In her role as the courtside spotter, Havens will be the eyes and ears for the TV production crew in the truck. She will be in constant communication through her headset to relay pertinent information back to the Director that might be useful in telling the story and broadcasting the matches. It could be something she picks up in listening to the competitors, it could be an injury or physical problem, it could be weather related, it could be who is in the stands and why. Her trained volleyball eyes coupled with her TV production experience have put her on the biggest stage in the world at the Summer Olympics in London.
Havens, based out of Atlanta, is part of a crew of freelancers that will coordinate the beach volleyball telecasts to the world, including the United States' NBC broadcasts. Beach volleyball draws big TV ratings in the Olympics, and searching online, news is that beach volleyball is one of the hottest tickets in London, with asking prices of 450 pounds ($715) for one ticket to one medal round.
"I know I am lucky to get the assignment, but I know I am qualified and ready," Havens said. "I am fortunate to have a role in my first Olympics but hope it isn't my last. To get to be in a position out on the court where all the action is, couldn't be more exciting," the former GSU volleyball captain noted.
Not only is Havens where the action is for beach volleyball, she is in the heart of what people know about London. The beach volleyball is being played on Horse Guards Parade Grounds, an area directly across from Buckingham Palace and outside the Prime Minister's 10 Downing Street home.
A GSU journalism major ('08) with a concentration in telecommunications, Marissa hasn't stopped gaining experience in the TV industry since she did internships with Turner Sports and WSB-TV while at Georgia State.
"To be able to combine my love for volleyball with my passion for broadcasting is a dream come true," Havens expressed. "I am excited to take all my experiences and apply them to this Olympic production. Live sports action is a challenge, and working as a team in getting the broadcast on the air takes the efforts of lots of skilled professionals."
One doesn't start overnight on a world stage, so the 26-year old Havens has been going non-stop since her first internship five years ago in 2007. "I have had experience covering live events that have included some of the amazing Olympic athletes. For example, the past few years I have been on the crews to cover the USA Swimming National Championships and the Pan-Pacific Championships," she said. "I did the Duel in the Pool event between the USA and the European All-Star teams."
Havens' previous assignments have included an associate producer for the Varsity Cheer Broadcasts for college and high schools on ESPN and FSN and production assistant for the United Football League on Versus and HDNet. With Turner, Havens has logged in pre-game and post-game highlights for NBA games and baseball games. She's been a stage manager for Atlanta Falcons preseason games. She's been a graphics coordinator for USA Swimming Grand Prix's, and NCAA and SEC Swimming and Diving Championships. Back in the beginning days as a GSU student, she was working at the Weather Channel as a floor director and camera operator or running the teleprompter. She studied everyone's every move as an intern at WSB-TV. She may be a little nervous at the Olympics, but it is obvious she is qualified and ready to accept the challenges.
One of her mentors and bosses is Peter Lasser, the founder of Lasser Productions and a veteran TV sports producer for almost three decades. "Going to school at Georgia State in Atlanta enabled me to gain some experiences and make some professional contacts, while competing in sports and earning my degree," she said. Marissa came all the way across the country to GSU from Antioch, Calif., a city about halfway between San Francisco and Stockton.
"I am leaving Atlanta July 23 to get ready," Havens stated. "We'll be staying in center city London, and I'll be staying with the A crew all the way through the medal rounds on August 9. My husband is coming over then and we'll be able to have a two-week vacation touring Scotland and Ireland."
Havens, whose maiden name was Levasseur at Georgia State, was a team captain and the libero for the Panthers as a senior with the 16-14 team of fall 2007. She has helped keep stats at GSU matches since and participated in last year's Alumni Day Game at GSU. "I am glad to see Georgia State be one of the first in the NCAA to start sand volleyball, and I hope to get to come to some matches on the new outdoor courts."
If you get to watch the Olympics beach volleyball and enjoy, remember it is a GSU alum who is playing a role in telling the stories for your viewing pleasure.