An Interview With Austin Schindel, Winner of XFINITY’s Ultimate Sports Social Media Job Contest

After a nationwide search, our partners at XFINITY proudly announced yesterday that Austin Schindel of Washington, D.C. was named the winner of the Ultimate Sports Social Media Job contest.Xfinity_head_shot_medium

Austin will serve as the voice of XFINITY in sports social media communities and will be responsible for sharing exclusive content and insights from the @XFINITYSports Twitter handle, including:

  • Live reports from the biggest sporting events (beginning with MLB Opening Day)
  • Firsthand interviews with notable sports personalities
  • Behind-the-scenes access to your favorite sports shows
  • Daily insights on the world of sports and technology

SB Nation's Ryan Hudson recently had an opportunity to sit down with Austin to discuss winning the ultimate sports social media job with XFINITY, Your Home for the Most Live Sports, and here’s what he had to say:

Q: What was your immediate reaction when you learned you had won?

Elation. I simply couldn’t believe that everything I had worked for had come true. It took me a while to come to grips with the fact that after all that time, I was the winner of a pipe dream. Of course, my first thought was to call my mother and the rest of my family who helped me throughout the process. It dawned on me that all my hard work had paid off and I had made it in the sports industry. Really doesn’t get much better than that.

Q: Austin, you're now the social media voice of XFINITY Sports for the next year. What does an opportunity like this mean for an emerging writer like yourself?

It means that well...

But in all seriousness, it means that I get to do what I love, which is talk to people about sports. I’m looking forward to opportunities to write throughout the multiple XFINITY social media avenues and gain a new base of readers. That is the reason that I have done my best to know as much as I can about every single sport. This gives me a platform to interact with other fans, because that is what I am, and what I intend to bring to this job. I want people to educate me just as much as I educate them, because that is what sports is all about.

Q: Tell us a little about how you won this opportunity. What was it like going through the contest? What was running through your head the past couple of weeks?

I decided to enter the contest about six hours before the submission was due, and had my roommate walk into the apartment directly in the middle of what I considered a perfect take. I ended up doing about 10 more takes before I got something that looked good to me.

A few days later I saw myself in the top 100 finalists. It seemed very cool, but I knew the process had just begun. It was an arduous process; I cannot thank my two sisters, Elyse and Alexa, enough for all of the shameless marketing they did for me. I also owe it to my fraternity brothers who hit the pavement hard for me, sending my link around to their family and friends, equally shaming themselves.

I got the call I was a top five finalist and had to humble myself. At the very least, I knew that I had made it far and that itself was a great accomplishment. I was sent to cover the WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral, which was one of the best days of my life. I then had to wait. The waiting is always the worst part, but it makes the prize all the more sweet.



Q: Can you give us a little insight on your finalist experience onsite at The WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral with The Golf Channel? What were some of the highlights?

The Golf Channel was incredible. I am forever indebted to them, because once they found out what I would receive a job if I won, my tour representatives, Jeremy Freidman and Scott Rude, really kicked it into gear.

The three highlights of my day were meeting Tom Rinaldi of ESPN. He is hands down the nicest person I have ever met in media. He stopped to give me a fifteen-minute pep talk on how to win the contest and who to go meet, and then at the end of the day asked me how everything went.

I also had a short cameo on The Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive". Mark Rolfing was doing some analysis and then waived me into the picture. He gave me credit for a nugget of info I gave him and then asked me how I knew the stat. My voice completely cracked and I was horribly embarrassed.

Finally, watching the Tiger gallery on 18 is incredible. I have never seen someone dominate the crowd like Woods does in golf. He gets an incredible amount of encouragement from the crowd and warrants the utmost security at every hole he plays.

Q: Tell us about your background.How did you get started working in sports and social media? What made you such a solid candidate for this role?

As I see it, I’ve been working towards this job my entire life. I’ve been studying every single aspect of sports since I was six years old.

Professionally, I worked for the Washington Nationals as a summer intern in 2010 in their media relations department. From there, I became an intern at Bleacherreport.com, where I eventually graduated into a featured columnist. I learned the importance of social media while trying to endorse my articles and get the word out.

This fall I worked for the Washington Redskins as a social media intern, going around the stadium and on the field for pre game warm-ups, documenting the crowd, and feeding information into the secondary social media fueled website.

I knew I was a solid candidate for this job because frankly, sports are not a job or a career to me; it’s a lifestyle. If I am able to wake up and represent XFINITY as a social media reporter, I’ll never work a day in my life. This is a culmination of all the hard work, late nights, and the long hours I have put in to making my dream a reality.

Q: With this opportunity, you're going to have the chance to attend sporting events across the nation this year, courtesy of XFINITY. What are you most looking forward to about your upcoming experiences?

I’m looking forward to traveling and meeting fans around the country the most. Sports is one of the greatest equalizers we have and it’s an honor to have the opportunity to go see the great traditions and sporting events from a whole new perspective.

I want to share that with people and make a few new friends along the way. I have the rare opportunity to be a kid again, and be enamored by the bright lights and big stars.

Q: Let's look at the flip side. How are you planning on bringing fans inside information and experiences when you're not courtside or in a press box?

One of the big perks of this job is the XFINITY is hooking me up with all the major sports television packages. No matter what, I will always have inside access by watching the likes of the MLB Network or The Golf Channel.

I’m also a stat junkie. Even if I’m not at the game, I’m always looking for interesting and unique stats to take fans beyond the game and introduce them to new and interesting ways of looking at the same old stale information. I’m hoping the Twitter community really gets into the @XFINITYSports handle I will be running and ask as many questions as possible.

Q: We all can agree that social media has changed how fans experience sports. What excites you most about where social media and sports are headed?

What excites me the most is that the line between fans, athletes, and reporters is blurring. While there will always be a place for reporters and sports journalists, the give and take has come to the point where we are truly getting the best information possible as sports fans.

I love the idea that anyone with a great tweet or a funny sports picture can get themselves noticed. My goal is to become intertwined with my followers and constantly retweet and converse with everyone. People love to be heard and through @XFINITYSports and my personal twitter account @AustinSchindel, we are going to make this happen.

Q: You're an admitted football fan, and XFINITY has some great products, including NFL Network. What are your favorite story lines around this year's NFL Draft?

My favorite story line is the fact that somehow, the Indianapolis Colts are in the exact same situation they were in 1998. They are looking at two quarterbacks, trying to play it off like they are contemplating choosing RGIII, when it is obvious that Andrew Luck is the obvious choice. No disrespect to Griffin, but its been well documented that he is no Andrew Luck.

Also, I am interested to see where Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe is drafted. He is 6-foot-4 and 346 pounds, and had a combine-leading 44 bench-press reps and a 4.98 40-yard dash at the combine. I’ve always been wary of workout warriors who can get up for the job interview but not the game. Everyone thinks they can get the most out of a player, but it’s usually on the man and not the coach.

Q: As Your Home for the Most Live Sports, XFINITY is going to give you an opportunity to go behind- the-scenes at some of the biggest sporting events in 2012. If you could pick three, which would they be and why?

Great question. I would love first and foremost to go to the Super Bowl. I think it’s everybody’s dream of going to the biggest day in American sports. There is an aura and mystique to being at the Super Bowl that I think every sports fan should experience at least once.

Second, the Olympics in London would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’ve visited London before, and can’t think of a better reason to go back than to see the greatest athletes in the world try to achieve their dreams.

Finally, I want to go to the UEFA Champions League Final. It’s being held in Germany this year and is the most watched sporting event in the world. I’m sorry Americans, but soccer is a sport, and it is great. Just missing the cut: The Masters and Wimbledon With the slate I’m proposing, my international affairs major will actually come to good use.

Q: XFINITY is hooking you up with all the electronics for the ultimate sports pad to showcase how XFINITY delivers more sports in more ways. What’s the one gadget or piece of technology that you are looking forward to having the most?

Without a doubt, it is the 3DTV. With the Olympics coming up this summer, I can only imagine what it will look like when Usain Bolt takes off or seeing the new Dream Team throwing up alley-oops. This will take sports viewing to a whole new level. I’m very excited.

Q: Which sports media personalities can we expect to see you interview this year on the XFINITY Couch, the Best Seat in the House?

Considering that XFINITY has such a great relationship with NBC Sports, I would be honored to sit down with some of the great broadcasters at the station. For one, hockey announcer Mike Merick would be a special experience. Hopefully I can have a chance to sit down with Bob Costas or Al Michaels. I think that’s a good start.

Q: What advice would you give to a sports fan just starting out on social media?

I would say to follow liberally and tweet conservatively. At first, follow as many different types of sports writers, athletes, and personalities as you can. Over time, you’ll realize who you really want to be listening to on a daily basis and then refine your following base from there. At the very least, you’ll learn a lot about certain sports you weren’t as familiar with before.

I say tweet and post conservatively, because people build their perceptions of your social media profiles quickly. If you tweet things that have been said a bunch of times, or you seem either unfunny or unoriginal, nobody is going to want to follow you. Just think, "Would I think this is interesting."

Q: How do you think social media has changed the way reporters cover games?

It pushes reporters to dig deeper and find stories that you can’t see on TV. The general audience has eyes – they can see if Tim Tebow throws a knuckleball three feet in front of his receiver. Now, a reporter’s job is to go behind the scenes and give access to things that weren’t available even a few years ago. It has allowed for reporters to give information throughout the game(s), instead of withholding information for a column.

Also, it has allowed for fan interaction. I enjoy watching the twitter feeds of beat reporters while watching a game and then trying to interact with them. Now, anyone can feel like they are watching a game with a buddy.

Q: How has social media changed the way you watch sports?

For starters, I like keeping my Facebook and Twitter up, waiting to see the reactions from my friends and reporters. It becomes one big community, with people sharing videos instantaneously while we all post our "witty" comments.

It’s also been great for keeping me in the loop. If I see my twitter feed jumping with five or six tweets about an obscure game taking place on ESPN2, that just happens to be in 4OTs, I can switch over to it. You never have to worry about missing a moment again.

Q: Who are a few of your must-follow athletes and sports personalities on Twitter?

I like to think that I follow a pretty eclectic group of athletes and writers. Some of my favorites are Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) an SI soccer writer, Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) who works for The Golf Channel, and Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) of ESPN Los Angeles.com. They all bring something different to the table but what makes them great is that they are all entertaining and informative at the same time. You’d think that would be easy, but then again Skip Bayless has a twitter account. I love following Spencer Hall (@edsbs) and Rob Neyer (@RobNeyer) on Twitter as well.

Of course there are also great sports figures out there that have good feeds like Rich Eisen, Gregg Doyel, and Jim Rome. These are the ones you turn to when you need either something funny or outrageous. My favorite athlete twitter feed is Arian Foster (@ArianFoster). He is probably the smartest and most down to earth athlete out there and also has a great sense of humor. Of course, I can’t leave out Shaq.

Q: The Final Four is this weekend. Give us 140 characters with your analysis on the winning team and who will be Tournament Most Outstanding Player

Kentucky wins. 13.8 avg margin of victory. Best player in the country. Athletes to beat anyone. MK-G wins MOP b/c Davis will have hands full

Be sure to follow Austin via the @XFINITYSports Twitter handle as he goes behind-the-scenes at some of the biggest sporting events in 2012 and delivers insider content on a daily basis!

The Editorial Staff of SB Nation was not involved in the creation or production of this special advertiser feature.

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