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Wednesday, April 5, 2006

BELLING, FORMER CLASSMATES FLOURISHING AT ESPN
Soccer alumnus climbing the ladder with ESPN Orginal Entertainment

By Lindsay Shafer
Sports Information Office
Bob Molta
Sports Information Director

When Teresa Belling was a freshman at Eastern Connecticut State University in the fall of 1998, she was sure about two things: first, she wanted to play soccer, and second, she wanted to pursue a career somewhere in the entertainment industry.

 Over her next four years, Belling took the opportunity to explore both with full force.

Today, following a four-year collegiate soccer career, three internships in the media industry, and a B.S. Degree in Communication, the Coventry, Conn. native holds the position of  producer in the Original Entertainment division of ESPN, Inc., the 26-year-old Disney-owned sport and entertainment giant located in Bristol, Conn. After two-and-a-half years as an associate producer/production assistant, Belling merited her most recent promotion this past January.

Belling, in fact, is among six former Eastern student-athletes currently employed by ESPN and working on the Bristol campus (see related story below). Five of the former athletes were members of the Eastern soccer program between 1996 and 2001 and teammates on the 1999 team. Four of them also played together on both 1998 and 2000 teams.

 

The Original Entertainment branch of ESPN – which has been in existence for only five years -- focuses on the production of such shows as Jim Rome Is Burning, and Dream Job, and movies such as Three, Four Minutes and Codebreakers, along with various dramatic series and sports documentaries.

Belling has impressively climbed the ladder of success at ESPN. She was hired as a production assistant following the completion of her internship in 2002 and was promoted to associate producer in 2004. Her job now consists of managing the Bristol-based work flow for all EOS shows and a production staff of four production assistants. Each show requires different tasks. While some call for her staff to find footage of a specific game or athlete, others may require more research.

A normal day for Belling begins at eight in the morning and ends around six in the evening. However, each day is different, depending on the projects that her team is working on. Her days begin with a morning staff meeting where the group goes over everyone’s individual responsibilities for the day. She and her staff will then fill their day with clipping footage, always working on more than one show at a time. At the present time, Belling and her production assistants are working on ten shows. Depending on where in the production process a show is, tasks and responsibilities will vary. For example, a show in pre-production requires researching footage, photographs, radio calls and any other preliminary needs that a producer might request.  Most often, the producer of the show will send Belling a list of the footage that he or she needs, and from there, responsibilities will be delegated as necessary.

With Belling, ESPN has received a number of  Sports Emmy Award nominations -- including one for a documentary entitled Sports Illustrated: 50 years of Great Stories – during the annual presentations by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Belling learned early on to make the most of her opportunities. In the summer of 1999, she came across her first internship opportunity through Communication Professor Steve Curtis, an Eastern graduate. Still not certain if she wanted to pursue radio or television, Belling saw her internship with WILI 1400AM and I-98 FM radio a chance to find out if radio was for her. Belling had the chance to learn how to determine the layout of the radio program, drafted and aired the community calendar events on the AM station and voiced commercials for the FM station. Through her experiences during the internship, she was quick to realize that she’d rather study television.

Belling’s next internship opportunity came in the spring of her senior year (2002). Again, with the help of a communications professor who was also a reporter for NBC News Channel 30, Belling was able to explore the world of local television. At the station, Belling was responsible for conducting interviews out in the field, breaking news stories, and writing voice-overs to go with the stories she covered for the anchors to report.

The idea of television sparked Belling’s interest. However, she wanted to try and pursue her love of entertainment.

While interning with Channel 30 in the spring of her senior year, Belling explored the opportunity which would eventually land her a fulltime position at ESPN. That  semester, she met with Eastern’s former athletic academic advisor, Shirelle Jackson, to discuss her progress prior to graduation. At the time, Shirelle Jackson’s husband, Jason, was  a radio host for ESPN radio. The Jacksons invited Belling to dinner at their home to discuss her future plans. Through conversation, Jason Jackson was able to put Belling in touch with ESPN. After interviewing for an intern position, Belling landed the job and began in February. Her internship began with ESPN Classic’s SportsCentury where she conducted interviews, did research, and arranged photo shoots.

Belling says of her internship experiences, “Aside from being surrounded by great people to help me out, the best thing for anyone to do is be pro-active and use the resources available to you, to your advantage. These three internships weren’t the only three I applied for, I applied for several. The more you talk to people, get your resume out and get involved, the better your chance is at landing something… You just have to keep plugging away and working hard.”

Although Eastern wasn’t Belling’s only option when it came to choosing a college nearly ten years ago, there were multiple aspects of the University that made her decision quite easy. She also looked at CW Post on Long Island, American International College in Springfield, Mass., and Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. Her family – mother Diane, father David and sister Dawn (also an Eastern graduate) -- resides in Coventry, so the location of Eastern was a large part of her choice along with her familiarity with the Eastern coaching staff.

Current Eastern head soccer coach Chris D’Ambrosio has known Belling since she was Dawn Belling’s ten-year-old sister. Teresa’s first exposure to athletics was in the area of gymnastics, where she underwent many years of formal training as a child. After absorbing a number of injuries as a gymnast – including a dangerous one to her head in a fall -- Belling switched to soccer. She earned Class “S” All-State honors as a four-year letterwinner under D’Ambrosio at Coventry High School. In the fall of 1998 – following Belling’s senior year -- D’Ambrosio joined the Eastern soccer coaching staff as an assistant under head coach Matt Paton, also a Coventry native. Two years later – midway though Belling’s collegiate career -- D’Ambrosio was promoted to head coach when Paton left to pursue an assistant coaching position at Division I University of Colorado (he is currently serving as head women’s soccer coach at Division III Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY);

 As only a sophomore at Eastern, Belling earned a spot on the Little East Conference all-conference team as a second-team midfielder. In her career, she appeared in 70 of a possible 73 games, leaving the program ranked fourth all-time with 69 starts. As a senior captain in 2001, Belling started 16 games on a team which qualified for its first post-season tournament since1994.The Warriors were seeded first in the tournament and concluded the year with a record of 13-5-1. (Belling missed the first two matches of that season – two of only three matches in which she would not compete in her career – due to her involvement in the Millie Lewis American Modeling & Talent Convention Labor Day weekend in Charleston, SC).

 

For D’Ambrosio, Belling’s development from Dawn Belling’s little sister to a professional within the entertainment industry is a source of pride – but not a surprise.

“She found her niche,” observed D’Ambrosio. “She knew what she wanted to do. She had a vision and a goal, and she went out and took it.”

“You knew that she was going to be successful, in whatever she did – whether it was on the soccer field, in the classroom, or in her career,” says D’Ambrosio. "What jumped out at you was her consistency in everything that she did – academically, socially and athletically. She’s been that way ever since I’ve known her. You never had to worry about her. She was a great leader by example. You could count on her,” added D’Ambrosio. “I guess that was the big thing.”

In six years as head coach, D’Ambrosio has elevated the program to new heights, the program qualifying for two NCAA and two ECAC tournaments and winning two conference post-season tournaments in that span. He has done it by attracting individuals who are dedicated to both their academic and athletic careers. D’Ambrosio points to Belling – above and beyond all others --as the individual who got the ball rolling.

“When I look at (the freshman class in the fall of 1998), I think of Teresa. She was the leader. She was just steady. When she came in as a freshman, she carried that first class through, and it kept going from there,” says D’Ambrosio.

“Teresa”, notes D’Ambrosio,” started what I envisioned what it was that we wanted here at Eastern – especially for the women’s soccer program: the balance between solid academics, good citizenship, and real good athletics. She started that when I came in here by being in the weight room, doing the running and  off-season conditioning, doing well academically, doing internships, working on campus. She set the tone. She helped – I think she spearheaded it – build the program to another level, to where we are now.”

As a senior, Belling earned a number of academic-related awards. She received an ECSU/E-Club Outstanding Scholar-Athlete Award for the second straight year (minimum overall 3.50 GPA), as well as an ECSU Academic Excellence Award and a Student Government Association Leadership Award. She was also a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.

While it was Belling herself who made the most of the opportunities presented, she gives a lot of credit to Eastern for helping to guide her in the right direction. She was given the opportunity to become a leader when she played soccer. She learned about teamwork, dedication, discipline and most importantly, time management. For someone as busy as Belling was, between playing a varsity sport, internships, and classes, she had to manage her time well.

“Now that I’m gone (from Eastern), I can look back and say that I don’t regret anything. I had an awesome experience. I’m glad I played soccer and I’m glad I was involved with the Sports Information Department (as a student-assistant).  It’s all what you make of it. I feel I made the most of my experiences and opportunities here… and it paid off… When you live in the moment knowing that you don’t want to have regrets, and do everything you can as much as you can, you know you’re not going to look back and regret it.”

As for her future, that is up in the air. Belling is always open to trying something new. She knows that the opportunities in a corporation like ESPN are endless and she will only continue to go higher. The experiences she’s been able to have so far - meeting professional athletes like Andy Roddick and Barry Sanders – don’t leave Belling ooing and awing like most sports fanatics would and in her business that could be her most appealing quality.

"Grades are one thing but sometimes just getting that experience is what’s most important," she says.

Below are capsules of the other five former Eastern student-athletes who are currently employed  at ESPN, Inc. in Bristol, Conn.  Five of the six participated in the Eastern soccer program, and were teammates on the 1999 team. The other, Bristol native Meghan Phelps, was a four-year member of the basketball program who was a starting guard on the 2003 team which reached the NCAA Division III national championship game.

PAM NEFF (1997-00)

Thompson, CT

Current title: Associate Producer in Creative Services in the area of marketing… Duties: Many and varied. Most recently, she has been promoting ESPNU (University), “giving the network a distinctive look and feel for the viewers”; working with demographics and age ranges in order to find and understand the viewers that ESPNU is trying to reach; working with the major airlines to get programming on their flights; involved in topical promotions, which is taking an event as it happens and promoting the next day’s coverage (for example, creating a promo with footage from Game 1 of the ALCS to promote Game 2); traveling to coordinate shoots for outside clients such as Microsoft. These shoots entail meeting with student-athletes who have been identified by Microsoft for their excellence on the playing field, in the classroom, and also in their communities, and creating 30 second spots… Originally hired in January of 2003 as a temporary Production Assistant for Marketing/Broadcast Promotions while also serving as head women’s soccer coach at Fitchburg State College. Following graduation, worked as a news reporter for radio station KFOR in Nebraska…At Eastern: Graduated in December of 2001 with a major in Communication and minor in Sport and Leisure Management… four-year soccer letterwinner between 1997 and 2000 as a senior captain, selected to all-New England, all-region and all-Little East Conference teams and was named conference Player-of-the-Year…

JULIA NEILSON (1998-02)

Salisbury, CT

Current title: Supervisor in the Media Assets Dept. …Duties: Schedules 28 workers… supervises four workers who run a library of 1.5 million tapes, handle the shipping and receiving of closed-captioned tapes, process the VHS legal records of ESPN’s eight networks and are in charge of programming for ESPN’s domestic networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and ESPN Classic) and international networks (Pac-Rim, Transatlantic, Latin and Deportes…spent two weeks this past January working at tennis’ Australian Open… Originally hired in July of 2003 as a third-shift Videotape Librarian while continuing to coach soccer, basketball and softball for a year during the day at Loomis-Chaffee School…  At Eastern: Graduated in May of 2002 with a major in Physical Education and a minor in Health…four-year soccer and softball letterwinner between 1998 and 2001… Little East Conference Rookie-of-the-Year in both sports… two-time all-New England and three-time all-conference pick in both soccer and softball… scholar-athlete recipient as a senior…

MEGHAN PHELPS (1999-03)

Bristol, CT

Current title: Network Program Creator as a senior member of the Media Assets Dept. … Duties: Involved in all of ESPN’s international networks, as well as in ESPN Deportes and ESPN Classic… responsible for  assuring that all programming is prepared and delivered for its scheduled airing… assigns tape numbers for all scheduled programs, giving the show an “existence” so that it can air, be processed, tracked and stored… due to the older content of ESPN Classic, sends out shows to be re-formatted and also plays a role in overseeing that all ESPN Classic programming is aired with closed captioning… serves on a committee that is developing a new multi-million dollar company-wide computer system… also contributes entertaining and informative articles for the department’s quarterly newsletter… Originally hired in November of 2004 as a Videotape Librarian in the Videotape Library, located in the Media Assets Department… At Eastern: Graduated in December of 2003 with a degree in Communication, a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in English… four-year member of the women’s basketball program which compiled an overall record of 93-21 during her career… a starting guard as a senior captain in 2002/03, helping the Warriors reach the title game of the NCAA Division III tournament…

CANDACE SPINELLI (1999-00)

Thompson, CT

Current title: Graphic Designer… Duties: Providing graphics, primarily for ESPNEWS and SportsCenter… Originally hired as a summer intern in 2003 and was hired as a “temp” after graduating from Central Connecticut State University in January of 2005 with a degree in Graphic/Information Design… while in college, was involved in four different internships. At Eastern: Played soccer in the fall of 1999 and 2000… named a second-team all-Little East Conference selection as a sophomore… At Central: Named to the all-conference team both years (2001 and 2002) after transferring from Eastern and helped the Blue Devils to a conference championship and NCAA Division I tournament berth as a senior…

HALEY STEARNS (1996-99)

Mansfield, CT

Current title: Production Assistant 2… Duties: Helps produce games on site and produce features and “teases”  which run during games… projects and events have included Wimbledon and the French Open, NFL and NBA draft, NCAA women’s basketball tournament and men’s college basketball… has spent seven weeks each of the past two summers working at Wimbledon and the French Open…  Originally hired in February of 2003 as a temporary production assistant for the NFL Draft… until being hired by ESPN, had worked in retail, beginning in college… At Eastern: Graduated in May of 2001 with a major in Communication, concentrating in Sports Broadcasting… soccer program’s first four-time all-Little East Conference selection (1996-1999)… chosen to the New England Senior Classic all-star game in1999…

 

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