Tell me I’m wrong…but your spotting boards do not matter.
Ok. Let me clarify. Spotting boards are a crucial part of any sportscasters prep. They are the industry standard way to collect, categorize and store information on players and teams so that it’s easily at the ready for you on air. And this post is to under no circumstances try to change that tried and true method of prep for sportscasters.
This post is to challenge the thinking that the detail and time that you put into spotting boards will directly reflect in the quality of your broadcast.
Since starting Sportscaster Life in January 2016, as an evolution of the former Broadcaster Hub that had been in existence since 2012, I’ve been following a lot of sportscasters on social media and countless others through various Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Through this career surveillance, I’ve begun to notice a trend of some sportscasters almost bragging about how much time they’re putting into their boards. Some sportscasters claim they’re up until 3am the night before a game putting the finishing touches on their game prep, while others are cramming and drawing and highlighting right up until kick/tip off/puck drop/opening pitch/serve, etc.
For me, that’s a giant waste of time and does not translate to a quality broadcast.
Think about it, a quality broadcast needs energy, needs emotion, needs information and needs personality. Are you properly equipped to deliver all those things if you’re fatigued (both physically and mentally) from the preparation of your spotting boards? Are you at your best when you’ve been cramming all night and didn’t get a good rest?
So what is the solution? How much time and effort should you put into your spotting boards and other prep, while being fresh for a game. Well there’s two ways to go about it.
First, prep earlier. If you’re in a sport like football, where you might have one game a weekend (provided you don’t cover multiple teams), then get your game prep, or at least the bulk of it, out of the way early in the week. Then come the end of the week and your broadcast, you’re likely to be more well rested and better prepared for a broadcast. Think about it, in school did you perform better in tests when you’d crammed all night and gone in on 2 hours of sleep and 6 cups of coffee? Or was your grade improved when you studied over a larger period of time and went in fresh?
Secondly, prep smarter. Know when to call it quits and know when you have enough. This is a tough one for young sportscasters to learn and comes with experience, but it’s key for you to know your own broadcast, what you’ll have time to get in and how you’ll work it in. Obviously there’s no way to predict every event in a game, but knowing that you likely don’t need as much information on a fourth string quarterback as you do on the starter or backup can help trim some hours. Also, use some different techniques for you to collect repetitive information like team standings, leading players, etc by using Excel or other platforms to collect it for you.
Know your own limits, know your own broadcast and know when you have enough. Your spotting boards are important to a successful broadcast, but they are a tool. Spotting boards are intrinsically no different than your mixer, headset, voice recorder or the shoes on your feet. They are tools that allow you to showcase yourself and the game at its absolute best.
Good tools, like good spotting boards, are essential. But they’re useless if the tradesman (you) are too fatigued, too distracted or too overloaded to wield them properly.