Welcome to Center Stage, our series that gives the spotlight to the college kids who deserve it. These peeps are doing incredible things with their spare time, from starting a popular sports website to creating a revolutionary free music site to blogging about fashion. If you have a friend you think should be featured in this series (or you yourself would like to be a STAR), email us at theprospectblog(at)gmail(dot)com.
Name: Tim Israel
College: Wesleyan University
Class Year: Freshman (Class of 2016)
(Prospective) Major: Economics
Why He’s in Center Stage: Co-Founder of Stoop Sports, Author of Our Road to the Show: Minor League America Through the Eyes of First Time Fans, Resident of a Dorm Room That Has Over 4,500 Baseball Cards on Its Walls
Favorite Articles on Stoop: By the Numbers: A Season to Remember, The Era of “The Next One”, and Hard to Figure
Social Media Fun-ness: Follow Stoop Sports on Facebook and Twitter. Also feel free to email the staff at stoopsports(at)gmail(dot)com. They’re pretty cool.
What is Stoop Sports and what was your inspiration for starting it?
Stoop Sports is a sports website with over 54 student writers. The site was started by my brother, my two friends, and me. [We were inspired to start it] when we were all watching a Miami Heat versus Philadelphia 76ers game and the [announcers] kept talking about the Heat the entire game, and they didn’t say anything about the 76ers. We’re all from Philly, so we were mad about that. Then we got in this big argument about Sports Center and how ESPN only covers mainstream sports, and they don’t focus on anything else. No hockey, soccer, stuff like that. Being big sports fans, we wanted to have a place where other diehard sports fans could go. Eventually, this turned this idea into an actual website. We launched in August a couple weeks before school started, and we now publish about six or seven articles per day and get between 1,000-1,500 views each day.
What separates Stoop Sports from other sports blogs or websites?
We tell all of our writers to take an opinion on whatever they’re writing about and tell them to really analyze it. We don’t care if it sparks controversy, but we want our writers to make a point instead of just stating news. We do have news pieces just because we have to, but for the most part, we want our writers to take a stand on something and back it up well.
You guys have accumulated a lot of writers in a very short period of time. How do you manage all of them?
We have a Facebook group for Stoop Sports writers, and we also have a Facebook group for each sport. In addition, we have a ‘VP’ of each sport and they started group texts with all their writers. The four administrators [Jesse Dougherty, Niko Regalbuto, my brother Kevin Israel, and myself] communicate with the VPs and tell them what direction to go in but let them do what they want at the same time.
Also, since [Jesse and I] are the editors, we post a message to the group every Sunday about statistics from the past week and things to look out for in articles for the coming week.
What’s your role on Stoop?
I do a lot of different stuff. I write this piece called ‘The Daily Stoop’ every night that goes up the next morning with the highlights of the day before’s events. I schedule every article and make sure everything’s edited. I talk to all the writers and VPs. I organize everything behind the scenes, but don’t do as much upfront writing. I probably work on Stoop at least two hours a day, sometimes up to four.
What’s your favorite part of running Stoop Sports?
I love communicating with all the writers, especially because I don’t know most of them personally. I have these online relationships with all these other people. It’s really funny, I’ll start talking to all the writers, and they’re just really excited about Stoop…We have writers from everywhere, though. It’s just cool to think about how we have all these people together because of sports. I mean, I don’t know that many people who love sports as much as I do, and through the site, I’ve just been able to connect with these kids who love sports all the time.
How did Stoop Sports gain traction and views so quickly?
We do a pretty good job of spamming our Facebook profiles, and because we have so many writers from different places with a variety of friend groups, they’re always sharing our website with different audiences. We’ve gotten followers [and views] from actively tweeting about a particular game and getting retweeted, stuff like that.
We also started doing a good job of posting on Reddit and trying to get people to comment on our articles on there. We try to start discussions with people on Reddit. There’s definitely a sports contingent on there. People are very opinionated, and some people are going to love you and some are going to bash you. But at the end of the day, they’re seeing our site, and that’s what we care about.
Do you think the site has enabled you to learn practical skills, like how to manage a business?
Yeah, I’m interested in going into business, actually. My brother, who’s a business major, helps with all the business matters, and through him, I feel like I’m learning. Also, through editing, I’ve become a better writer. I took at lot of math and science courses during my first semester at Wesleyan, and I didn’t have to write an actual paper. When I finally wrote my first paper [at the beginning of] this semester, I just felt so good writing it even though I hadn’t done a formal essay in a year. My organization was better, my thoughts were much clearer.
What’s the hardest part of juggling school, extracurricular activities, hanging out and socializing, and working on your site?
It’s all about communicating with the other three administrators. I’m constantly talking to all of them. On the days we don’t communicate, the site doesn’t function. You can almost tell when we’re all really stressed because the site isn’t as productive.
It can also be really hard to juggle day-to-day activities. For example, the ‘Daily Stoop’ is really stressful because it does take up an hour of our time and if we’re trying to go to bed or do other things, we have to wait until all the sports from that night are done, so we can’t really do anything until 12:30am for that. It’s fun except when I’m overwhelmed with homework. But that doesn’t happen that much, because I’m much more organized this semester.
Side track: what’s up with the book you wrote senior year of high school? What inspired you?
[Laughs] My editor Jesse and I went to high school together, and we had to do a senior project for school. We wanted to do something really fun and different. So we started brainstorming. Originally we wanted to drive around the country and go to landmarks and write journals about our time studying these landmarks. However, the school didn’t approve it. So we were thinking, how can we integrate sports with this project?
We eventually came up with traveling to nine minor league baseball parks, setting up interviews, and writing about minor league baseball, and that’s what we did. We wrote a book of about 75-80 pages. My friend did a documentary on the trip. It was awesome. We would set up interviews with GMs and all sorts of people within the organization, and we would go six hours before game time. They’d give us tours, we’d talk with these people, we’d meet players. We would then go to the game. Then we’d go home, outline a chapter, and then wake up and start writing it. We’d hopefully finish the chapter before we had to leave for the next game, and we just did that for two weeks. It was just unbelievable. It was the best two weeks of my life.
What did you learn from writing and publishing your book?
You could say that it has actually helped me learn to manage Stoop Sports a little bit. It was almost like a test run. We had to manage our time so well during that trip and that’s what I need to do with the website as well. It was also just a good writing experience, and I had to do more of the dirty work.
It was also a great experience to talk to people in a business manner. I mean, I couldn’t make a fool of myself! I had to know what I was talking about, and in return, some of the teams treated us like we were totally official. We went to one stadium where we got to go up to the announcer booth and ask questions. We would also go on the field before games and throw out first pitches. Because of our book title, I think [the stadiums] thought we were legitimate writers! It made us act like real authors.
What would you say to high school students looking to start a sports blog or website, or trying to break into the sports industry in general?
First of all, do it! Don’t hesitate, because even if you do it for a couple months, it’s a lot of fun, especially if you love sports. Even if you’re not getting any views, that feeling that it’s out there for people to see is awesome. Be confident in what you’re writing about. And make sure that you’re writing things that are true. Don’t just make ridiculous claims, because no one’s going to respect your website. You need to have some legitimacy…unless of course, you want to be the person known for just saying ridiculous stuff. [laughs]
Where do you see Stoop Sports in five years?
It’s funny, because the admins ask each other all the time, “Where is this going?!” Hopefully we’ll be getting thousands and thousands of views. But I hope we’re out there; I hope we’re still going. Maybe we’ll even be making money!