I arrived to the gym just 10 minutes before my first-ever broadcast. I grabbed a couple of rosters, plugged a microphone into a computer, and started yelling about a high school basketball game between my high school and our rivals. I thought it was awesome. It was an exciting game, and I had a great time. I couldn’t wait to go home and listen to the tape.
When I returned home and played back my call of the game, it did not sound awesome. It turns out that when I referenced the opposing team’s point guard as “Number 32″ and repeatedly referred to their center as “the big guy in the middle who has to be close to 7-feet tall” I didn’t sound like the next Marv Albert. This experience, along with some helpful guidance at the collegiate level, taught me the importance of broadcast preparation.
In an effort to compensate for my lack of preparation in my pre-college broadcasting “career”, I found myself over-preparing for my first few college broadcasts. I had 4-5 pages of notes on the Pepperdine women’s volleyball team. I was determined to have as much knowledge as humanly possible at my disposal. During those first few games I found myself overwhelmed. I was sifting through papers trying to find facts I’d researched in the days leading up to the game, and by the time I found them, my point was irrelevant. I had developed a more responsible and studious approach to my preparation, but it was still ineffective. I was gathering a plethora of facts, retaining few of them, and was rarely able to work any of them seamlessly into the broadcast. As time went on, I began to prioritize my preparation. I focused on what I believed was imperative to the broadcast, and over time heard my play-by-play quality improve. Obviously, everyone prepares differently and may differ on how to prioritize, but I’ve gone ahead and listed what I found to the the most important areas of broadcast preparation.
- To me, this is the most important element of broadcasting. As a broadcaster, you are nothing without credibility. My most cringe-worthy moments while broadcasting came when I was unsure of a pronunciation or rule. People viewing or listening to games are relying on the play-by-play person. The minute you mispronounce someone’s name, your credibility takes a hit, and the audience (and let’s be honest your audience is often comprised primarily of family members, so if you slip up on a pronunciation, somebody’s mom is going to be UPSET!!!) now has reason to doubt the validity of anything that comes out of your mouth. Likewise, if you are unsure of a rule specific to the game you are broadcasting, you’ve given the audience another reason to doubt your credibility. As I got more and more broadcast reps under my belt, I found that my biggest priority was establishing my credibility. That meant studying pronunciations, making sure I was on top of all of the rules, and researching and comprehending the backstory of the opposing team/university so if I needed to reference such things during the broadcast, I could do so without sifting through a large pile of notes.
STATS and FACTS that ENHANCE
- As mentioned earlier, one of the hardest things to do when preparing is deciphering what information is worth broadcasting. It never hurts to have as much information at your disposal as possible. If you can get both teams’ 100+ page media guides, do it. Have them at your table as something to reference if you absolutely have to. But I found that you cannot rely on a pair of encyclopedias. When I was generating copious notes, I found I was too focused on gathering information rather than retaining it. As time went on, I began digesting what I thought were the really vital stats or facts (i.e. win streaks, streaks against specific opponents, certain percentages in specific situations, the last time a team achieved a specific milestone, etc.) that enhanced the broadcast. I would read through my game notes 3 or 4 times and highlight statistics that I found vital, and by the time I was done reading through the notes, the facts and stats that were the ones that stuck out. Frankly, if you have to go find it in a book somewhere during your broadcast, is it really that significant? This realization led me to my final priority…
DO NOT HAVE A PLAN
- On the surface this seems counterintuitive. We’ve already discussed why preparing for a broadcast is critical to its success. However, preparing is far different from planning. One of the byproducts of over preparation is that it can influence how you call the game. Once you’ve spent the time and effort gathering every stat imaginable, it is easy to feel obligated to fit every stat into the broadcast. Notes and stats are most effective when worked into the broadcast organically. It can be tempting to want to force the narrative of the game in the direction of some awesome statistic you looked up the night before, but that isn’t the play-by-play person’s job. The broadcaster is there to see the action and relay it to the audience, adding relevant information that enhances the viewing or listening experience along the way.
So there you have it. Again, this is just what I’ve found to be the most effective preparation method for me. Every broadcaster will differ in what they prioritize and how they prepare. The key is finding a method that allows you to feel as comfortable and prepared as possible, so when it comes time to deliver the Call of The Year, you’re ready!