With basketball tournament time and baseball/softball on the horizon, I thought I would take this opportunity to write a blog about streamlining your game notes. I know we have all been there – someone asks you a question about something that you KNOW is in your notes, but you are having a hard time finding it. That is a symptom of what I like to call ‘Bloated Notes.’ When I was an SID, I never really saw the need to create novel-sized game notes packages. And, I didn’t see creating an 80-page plus notes package for a single game as necessary or a good use of my time.
See, I like my game notes streamlined, simple, readable and easy to access. Otherwise, by the time someone sorts through the novella of game notes that was painstakingly created, their opportunity to use that carefully researched piece of information has passed. By then, what’s the point of all that research?
I knew I was on the right track when I saw the presentation from Chris Yandle on ROI and digitizing game notes for social media, etc. at last year’s CoSIDA convention. Chris was at Baylor at the time and worked with their football team during the Heisman run of RGIII. He has since moved on to the U (Miami). Chris’ talk is available on YouTube – it’s about 53 minutes, but it’s a decent watch if you have time on a bus trip:
The main point Chris brings up is something I have always believed; no broadcaster has the time to go through all 80 pages of your notes for a single game. I always wanted to streamline the process but didn’t really know what path to take, so I went directly to the source when I took over as the men’s basketball contact at Arkansas State. I went to my radio guy and voice of the Red Wolves – Matt Stolz.
I asked Matt – What do you need from my game notes? What can I do to provide you with the best information? The reason I was so concerned with Matt’s opinion was because on a game-by-game basis he was the primary person utilizing my notes for his radio broadcasts. Odds are that if he liked them as a broadcaster, other broadcasters would probably have the same opinion. If you have questions as to what you want to include in your notes, talk to your broadcaster. I am sure they won’t mind helping and will likely appreciate your questions.
Based on the information Matt gave me, some information I collected on my own from other folks in the industry, and frankly some things I saw along the way, I formulated the following opinions on optimizing my notes. But remember, the whole point of game notes is to tell the story of your team. Don’t forget, you are trying to put your team in the best possible light and take the opportunity with your given broadcast to tell your story.
- You have to be conscious about the size of your notes. Make sure they are long enough to get the information out to the people who need them, but also make sure they aren’t too long that decent information gets lost in the shuffle. More pages don’t equal more information. When I was the men’s basketball SID at Arkansas State my notes stayed around 30 pages, which is longer than I would have liked them, but I wanted each player to have their own page. This made the information the most accessible for broadcasters. You need to know about guard John Smith? Turn to page 27. For baseball, I simplified further. A few pages of notes, trends and pitching match-ups.
- Readability and accessibility have to be paramount. These can be accomplished in a number of ways. The font (size and typeface), the leading of your copy, sidebars, heading, etc. are all aspects of how to best utilize your notes. I was a big fan of 10pt Arial Narrow with at least a 12pt leading, single column as the primary part of the notes section. I usually dropped the font size by one point for side bars and boxes. I also always lead my game notes with a section of game information, team comparisons and quick hits of the game’s story lines and important notes. These quick hits are also a good “tweetable” section, as these were one line notes that were almost always less than 140 characters.
- Include only the most pertinent information and try not to create stats. This was always pet peeve of mine as an SID. It happened more often than not, but I would be looking through an opponent’s game notes package and would find some note about how Billy is the best shooter in the league on Thursday or, if Steve were playing 25 min instead of 13 minutes, he would lead the nation in assists based on his adjusted stats for minutes. While those are interesting, it’s hard to fit those into a broadcast, so why include them?
- Think in terms of charts and graphs, at least for TV games. When working on your notes ask yourself – what notes can I include that would be easily turned into a graphic for a TV production and would make my team look good?
- Speaking of graphics, limit them to logos and head shots for your notes. I was guilty of this myself, but as far as images go in game notes, making a masthead that was attractive is a must. Past that I tried to only include team logos and head shots in my notes. Otherwise you are going to have a cluttered page and a bloated PDF file.
- Think about including a broadcast page at the end, or spot chart as it is known to some. Broadcast pages are becoming more and more popular, but a page that includes mug shots, vital information and averages as a cap at the end of the notes is a great idea and is well received by broadcasters who have a short amount of time to prepare.
- Always include an easily accessible pronunciation guide. Otherwise how would someone know how to pronounce Ifeanyi Koggu, Yima Chia-Kur or Chano Rashiduddin?
- Make sure your notes are timely. Timeliness means a few things. First, make sure your notes are well updated. I made the mistake of not updating notes myself, but make sure you are coming up with new notes consistently and make sure your old notes are updated. Also, make sure your notes are out at least 24 hours prior to tip or first pitch. Otherwise, what’s the point? Notes that come out “day of” are going to be hard to use and won’t allow anyone to use them for their game preparation.
- Be careful about what stats pages you include, especially with baseball and softball. I learned this lesson the hard way my first year at Drake University when I mistakenly put the R-L matchup page in my notes. The coach wasn’t too happy, and I didn’t make that mistake again.
- Don’t be afraid to change it up. During my time at Arkansas State I was always in communication with my broadcasters and asked what they liked and didn’t, what they needed and what they never used, and changed things accordingly. One of the big changes I made to the media guide was going to bullet-point bios for all players. It made information easier to find and I also made that change on player-only pages. It provided a cleaner look and was easier to read.
Remember, game notes are an opportunity to set the stage for a game and to promote your program, which at its heart is what any good SID is out to do. Everyone has their own unique take and formula for what they deem is best for their teams and the best way to present information. Just also remember, you are not the primary person that will be using your notes. Making them accessible for the people that use them most will go a long way.
Feel free to share your tips on game notes below in the comments section.