, you’re going to get some good games and then you’re going to have some where it’s a blowout and their minds are going like kids’ normally would. They’re kind of like, ‘Oh, um, is this game almost over? It’s Friday night.’ ”

Housenga (play-by-play) and McCarthy (color) admit their attention has wandered at times, but their diligence and research are evident well before tip-off.

Working from years of rapport built during casual sports conversation, they can simply nudge the other when it’s time to transition, with no bump in the call.

“I don’t know if it was nerves at first, or we just wanted to make it clean, but we’ve also learned to become more personal on-air and have more conversations like the professionals do,” Housenga said. “The growth process has been nice to see.”

Housenga and McCarthy, part of a GTV staff that also includes senior Joanie Educate, have found themselves alertly tuned to professional broadcasters’ analysis when they sit down to games on their respective couches.

Housenga said he may consider broadcasting or journalism as a college minor. McCarthy said he’s intrigued by the field as a possible profession, much like 2012 Geneva graduate Jim Corkery, a GTV product who’s now a broadcast journalism student at Missouri.

As it happens, McCarthy broadcast a Geneva boys basketball game before playing in one for the varsity. Summer workouts and leagues eventually added up for the gangly junior as his pulse on his own minutes load trended the other way.

McCarthy found his decision to leave the basketball program only has contributed to stronger broadcasts. While he doesn’t grovel or spill secrets about the Vikings’ offensive sets, he often has an idea of where the ball is going before the other team.

“If you’re not going to play a lot, I’d rather be sitting and broadcasting the game with Jack than sitting on the bench,” McCarthy said. “I think broadcasting is a lot more fun.”

During live games, Housenga and McCarthy often receive email or Twitter feedback from students who are sick or grounded and can’t be part of the student section. Corkery was among those tuned in to the season’s first broadcast, a 49-38 Vikings win against Batavia on Nov. 30.

Santo said most of the regular web hits come from outside Geneva. There were 35 live viewers during the latter stages of last week’s Geneva-St. Charles East boys game, won by the Saints in double overtime.

VSN’s next broadcasts are set for Saturday, when the girls host St. Charles North at 1 p.m. and the boys host Quincy at 6. Separate Quincy radio broadcast teams are expected to join Housenga and McCarthy, which is fine by them.

Seeing professionals at work only offers affirmation.

“It’s nice to sit down next to their booth and have the adults and [then] it’s me and Kevin,” Housenga said. “It’s cool.”

These days, it’s the norm, too.

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