Zach Shafron first published his passion for Cleveland sports on Facebook and Twitter in eighth grade.
“The funny thing is that my parents aren’t die-hard sports fans,” said Shafron, a member of Temple Emanu El in Orange. “One day, my dad turned on the Browns game when I was little, and I was hooked.”
A self-described “Browns guy,” Shafron started posting his thoughts and commentary about the Cleveland Indians, Cavaliers and Browns in May 2011. His posts turned into Cleveland Sports Talk, a website driven by Cleveland sports news and commentary that reaches an audience of 10,000 people per day.
Shafron further connected with his audience when he added a podcast in November and was subsequently awarded for his efforts. The Shaker LaunchHouse, a business accelerator in Shaker Heights, gave him and nine other high school students the Outstanding High School Entrepreneur Award through the LaunchHouse’s Lighthouse Ohio program, which recognizes and connects promising high school entrepreneurs. Shafron presented his start-up at a Nov. 15 ceremony.
Zach Schwartz, founder of the Lighthouse Ohio program, said Shafron’s ability to build a following around his website stood out when he came to the program with his idea.
“The most amazing thing with Zach is that he built a community of people constantly responding to his Twitter feed and his writers,” said Schwartz, a member of Park Synagogue in Pepper Pike and Cleveland Heights. “He’s already been able to do something people want to do at such a young age.”
With the help of the Lighthouse Ohio program, the 16-year-old Solon High School student revamped his website, created in January, to have a more modern look and advertising. He also enlisted some of its fans to write for the site and have weekly Internet radio shows on Cleveland Sports Talk’s Mixlr.com channel, an Internet radio host.
“I think the cool thing about it is that it doesn’t take a lot of work to get on air, and you get to really express yourself,” said Shafron, who also started The Sports Reporters club at Solon High School. “Because it’s all voluntary and people don’t get paid to do this, I’m pretty lenient that when someone has an idea, they go for it.”
Shafron hosts the Double Z and P Show with his friends Zack Emerman and Peter Zeid, both Solon High School juniors, every Tuesday and Thursday. The trio discusses scores, news and players for all three of Cleveland’s sports teams, The Ohio State University Buckeyes and news across the sports industry.
Emerman said helping with the radio show sparked his interest in sports marketing.
“I like talking about real issues in sports and explaining my opinion on them,” he said. “Working with my friends is really fun and we’ve built a strong bond. Reporting on sports topics really helps us learn more about the sports spectrum.”
Shafron said he struggles to balance school and his sports site as he spends two hours or more per night assigning articles for the website or planning his radio show. He plans to study sports management in the future and work in the “front office” of one of his favorite Cleveland sports teams.
“I’m always a big fan of the underdog and Cleveland’s sports teams have a history of that,” he said. “I love watching the games and cheering on the teams. The thing I like most about Cleveland sports is being a part of something bigger than yourself. It’s something to keep faith in.”
Cleveland Sports Talk
What: The Double Z & P Show
Hosts: Zach Shafron, Zack Emerman and Peter Zeid with fast-break updates from Noah Baerson and
When: 8-9:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays