Many times when something bad happens—like a global pandemic—good things can come out of it.
Such was the case for Connor Voelker. He turned his first year of college basketball into an award-winning season, without playing one game.
Voelker, a freshman basketball player at St. Norbert College in De Pere, had his first season of hoops taken away because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Voelker and the Green Knights continued to practice and work out, but he had more free time on his hands than expected.
So what did Voelker do? He went to work.
He is double-majoring in mass media communications and business marketing at St. Norbert. Voelker wants to be a sports broadcaster one day, so he took advantage of the extra time by going home to Kiel to do play-by-play for what turned out to be close to 50 girls and boys basketball games at his high school alma mater.
“Just turning lemons into lemonade,” Voelker said. “That’s how I looked at it. It was disappointing not having a basketball season at St. Norbert, but you know what? It worked out alright.”
Voelker called the games on internet radio and YouTube video, coordinating everything. Besides doing the play-by-play, Voelker handled the graphics and advertising as well.
“I even actually wrote the ads for two or three advertisers and then integrated them into the broadcast,” Voelker added.
He plans to call Kiel High School baseball games in late April as well.
Voelker’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. A mentor and friend nominated him for the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Student Awards for Excellence, and in early March, Voelker took home top honors.
“There were a number of standards I had to meet. They reviewed a video clip judging the quality of the broadcast. I was lucky enough to win first place,” Voelker added.
Voelker was not able to attend the awards ceremony, but he did receive a plaque and certificate for his efforts.
Another exciting experience for Voelker was the chance to talk recently with CBS Sports play-by-play announcer Kevin Harlan. St. Norbert assistant basketball coach Joel Cline put Voelker in touch with Harlan.
“He was on his way to call a March Madness NCAA tournament game,” Voelker said. “I have a sheet of notes from that call. He talked to me about voice quality and finding my tone and mastering that.” Harlan also told Voelker to “listen and watch others in the business and learn from them.”
“Understand pace and how they’re calling a game and compare it to what I’m doing. Not copy them, but to develop a style through what’s proven to have worked,” Voelker added.
Voelker recently had hip surgery, so he is on the mend and doing therapy. He plans to be ready for the St. Norbert College Green Knights basketball season in the fall. Despite the wild ride his freshman year has turned out to be, Voelker said coming to St. Norbert College was the right move.
“It’s been great at St. Norbert. I have had the privilege to talk with a number of basketball recruits, and I tell them I was unsure of coming to St. Norbert at first. But I tell them there is no question I made the right decision, and that you have to pick a place where schooling is priority,” Voelker said.
“I haven’t had basketball my freshman year because of the pandemic, and yet I’m still really, really happy here. That says it all,” Voelker added.