Blog: Behind the lens of a UK student sports journalist in Calgary

After many sleepless nights and frequent toilet trips, the date for my flight to Calgary YYC finally came around. 

“Once I have my routine, I’ll be fine,” I said to myself on repeat. “My classes will be fine.” 

On my sixth day in Canada, we had an induction day at Mount Royal University with the other exchange students. 

I quickly found one of my roommates, or Mittbewohnerin I should say, in the group – Sarah, from Austria. 

We had a tour of the campus, a welcome prayer and a Blackfoot Treaty 7 land acknowledgment ceremony. 

In the spirit of reconciliation, we acknowledge that we live, work and play on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Iyarhe Nakoda Nations, the Otipemisiwak Métis Nation within Alberta District 6, and all people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta. 

The following day, I had my first class – Digital Storytelling – and I was very overwhelmed and worried. 

They, naturally, were using technical terms I wasn’t used to and working on assignments from the previous semester. 

My next set of classes (a nine-hour slog every Monday) didn’t do much in the way of restoring my confidence. 

I decided to drop that Thursday class and focused on the other three: Digital Reporting and Publishing, Visual Journalism and Advanced Audio. 

The way the classes were structured is very different to home. 

My R+P class has been my favourite – on Mondays we do Newspack and WordPress exercises and discuss relevant issues and events in Canadian and global news, then in our Wednesday session we take turns presenting on an assigned topic and share what projects and stories we’ve been working on in the week. 

In this class, our work is published on the Calgary Journal, for which I am a Photo Editor

I get to request media accreditation to attend any event I think would be interesting to shoot, as well as formatting galleries that other contributors and students have shot. 

My press pass to An Evening with Andre Wickenheiser at the Nickel Theatre.

One of my biggest concerns class-wise was how I would find contacts here. 

My classes at MRU are a part of the Journalism programme, whereas at home our classes are all centred around covering sport. 

As someone that has played football (I unfortunately now say soccer in some conversations) for so long, I already had an immediate pool of contacts in the UK that extended far, but in Canada I had to start afresh. 

To my surprise, everyone I contacted was more than happy for me to attend with my camera. 

I have done sports photography and pitch-side videography for the best part of three years, and my one aim of the semester was to shoot a sports event. 

Every year, the university plays local rivals University of Calgary in a big back-to-back ice hockey game, known as the Crowchild Classic. 

The men’s teams play first, then the women’s at the Scotiabank Saddledome, which is where the Calgary Flames and Calgary Wranglers play. 

Photos from the 2024 Crowchild Classic.

The stadium was full. 

Over 10,000 spectators to be exact. 

The stadium was split with bold red versus navy blue; it was a spectacle, and it was my job to document it. 

I was hooked. 

FIS Freeski Halfpipe World Cup 2024

A month later, whilst browsing search results for ‘what’s happening in Calgary’, I found announcements for the FIS Freeski Halfpipe World Cup. 

The qualifications and finals for both the male and female skiers were being held at the WinSport Canada Olympic Park (which I had skied at the beginning of the year). 

I went with Sarah, and three buses later, we reached the bottom of the slope. 

When I skied there with my Dad, we could see them constructing the new slopes for the competition season. 

As a family, we always watched Ski Sunday so to be at one of the events in-person and to shoot it was a dream. 

The crowd was small as it was a weekday, but the press was extensive, as well as there being some Olympic team coaches and scouts dotted amongst the collective. 

We were situated at the bottom of the halfpipe, looking directly upwards to the start gate – a perfectly unobstructed view. 

I couldn’t wait to get home and review the contents of my SD that evening, and I was consumed with pride over a few particular photos. 

I sat my laptop on the coffee table in my apartment and sat back into the sofa, wide-eyed. 

I really took that. 

I owe a lot to that camera. 

It’s paved the way for my journey in sports journalism and has created many an opportunity for me. 

There is no greater feeling for me than when players and staff get excited about a photo I’ve taken, especially ones born from such significant moments. 

For the Journal I’ve attended other events too this semester, but the Crowchild Classic and Halfpipe World Cup stand out, of course. 

When I return home, I will be straight back to it in running media for Itchen College Women’s Football Academy and Southampton Women’s FC. 

I’ll be organising next season’s set of media days and perching myself pitch-side for Itchen on my little purple stool, camera in hand, knowing that my lens has granted me far more than I could have ever hoped for. 

About El Reid

Media Manager: @itchenwf Content Creator: @sotonwomensfc

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