Assistant Producer: BBC TV Sports News
Ben Croucher studied Sports Science and Management at Loughborough University between 2007 and 2010. During his studies he took part in lots of extracurricular activities and became Head of Media for LSU Media on the Students’ Union Executive in 2010-11. Now working within various areas of the BBC, Ben details elements of his career and how his time at Loughborough has influenced his career path.
I chose Loughborough as much as I chose the course. I always knew that I wanted to explore a career in sports journalism but did not feel that journalism degrees gave the necessary skills to help in that respect, just a piece of paper that says you can! I figured my best shot would be to study a sports degree at the best sporting University in the country (which would hopefully look impressive) and add media experience on the side, through Loughborough Students’ Media. The course offered a number of different career opportunities in business and sport and the University itself on the social and sporting side just suited me perfectly.
My attitude was that I wanted a good sports based degree from an excellent sporting University and that I would gain any necessary career skills externally to my course. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the diversity of my course. The variety of options in modules within the course were great and really allowed me to play to my strengths in both personal interest and ensuring I obtained the best grades possible.
I would encourage any prospective students to focus on their strengths and choose modules that utilise them. There are so many career options that studying Sports Science with Management can offer you - be that business, management, teaching, physiotherapy, medicine, healthy lifestyles, coaching and more. It’s very beneficial to figure out which areas you’d like to work in in the future and chose modules that will give you the best skills to achieve the goal.
Knowing I was targeting a career in journalism, I chose modules related largely to sociological elements of sport, including my dissertation, as I felt knowing certain things, for example how muscles worked or how to teach kids, wouldn’t have suited my areas of interest or career prospects.
They were just as important as my course. I tried to embrace every aspect of Loughborough life - through hall committees, sports clubs and volunteering within the Students’ Union. Loughborough places a large emphasis on the range of activities it offers and the general student experience. For me, coming from a pretty rough time at school, it was important for me to have an experience where I could develop as a person, make new friends and enjoy my time away from my studies. The experience I've gained and the people I’ve met through these extra-curricular activities have hugely benefitted my career prospects and also my own mental wellbeing.
I was hugely impressed by the quality of the lecturers on the course, who were all experts in their particular field. It gave you confidence knowing that some of the leading academics were teaching you and this motivated you to work hard in order to meet their high standards and expectations. The variety of teaching and assessment methods, including practicals, group modules, coursework and exams, made it a really accessible course to all levels and types of student.
It sounds hugely clichéd, but Loughborough was the making of me. As a person, I arrived not knowing anybody as this bright eyed, immature 18-year-old, but it gave me so many opportunities to grow as a person. I am immensely proud to call myself a Loughborough alumnus and still feel a strong affinity to the University. Knowing the services and facilities the University boasts is a great asset in my professional career and it’s always so pleasing to see other Loughborough students and alumni thriving on the sporting stage and beyond.
Without my involvement with Loughborough Students’ Union, and in particular LSU Media, I would not be doing the job I am today. Put simply, the practical skills I gained at LSU Media, from TV editing and production, radio presenting and production, to sports writing and technical skills like using video cameras or software like InDesign and Final Cut Pro, have given me a head start in the media industry. I learned how to make TV and Radio shows, how to write match reports, and how to put together magazines. That is something that you can’t learn through undergraduate degrees, or not to the same extent at least.
As well as being quite enjoyable, it gave me a base level of skills that could then be developed in the outside world and meant I could really hit the ground running in subsequent jobs.
Loughborough was especially beneficial due to the access to world class sport and world class sportspeople and I was always staggered at how accommodating the University’s elite performers and coaches were to students coming to film and interview them. They really bought into the Loughborough experience and improved my interview skills in the process.
Being on Exec also gave me a good understanding on how to manage people and budgets, and how to work as part of a wider team, all skills that can’t really be taught through a lecture!
At the end of my second year at Loughborough I secured a place on a BBC placement scheme call BBC Blast. It was an eight-week, unpaid attachment to BBC local radio where I would become part of their sports team; conducting interviews, making radio packages, writing articles for the BBC Sport website and commentary. My bosses commented on how my interview was different to others who applied because of the range of ideas I had, and the amount of experience I could call upon - all of which I had gained through LSU Media.
I kept contact with the bosses at BBC Radio Kent throughout my final year, occasionally freelancing when they needed assistance. Whilst I was on the LSU Executive, as Head of Media, I made more detailed enquiries with a view to more regular work when my time at Loughborough came to an end. My freelance work increased during my final months on the Executive to the point that after leaving Loughborough on the Friday, I started work at BBC Radio Kent on the Monday, before eventually being taken on full time six months later.
Can you tell us about your current role within the BBC? What have been your favourite shows to work on?
I currently work as an assistant producer for BBC TV Sports News. My main duties involve creating content for the sports bulletins on BBC News. This involves editing interviews and pictures for hourly sports bulletins. I’ll also make match highlight packages across a variety of sports, editing, scripting and voicing pieces for air. I also write scripts for presenters and brief them on stories. Occasionally, I get out to film bespoke, original journalism stories - coming up with an idea, researching, filming, managing a team, recording pieces to camera and editing it all together.
From time to time, I also work on BBC Radio 5 live’s sports bulletins, either producing (editing audio, liaising with reporters, deciding running orders, assisting with scripts) or reading bulletins on air. Previously, I was the producer on the Friday Sports Panel on 5 live, a weekly sports panel show with a variety of different guests. I was in charge of fixing and briefing guests, writing scripts, cutting audio and outputting the programme from the studio, as well as managing budgets and technical bookings.
I also do football commentary for a variety of BBC local radio stations when I have the odd weekend free, I provide continuity for BBC Red Button during major sporting events (e.g. Wimbledon or the Olympics) and will write the occasional article for the BBC Sport website too.
The day to day nature of the job means that we rarely get the chance to sink our teeth into a big project or show as we’re constantly working on the next bulletin, but one of my proudest projects was my first original story to be aired on Saturday Sportsday on BBC One, on Holcombe Hockey Club’s rise up the ranks in domestic hockey. It took a lot of time and effort to get the project off the ground, was a unique story that no other media outlet had and I was really proud of the team effort in presentation, cameras and editing. To see something you’ve created from scratch aired on national TV is a really cool feeling.
I also got a real sense of pride on working during the Olympics and creating additional content for Olympic Breakfast. It was great to be given additional responsibility; to use my knowledge across a range of different sports and have my work presented on a significant platform was a real buzz, especially when you’re working through the night to tight time deadlines.
Radio has been a great training ground for me and enabled me to interview some incredible people and visit some amazing sporting venues but my biggest buzz comes out of making TV. I find you can be more creative in the edits, the story telling and presenting to camera and the time pressure of live bulletins is a real thrill.
I love that it doesn’t really feel like a job. I’ve grown up with a huge passion for sport. When I was at primary school, I would read match reports to the school from our 6-a-side team and commentate on matches whilst playing on my SNES games console so I’ve always had this underlying desire to be a sports broadcaster. To fulfil that goal, I know I am extremely fortunate. I love the variety of the job; that you can be chucked any sport and have to deliver high quality content. I love watching and talking about sport. I love the buzz of live TV and Radio and I love the time pressures of knowing you have to get it right first time. I love the creativity I’m afforded in edits and in my scripts. I love that my hobby of watching sport and being immersed in sport is a job.
The ability to work independently has really helped during my career. As contact time is fairly minimal on the course it taught you to be very intrinsically driven, very motivated and very disciplined and these have all been useful to call upon during my career. I also discovered how to revise and research effectively and this is especially useful when trying to learn lots of statistics on various players for commentaries.
I wouldn’t describe myself as greatly successful, yet! I’m fortunate to have a great job and a well-respected organisation but I realise I still have a long way to climb up the ladder, a lot more to learn and so much more I want to achieve. I would love to report or commentate live on major international sporting events. It would be a dream to travel the world and report on sport from amazing locations. I would love to expand my skillset into doing more live reporting in front of the camera on a national or even local level and progress to become a regular reporter for the likes of 5 live, Final Score or Match of the Day as a commentator. Similarly, I’d love to expand the sports I commentate on and make myself a more versatile journalist. So plenty of plans for the future but it’s crucial to be patient, make the most of the opportunities whenever they arise and ensure that I keep my head down and work hard behind the scenes in order that I have the competencies and trust of my colleagues to perform at my best when given increased responsibility.
It’s about trying to make yourself as well-rounded a person as possible. If your course gives you certain skills, try to gain different skills in other areas in Loughborough, be it team sports, societies, volunteering or other vocational classes. Loughborough makes this all really accessible and it’s important to look outside your studies for different skills. Even if you don’t have an end goal, you can gain skills in leadership, teamwork, time management and the ability to working independently. It’s about using your time wisely to ensure the best balance between obtaining a strong grade, enjoying a happy social life and building some extra skills on the side.
If you could give one piece of advice to a prospective or incoming Loughborough student, what would it be?
Milk Loughborough for everything it has. There are so many opportunities at Loughborough, all condensed onto one campus, that you really have to make the most of. From sport and volunteering to gyms, clubs, halls and socialising - Loughborough is more than a degree. It’s about getting the most out of yourself, developing as a well-rounded individual with so many appealing qualities. It’s about enjoying yourself, it’s about bettering yourself and I cannot emphasise enough to make the most of everything the University and the Students’ Union presents to you, right on your doorstep.
A couple of things.
I cannot speak more highly of Loughborough Students’ Union and in particular LSU Media. I would not be where I am today without the opportunities they provided and allowed me to create for myself. Whilst you’re immersed in this little Loughborough bubble, you don’t always see how the wider industry values the skills you gain and you don’t always realise that your work is comparable to the outside world too. The crux of student media, be it writing for Label, presenting on LCR or making shows on LSUTV are identical to the outside world. By having those base skills from Loughborough, all voluntarily obtained in my own time, I had a real head start when it came to becoming a sports journalist.
Whilst I have had some amazing experiences with the BBC, my favourite job ever came at London 2012, as a sports presenter and stadium host. Working on an Olympics Games was the most rewarding, enjoyable experience of my life and I don't think I will ever have a job that gave me so much pleasure as that. Presenting to crowds of 15,000, making them do Mexican waves and the Macarena, and being able to create some of the atmospheres that made London 2012 so special was a real honour. I was really lucky to be given the chance aged just 23 to host Tom Daley’s big finals and stand in the middle of the O2 during the Paralympics. For me, it gave me so much confidence that I was able to perform under pressure, think on my feet and work in new teams at short notice.
You can keep up to date with Ben's work by following @BCroucherSport on Twitter.