I was reading through the STAA forums recently when I came across a thread looking for help on how to approach players for interviews. Interviews are an announcers bread and butter for so many reasons. It can not only add valuable content to your broadcast during intermissions, timeouts, inning changes, etc…but also provide you valuable information to use throughout the broadcast.
The thread made me want to give my perspective on dealing with players and gathering interviews while respecting their space and privacy.
When I started out in my first real professional gig in Powell River, I made some mistakes in my first year. Now that I have some experience under my belt, I can say that I was young(er) and stupid, but looking back they taught me a valuable lesson.
I was hired by the Kings and joined the team two weeks before the season started. By this time the team had gone through training camp, played an exhibition tournament over a week on the road and had really gelled. This was also a team that had several returning players and was very close after a successful season prior.
What I did, was come in and assume a position of authority over the players. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this was an impossible situation for me to achieve, as I was only 5-6 years older than many on the team and was the fresh face in amongst a staff that was identical, and a playing group that was very similar from the year previous. To the groups credit, I was never denied interviews, never on the outs, but there was certainly a little “who does he think he is”…and rightly so.
During that season and into the off-season, I made a deliberate change to how I conduct myself around the players. I went from a mentality of having the players work for me, to actively working with the players. The biggest change in this mentality was the way I would approach guys. During practice I stand on the bench so that I can chat with guys as they grab water between drills, and so I can watch guys skate from a different vantage point than in a game. As the session ends, I select the guys I’d like to talk to and give them a tap on the shoulder as they leave, asking them if they had some time.
99% of the time the answer is yes. For the most part, players like doing interviews. They may not enjoy it, and I find that’s a confidence thing more than anything, but they like it and recognize it’s part of the game and it’s valued by their friends and family back home. For the other 1%, if there is a pre-existing commitment the player has to get to, we either reschedule or I select another player to talk to.
From there, I wait. For the past few years I’ve made it very clear to the players that I work around them. I’ll sit outside the dressing room, talk with the trainers or coaches and wait for the players. Some will come out right away, and I’m appreciative of that, others will shower and change before linking up with me prior to heading home. At the end of the day, my line to them is “before you leave, could we please chat?”. That implies I’m around, come see me for 2 minutes at your convenience.
It might sound simple, stupidly simple even, but it really made life a lot easier. I got better interviews, more candid comments, and had more frequent chats off-mic with the playing group as time went on. I had come into the job with the wrong attitude, and managed to correct it moving forward.
Biggest thing for me to take away from the experience was that I work with the players. We all work for the coaching staff/GM, but as an announcer, I work with the players. That’s an attitude I take into every interview I do whether it’s on the road or at home, and it’s made for some great comments over the years.