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Coach’em up: ESPN’s new CFB studio trio learns how to work as a team

NEW YORK – “How are you three going to make each other better?”

Though disguised as a direct question, senior coordinating producer of Talent Planning & Development Gerry Matalon was setting a theme for next six months.

It was a hot, summer day in August and in a hotel conference room, ESPN anchor Adnan Virk, and college football analysts Joey Galloway and Danny Kanell are meeting for the first time in a working capacity. The three have appeared in pairs on ESPN platforms in the past, but now the trio will execute ESPN’s college football studio coverage on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

With the anchor and two college football analysts on this August morning are Matalon and Barry Nash from The Coaching Company. For the next 75 minutes, an open dialogue continues amongst the group, discussing the ins and outs of working on-air together.

It is not just what you say, but how you look saying it and how you sound saying it. It is the whole package which dictates how both the viewer and your two partners are going to perceive and interpret your message.
– ESPN’s Gerry Matalon, advising the network’s new college football studio trio

“It is not just what you say, but how you look saying it and how you sound saying it. It is the whole package which dictates how both the viewer and your two partners are going to perceive and interpret your message,” Matalon tells the group, speaking to no individual person. “Remember, subtle gestures and vocal tone are just as important as the spoken word.”

Coaching sessions such as these are vital to the ESPN Talent and Development department and the quality of Talent performance. Having occurred in the past on an individual bases, recently the sessions have morphed into meetings with studio pairings or commentators that work together regularly. In addition to sharpening the skills of the commentators and providing insight into best practices, the sessions are also a forum to bounce ideas around.

As this session continues, all five gentlemen watch various segments from ESPN programming. Matalon periodically points out different actions for the trio to focus on, with an emphasis on paying attention to how commentators communicate with each other in a non-verbal manner. Kanell and Virk take notes, while Galloway asks thought-provoking questions. Eventually the session turns into a free-flowing conversation, as the trio begins to elaborate on what can work best.

Reflecting after the session, Matalon states: “Adnan, Danny, and Joey will be developing a chemistry over the next six months. Like any partnership, that chemistry will be best if there is trust, communication and a willingness amongst all three to become a partnership.”

And always, trust is the overriding part of any great television team.
– ESPN’s Gerry Matalon

The coaching session was the first part of a full day together. Over the next eight hours Virk, Galloway and Kanell would spend the day in New York City, talking football with various media outlets and getting to know each other better.

“It is always true, but especially for a new group: More time spent together off the air will reward them on the air,” says Matalon. “Time spent together provides insight into each other’s perspective and enhances communication, both which leads to the development of trust. And always, trust is the overriding part of any great television team.”

Tomorrow, that trust will be visible to the audience as Virk, Galloway and Kanell will be live from Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., as the road to the College Football Playoff gets underway.

In January, when a champion is crowned and the season concludes, they will know their road to Arizona started in a New York City hotel conference room. At that point, the question will have morphed into a goal, a goal they will strive to reach: We have made each other better.

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