NNPS-TV's sports interview show, which features athletes, coaches, and organizers from every sport, every level, has been going strong for three decades.
Filmed initially in a radio studio, "Sports Highlights" has been a permanent fixture on NNPS-TV (Cox Channel 47 or Verizon Fios Channel 17) since 1992.
The Telecommunications Supervisor at the time, Paul Cummings, created the show. Current Telecom Supervisor Ray Price has been part of the production team since 1993, and has served as Producer/Director since Cummings' retirement in 2004. Local media professional Greg Bicouvaris has served as the host the entire time.
"Sports Highlights" is produced 11 times a year, and over 300 episodes have been made. It is shot both in the studio and on location.
The February 2022 show, which is episode #321, features former American University basketball coach Paul Fuqua discussing the legacy of legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson. A montage of previous shows over the years is also included.
The show was originally called "Newport News Sports Highlights," but "Newport News" was dropped as the production expanded its guest list well beyond Newport News.
Close to 800 guests have appeared on the show, including such notable athletes and coaches as: Mike London, Jerry Stackhouse, Terry Holland, Bobby Wilder, Frank Beamer, George Welsh, Aaron Brooks, Wendy Larry, Francena McCorory, Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whitaker, and D.J. Dozier.
The 300th episode of "Sports Highlights" (March 2020) is a compilation of past interviews including: Tyrod Taylor, Bruce Smith, Allen Iverson, Serena Williams, Mike Tomlin, Ronald Curry, Mike Smith, and Dennis Kozlowski.
The first episode aired in February of 1992 and featured Menchville High School Tennis Coach Marvin Hedgepeth and the late Jackie Diggs, teacher and principal.
Though the show grew to include international stars, local coaches and talent have always been a focus. Disseminating information about fitness opportunities for the community is also a priority.
During the COVID-19 epidemic, the team did not stop producing shows, but instead interviewed many personalities outdoors and socially distanced, highlighting in particular activities that people could do on their own or at a distance.
The variety of sports covered on "Sports Highlights" is immense, ranging from the most popular sports to lacrosse, fencing, sailing, gymnastics, and skateboarding. Some of the more unusual fitness activities discussed on the show include underwater hockey, pickleball, thru-hiking, disc-golfing, bull-riding, and kickball. Bicouvaris has even interviewed a cornhole champion.
Local politicians, sports writers, and media managers have also appeared on the show. The "Sports Highlights" team has interviewed a number of NNPS figures, from coaches and athletic directors to football, basketball, and field hockey players. Additionally, the Telecom TV crew - students who work on NNPS-TV high school sports broadcasts - are interviewed occasionally about TV sports production.
"We always took pride in the variety of guests and fresh faces and voices each month," said Bicouvaris.
There are usually two guests per show, and Price and Bicouvaris are always on the lookout for people to interview. According to Price, they interview people they know, people they read about or hear about, and people they meet in sports shops or at sporting events. Or they try to think of a sport or activity that they haven't covered yet and find someone involved in it.
"Most people like to promote their sport," he said.
"Also, because we are out covering games, athletes know us," he added. Chatting with them can lead to more contacts and other prospective guests for the show.
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Bicouvaris credits the show's longevity to good communication between Price and himself, thinking ahead, and the monthly time frame. They record the shows in advance and sometimes do two at a time, which helps during holidays, bad weather, or other situations that arise.
Even with good communication and thinking ahead, the production team has had to meet challenges, like when the city channel (NNTV) shared the Telecom building for a number of years and the "Sports Highlights" team had to book studio time. Very occasionally, bad weather would cause problems, or a guest would cancel last-minute, but the team persevered.
In hindsight, other difficulties they endured have been cured by advances in technology, like having to haul the heavy, bulky TV recording equipment of days past.
"The size and weight of the ENG [electronic news gathering] equipment I had to carry on locations was one of the biggest challenges," said Price. TV cameras were much bigger than those used today, and they often brought two cameras on location.
Additionally, using linear editing machines "made making changes a nightmare," said Price, who directs, shoots, and edits the show.
Technology has thankfully improved dramatically since the 1990's, increasing the quality of the show and making editing drastically easier.
The show is also a training opportunity for Telecom students, who work on the "Sports Highlights" production, running cameras and audio.
"When I became supervisor in 2005, I started giving students more opportunities to work on the show," said Price.
The students work primarily in the studio, gaining experience in camera and audio work, taking direction, and studio operations, as well as becoming proficient on the equipment.
"Plus, the students get a kick out of meeting the guests and learning about their individual sport," he added.
The TV show has kept up with the times, evolving to include online platforms like YouTube. It's promoted on Twitter and cross-promoted on other shows and the NNPS-TV website as well.
The "Sports Highlights" team was acknowledged with a proclamation from the Newport News City Council in 2016, in appreciation of 25 years of producing quality programming for the citizens of Newport News. Mayor McKinley Price presented the resolution to Bicouvaris, Price, and Cummings.
"It’s funny, but I never thought about the longevity of the show," said Price. "I just enjoyed creating it and it was exciting to see what new guests and sports we could feature."
Price is, of course, proud of the show and its longevity.
"I think we are the longest running half hour sports talk show in the state of Virginia," he said.