Friday Night Lights with Jacob Lenard

(Thank you to Jacob Lenard for his time. Watch Jacob Lenard on KOAM-TV Channel 7 and Fox 14 during the sports segments in the local news casts. The local highlights from football begin at 10:20PM on KOAM-TV on Friday nights. The FOX 14 “Press Box” highlights show can also be seen on Friday nights at 11PM)

It’s 3PM on a Friday afternoon. Former Yates Center Wildcat student-athlete Jacob Lenard arrives at “Television City”, the nickname given by the staff at KOAM-TV for the newsroom and studio located between Pittsburg and Columbus.

Lenard has already mapped out which of the 60 high schools in the station’s viewing area the news photographers will go to later tonight for game highlights. He has sports segments scheduled for 6, 9 and 10PM newscasts.  With live shots, pre-recorded live shots in case of technical difficulties, and anchoring, there are no wasted seconds in the day. This is the start of Friday night football coverage.

NOT THE FIRST CHOICE

Sports broadcasting wasn’t Lenard’s first choice as a career. “When I started college I was a physical education major and wanted to get into coaching. In my second semester I would always listen to Scott Van Pelt on the radio in the morning, and then go home in the evening and watch SVP on SportsCenter. One day I just thought, ‘shoot…why don’t I do that?'”

Pittsburg State University’s Communication Broadcasting program is not only regarded as one of the best in the state of Kansas, but the nation. Winning multiple Kansas Association of Broadcasters and national broadcasting awards, the program seemed to fill the curiosity Lenard had found. After graduating from Pittsburg State, he wasn’t immediately put on the sidelines to cover sports.

“Prior to [becoming the Sports Editor] I was a news reporter, a news photographer and a news assistant at [KOAM/FOX14]. I started as the weekend sports anchor at KOAM in July of 2014 and then became Sports Director at the station in June of 2015.”

PIGSKIN PREVIEW

This year marks the 23rd edition of the KOAM-TV / FOX 14 “Pigskin Preview”. Many teams and their fans eagerly await the arrival of the publication to thumb through the previews, memorize the schedules, coaches’ quotes, and predictions. Production on the the Pigskin Preview, with over 60 high school’s in the television stations’ viewing radius, plus Junior College and Division 2 schools, begins as graduation ceremonies commence. The publication involves many hands in the process including the sales department and fellow co-workers Matt Newbery and Andi Sioteco.

“We send out the coaches questionnaire in late May/early June. Once I start getting those back, I start writing. I write every preview article in the magazine, but Matt Newbery is really the backbone of the thing. He is responsible for the layout of the magazine; he proofreads what I write and adds/deletes things as necessary from the articles. He helps me call coaches and round up questionnaires all summer from coaches who may be procrastinating a little bit. He helps so much.” said Lenard.

“The publication also involves the sales staff. When I’m done with an article, Andi [Sioteco] takes the schedules and puts them into our big spreadsheet that we use to schedule where we’re going every week during the football season. We try to have it done and put together at the beginning of August, and totally distributed by jamboree week in Missouri, which is about … two weeks before Kansas starts. It’s a big project, but being part of five of them since I started is probably the thing I’m most proud of. I get more positive feedback on the magazine than any other thing we do. ”

GAME PLAN THROUGH ADVERSITY

As much glitz and glamour that comes with being a local sports anchor comes it’s fair share of challenges.

“The toughest thing about the job is time management and planning. Most sporting events are between 6-8 in the evening, and we have newscasts at 6, 9 and 10. It’s a quick turn-around every night to go out and get highlights and interviews at games and make it back and get things edited and written for nightly newscasts.” said Lenard.

“We never make it to everywhere I want to go, and sometimes it’s tough to pick what to go to and what we’ll have to cut.”

Through the years Lenard has been fortunate to not have any incidents or accidents on the sideline. “One of these days my luck will run out. If the action is coming to me I just try to stand my ground and hope they miss me. I feel like my odds of getting plowed over are just as good if I try to move at the last second. So I don’t move. And if I get smoked, that’s just part of it. ”

Student-athlete family members are quick to call the newsroom, however. “Sometimes we get phone calls for saying someone’s child’s name incorrectly later that night. For the most part fans are great and appreciate what we do.”

SMALL TOWN KID ON THE BIG SCREEN

Being a former student-athlete from the class 1A high school in Yates Center, Lenard finds joy in not only sharing his love of sports through reporting, but also being able to share the traditions, rivalries, and accomplishments of the local high schools he grew up around.

“I love being able to put local kids on television who otherwise wouldn’t get a ton of recognition. One of my highlights as a player made it on KOAM when I was in high school and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I like getting to know that I’m doing that for someone else.”

Coming from a small Southeast Kansas town, Lenard has advice for those who are hoping to make it big in the sports broadcasting or reporting field.

“You have to love it. You’re not going to get rich right off the bat. You’ll have to start in a position that’s most likely not sports-related, but that’s how it is for nearly everyone in the field, including the ones on national television. Just know all the work you do early on will lead to something bigger down the road.”

A NEW GAME PLAN

It’s 11:30PM. The red light on the camera goes dark. The Fox 14 “Press Box” highlight show has wrapped up another week of high school football coverage. Lenard and Sioteco are archiving the highlights gathered from the news photographers. It’s the conclusion of all the hard work prepping for the week, however much like the coaches they cover, a new week of planning begins once the sun rises on Saturday morning.

“Friday nights are by far the most stressful part of football season, but between 10-11:30 we have more fun than any other time of the year. I grew up in gyms and stadiums, now I just get paid to be there. I love being in the sports atmosphere. I love meeting new players and coaches every year and building relationships with them that are going to last a long a long time. There are so many good kids and coaches in this area and so many great [sports] traditions.”

(Photo credit: Jacob Lenard. Follow Jacob Lenard on Twitter @j_lenard and @KOAMFox14Sports)