Sports Odds & Ends
It was the middle of September and a scheduled off day for Naya Gros and her teammates in the early portion of the 2022 volleyball season.
“E.J. reached out to me literally the day before the [Sept. 16] match of Pepperdine and Washington State,” recalled the Minnesota graduate student, who was one of five seniors celebrated last Sunday afternoon on senior day at the Maturi Pavilion.
E.J. Stevens, the team’s sports information director, was scheduled to work the match as play-by-play. “He was like, ‘Yeah, we need somebody to fill in.’” Gros recalled. “‘Would you be interested in filling in?’ I’m like, absolutely.”
Gros has a journalism degree from Michigan State and is in graduate school at Minnesota for sports management. “This is what I want to do,” exclaimed Gros in the analyst role alongside Stevens. “I’m happy that he even thought of me to do something like that, because he knows I’m interested in it.”
The 6-3 Gopher middle blocker was on the mic, her first such assignment since leaving Michigan for Minnesota. “Just being able to get that live experience,” continued Gros.
“You can get as much practice as you want, but at the end of the day, I think the best way to learn is by just [being] thrown in and learning from the games.
“It was a great experience,” said Gros. “I had a day to look over the notes and a day to talk to E.J. We just went out there and called the game.”
She later assessed her performance: “I wanted to not only state the obvious but the why behind the obvious. What made her hit that shot? How did she hit that shot? Instead of yes, we saw that happen, but why did it happen and how did she make that happen?”
Gros said during her journalism studies at Michigan State she also took broadcasting classes. “I think what’s really prepared me at Michigan State, I had an internship with the Big Ten Student U.”
The Big Ten Network’s Student U program offers hands-on experience for Big Ten students interested in a career in sports broadcasting to learn all facets of sports production. These students work over 1,700 live sporting events each year that are either streamed on B1G+ or televised on BTN.
“I was able to cover a wrestling match, a softball game and a baseball game, just doing sideline [reporting] for them,” said Gros. “That internship really has prepared me for calling a match like I did.”
Black female sports commentators arent bountiful today, but Gros proudly uses as a model Maria Taylor, now with NBC Sports, the first female full-time host of the network’s football broadcasts.
“I’ve been looking at Maria Taylor over those couple of years as her career has grown,” said Gros. “She’s somebody who I look highly up to being an African American broadcaster and just bringing that energy. Bringing what you are to the mic is something that’s really important and being authentic to what you are.”
Whenever her collegiate volleyball playing days might be over, Gros said she is looking forward to a broadcasting career. “I would love to start off in that field,” she sait.
“But I would like to broaden my horizons… I want to be a well-rounded broadcaster. I just don’t want to be a volleyball-specific analyst. I want to just have a little bit of knowledge everywhere across the board.
“I look forward to this journey that’s coming forward for me and my broadcasting career. I’m excited to get started with that.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.