With COVID-19 still posing a threat, College Heights Christian School athletics director Phillip Jordan decided to start live-streaming all its volleyball games on YouTube in August.
Jordan’s next step was to find a play-by-play man, and he didn’t have to look far for one of the parents, Eric Secker, who has called baseball and basketball games the last four years for the Cougars.
At the same time, College Heights’ volleyball manager Curtis Davenport was quickly picking up the intricacies of the game while learning from coach Mary Colin. Asked to film the team’s jamboree, Davenport obliged and walked to the top of the stands at Ozark Christian College, and that is where he crossed paths with Secker.
“I said to Curtis ‘What are you doing?’ He goes, ‘Coach Colin asked me to video the game for game film,’ ” Secker recalls. “I said, ‘Actually, I’m broadcasting the game and you are going to be my analyst.’ He said ‘What?’ I said ‘We are now a broadcast team, so jump in here.’ ”
From volleyball manager to play-by-play man, Davenport has a newfound love for sports broadcasting. Not only has he been a color analyst, but he’s even taken the reins and served as the primary play-by-play commentator in some games this season, too.
Little did the 16-year old from College Heights know sports broadcasting could be where his future lies.
“I definitely think about it a lot more now, but I knew it was something that was always in the cards,” Davenport said. “I have a lot of confidence in the abilities that God blessed me with. It’s something I thought I could do for awhile. Now that I have gotten a chance to do it, I’m loving it. The interest has been there for two or three years. It’s really fun and exciting to me because it’s like you get to bring the game to other people, and you can take them along the ride with you.
“It’s like you're sharing your excitement, enthusiasm and enjoyment with them. It’s definitely something I enjoy and I’m passionate about.”
A different person on air
Davenport is considered a more quiet and reserved person by his peers and coaches, but when it comes time to put on the headset, he’s a different person.
In fact, Jordan said he had to convince one of the student-athletes that overheard Davenport on air and actually explain that it was him calling College Heights’ game against McAuley Catholic on Oct. 19.
“They didn’t think it was him,” Jordan said. “They thought it was an older man. He definitely has a good broadcasting voice. He is knowledgeable and if that’s something he wants to do in the future — I don’t have any doubt he could go far in it.”
Secker said initially he was unsure if Davenport was ready to call games on his own since he was more of a reserved analyst and never called a game by himself. But during the El Dorado Springs Tournament almost two weeks ago, Davenport received his first shot at play-by-play.
“I told Curtis I wanted to sit with my wife today because I never get to sit with her during the games,” Secker said. “I said ‘You have got it. You are on your own.’ He just took it and ran with it. He has blossomed into this role.”
And what stands out to anyone who has heard Davenport call a game is his energy and especially enthusiasm. Colin said her players even hear Davenport all the way on the court when he’s on the air.
“He is so enthusiastic,” Colin said. “He engages with the girls. They love his voice. They know his voice. They love it when he cheers. They love hearing him talk. It makes them so happy. He has really been a joy, a great addition to our team.”
Davenport's enthusiasm stems from his passion and love for sports that he said he implements and sprinkles into his broadcasts. His most enjoyable facet of broadcasting is how 100% of things are unscripted and that allows his raw emotion to take over.
That’s something he’s noticed in two of his favorite broadcasters, Kevin Harlan, who does NBA on TNT and NFL on CBS as well as Westwood One radio, and Mike Breen, who calls NBA games for ABC.
“When I’m watching sports, my energy is up,” Davenport said. “I’m focused and into the game. Everything that is said or done is a genuine reaction from how you are feeling about the game or match. I just try to make it entertaining for the viewer.”
Making a career out of broadcasting
If there’s one thing that's been cemented into his mind calling volleyball games this fall, Davenport wants to make a career out of sports broadcasting.
But with basketball in mind, too.
Davenport, a 6-foot-5-inch center, was a standout freshman for College Heights last year. He averaged 11 points per game and grabbed seven rebounds, helping the Cougars to a 16-11 season.
Davenport said he’s looking to attend college not too close to Joplin, but also not too far away.
“If I could go to a place like Missouri Southern or Pittsburg State, that would be pretty cool,” Davenport said. “But also if I could go somewhere like Mizzou, Kansas, Oklahoma or Arkansas, that would be pretty awesome.”
And 10 years from now, Davenport sees himself working for at least a local station as a play-by-play commentator. But his dream job is to follow the path of Harlan and Breen and work for ESPN or TNT someday.
“If I do land a job there, it would be something I worked my whole life toward,” Davenport said. “It would be awesome. It would feel almost as good if I landed on an NBA roster.”
But ultimately Davenport gives all glory to God and cites the verse Colossians 3 23-24, which is his driving-force. The passage reads — At whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not to man knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of inheritance for you are serving the Lord Christ.
“That just speaks to me because whatever I do I want to do my best, and I want to perform well,” Davenport said. "But I need to remember where my strength and my talent comes from. I need to remember that ultimately I’m doing it all to the glory of God. In the end, that is all that matters. If He gets all the glory, I have done my job. I have accomplished everything I could ever want.”