Behind The ScenesNCAAB

ESPN’s “Handclap Hoopla Challenge” now seeking talented teams to match commentators’ fun

Holly "Sapphire" Rowe (Beth Chappell/ESPN)
Holly “Sapphire” Rowe (Beth Chappell/ESPN)

Holly Rowe on her alter ego, “Sapphire”

“Sapphire is a cancer-distracting superhero. When she is singing and dancing, healing is happening. Plus she has a secret dancing obsession. Sapphire is sassing up women’s basketball one dance move at a time.”

Social media “challenges” have been all the rage in recent years.

From the Ice Bucket Challenge to the recent Mannequin Challenge, these viral videos capture users’ imaginations, often in an effort to bring attention to a cause, or simply to have fun.

ESPN’s women’s college basketball production team decided to create a challenge of their own. On Sunday, the ESPN HandClap Hoopla Challenge debuted during halftime of the UCLA-South Carolina game on ESPN2. Using Fitz and the TantrumsHandClap,” some of ESPN’s women’s college basketball commentators got together earlier this year to create a lip-sync style music video (see above) meant to stir social buzz surrounding the sport.

Beth Chappell, who serves as a producer for ESPN’s coverage of women’s college basketball, worked on the project.

“I was approached by Pat Lowry and Kate Jackson, coordinating producers of women’s college basketball, about producing a version of the popular ‘Carpool Karaoke’ that James Corden does on ‘The Late Late Show’,” Chappell said. “We all thought it would be a great initiative to showcase our college basketball announcers in a fun and different light. In the social media climate we are currently living in, we also had the idea of challenging college teams to create and post their own version using the same song as a fun and exciting way to get involved and help bridge the sport into more of a community with viewers and fans across the country.”

The video features Beth Mowins, Holly Rowe, Kara Lawson, Deb Antonelli, Rebecca Lobo, Gail Goestenkors, Nell Fortner and Andy Landers. All of them showed a genuine interest and excitement in this project, and it was made evident during the shoot.

“Everyone genuinely enjoys each other and very rarely get to work all in one place,” Chappell said. “So it was terrific seeing how much fun each person had throughout the day.”

Rowe donned a short blue wig during filming, and took on an alter ego named “Sapphire,” (see sidebar) who led the team throughout the day.

“Watching Holly lead the group in the ‘Breakfast Club’ March with absolute joy on her face is not something I will soon forget,” Chappell said. “Holly was our assigned choreographer, which is a part she was born to play. Her happiness was infectious for everyone. The atmosphere was tremendous and everyone embraced the idea and song whole-heartedly.”

The end goal for this project is simple — to keep fans engaged and entertained.

“I hope the fun that we had making it translates to everyone who sees it, and that you can tell how much love everyone has for each other and the sport we work on,” Chappell said. “The announcers really had so much fun making this, and I hope others choose to be become a part of it, and that it reaches people beyond women’s college basketball.”

For more information on how to participate, click here.

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