By Will Baldwin
When sports across the world were cancelled, most of the mainstream coverage focused on athletes and their coping mechanisms in dealing with the pandemic. However, athletes and teams were far from the only ones in the sports industry impacted by COVID-19.
Juan Morales is a videographer, content creator and current Ryerson RTA Sport Media student. If you follow Ryerson Athletics, you’ve definitely seen his videos for the Rams.
He also works for TSN, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and has side hustles as a freelance videographer, graphic designer and content creator. With the lack of games since March, Morales and other content creators have seen a major change in their industry.
The Eyeopener sat down with him virtually to learn about the industry of sports content creation, COVID-19’s impact on it and much more.
Answers have been edited by The Eyeopener for length and clarity.
What kind of work have content creators like yourself been able to do during the pandemic?
Morales: I know a lot of people I follow that have done really cool stuff at home as photographers and videographers. They’ve adapted so well. In sports it’s a little different, people have taken different routes. Depending on the access you have to a team or to an athlete. It does kind of like separate the pack though in a way. You do see who’s been willing to put in the work when you can’t really go to work.
If you’re a writer, you can still cover a game from watching it on your TV at home but for you it’s obviously a little different. What has been your mindset during the pandemic?
Morales: I remember the early days of COVID I was just on phone calls and FaceTimes with co-workers and just friends and being like “what are you guys doing?” It’s kind of a weird way to look at it but when you’re a content creator, it’s kind of like a muscle. The more you practice it, the more you make things, the better you get at it. It’s kind of like working out. The less you do things, the less you’re going to be in touch with the skill, regardless of what it is. If you keep working when you can’t, you’re going to get better because of it. When things go back to normal, you’re going to be better than before.
What is your official role with Ryerson?
Morales: Officially I’m one of the video producers for Ryerson Athletics. I say officially because over the last two and a half, three years my role has kind of extended beyond that. I consider myself a content creator just as much as a video producer because I do a lot of graphic design for the department as well. It’s not just video-based. I’ve dabbled here and there in photography. So, my official role is video producer but I would consider myself just a content producer for the department in a sense.
How has that role (at Ryerson) changed since quarantine?
Morales: We ended off when campus closed down due to COVID-19 in March. I went to nationals in Ottawa for women’s basketball and that was when COVID was just getting into the country., when it was just becoming a story. I got home and everything shut down as soon as I got back. Some of the bigger things we have at the end of the year, the athletic banquet, things like that, got cancelled. That’s when I really realized, “Oh crap, things are going to change.” Two summers ago, I worked full-time in the department creating content and preparing for the year. That was partially the plan for this summer, but it got completely thrown aside. Over the summer, I didn’t do anything with Ryerson which was completely different and rare for me. I spoke to coaches, athletes, my bosses and superiors independently but it was kind of like you were sitting there crossing your fingers like one of the athletes. You don’t know if you’re going to have a season. Obviously for me it’s completely different, I’m not out there playing but I work with Ryerson. It’s a form of income. It’s somewhere where I enjoy working a lot and you don’t know if we’re going to get hired back.
It was a long waiting game, seeing where things would go. As the summer progressed we were able to coordinate more and figure out what we wanted to do, what we were able to do. Now once school has started and the varsity calendar has somewhat started up, I’m back at the MAC once in a while. In short it was just a lot of uncertainty, a lot of unknown.
My favourite thing I’ve seen you do is the hockey hip-hop thing. Partially because it was really sweet and partially because I’d never seen anything like it before. How do you feel as part of this new generation of content creators, this younger group that’s coming in, that you can continue to find this whole new area of sports content that’s never really been done before?
Morales: I think the fact of the matter is the younger generation of content creators are getting so creative. Not only are we getting so much more creative, the platforms that we’re getting to access them on, are just so much more accessible than they were years ago. I feel at sports games we’ve always seen the intros and teams make hype videos and that super great stuff. But at the same time now with Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, you have the opportunity to make so many forms of content. I think the creators are getting better. I’m constantly talking to different content creators in Canada and the U.S. Some of the stuff people are coming out with is just wild. It’s also just being influenced by so many sectors of not just sports but pop culture, music. The biggest thing with content creators now is you have to be really good at getting people’s attention in the first 5-10 seconds of your video. A lot of things are changing in order for us to be that creative. It really just comes down to the individual and the creative vision they have.
What’s one thing you want to do that’s really unique?
Morales: I want to tell stories in a creative way. The coolest opportunity that something like this gives people, especially for me at Ryerson and my colleagues , is that we’re really lucky to have such a great relationship with the coaches, the players, the staff. To give us all this access and this freedom to make what we want. That opportunity really lends itself to telling really interesting stories in different lights. I’m really looking forward to finding new ways of telling stories from a more personal perspective.