If you’re like me, August means two things. Hot temperatures with plenty of time in the area lake/river/ocean. And secondly, having one eye on the impending season. For me, hockey is right around the corner with puck drop on another season in early September. With a new season around the corner comes the challenging but enjoyable task of prep…researching all the new players, updating notes on returnees and getting my mind and notes ready for a season with few breaks.
Football and basketball kick start in the fall, and with baseball post season not too far away…this seemed like an opportune time to discuss prep, and four key things you should keep in mind when compiling your notes this year.
1. What do you actually need?
Asking what you need in your prep is like asking what you need when buying a house…it will depend on your situation. In many cases however you want the bare essentials including names, numbers, heights, weights, hometowns, birth dates and previous teams. This will give you a basic snapshot of a player and allow you to begin to build a profile of them around that. All of this information should be readily available, however if it’s not then you still have time to contact coaches, SID’s or other team personnel to get it. This stuff is paramount in your prep.
Once you have the basics, then you can go in and do a deeper dive each player. A few lines of notes on each guy or girl will give you some information to talk about at various points in your broadcast. Information may be more readily available on some players versus others, however compile what you can…there’s no such things as “too much” at this stage.
2. How do I store/organize all my information?
You have all this raw data, how do you sort it? The simple answer is a spotting board. Sportscaster Life has a free downloads section that houses dozens of spotting board and roster designs created by sportscasters all around the world. Each are the same, but different in the way they organize and display information. It’s here that you’ll begin to weed out irrelevant information on players as well. If you’re a football broadcaster, do you really need 10 lines of info on the 4th string quarterback who is only on the team because his dad is the coach? Prep is as much about efficiency as it is about complete research.
3. How much of this will I actually use?
Be realistic in the amount of prep that you take into a game with you. While it’s important to know a bit on every player, it is not essential to be able to write their Wikipedia page from memory while on air. Know what kind of down time you’ll have on air and adjust your prep to that. In hockey, there isn’t much time to delve into elaborate backstories on random players. By the time you have the play by play, plus any sponsor reads, time and score checks, you don’t have much ‘free’ time. Football is a little different with more setup time between each play. Basketball can vary depending on the pass and style of the game. Baseball is obviously ripe for story telling.
When you compile your prep, ask yourself how much of this can you get into your broadcast? You should never aim to “get your s*** in” to borrow a wrestling term, but rather know when you have ‘enough’. There are no prizes for who has the most prep.
4. How will I use this information on air?
You can have the best prep in the world, but if you can’t effectively deliver certain pieces of information then it’s useless. While compiling your prep notes, look at what you’re finding and filter it according to what you think you can get on air. What is the priority note about a certain player? What’s most important to convey and why is that information relevant to the audience? Also think about why you’re relaying this information and what value it adds to the call.
Those are just four things to think about when compiling your season and game prep this year. As we said off the top, outlining what you need in prep is like outlining what you need in a house or car…it will differ from person to person, sport to sport and call to call. The important thing is that you prep enough to be comfortable on air, to have information to relay to keep your broadcast informative and entertaining, and to have access to enough research to be able to accurately tell (and add to) the game story for your audience.
A bonus “fifth” point for your prep is a bit of a shameless plug. Sportscaster Life’s coil-bound scorebooks are available for the big four North American sports and are GREAT for prep, especially for broadcasters who cover one team through a season. Each book allows you to record and track games on the fly and are fantastic to look back on later for game recaps, or even much later in the season to help prep for future games. No more losing notepads, no more scrap pieces of paper and no more forgetting moments in the game. The scorebooks are available by visiting http://www.sportscasterlife.com/store. Each are available in multiple sizes (number of games).