One year ago tomorrow, Sportscaster Life posted an article that would go pseudo-viral among the sportscasting fraternity…Five Myths (and one fact) About Sportscasting.
The article touched on a number of common myths and misconceptions including how much money you really make as a sportscaster, the work that goes into preparing for a game and the education needed to be successful in the industry. Thousands saw those words that resonated with sportscasters all over the world.
So to celebrate that, we’re double dipping and listing our five truths (and one lie) about sportscasting.
It Doesn’t Matter How You Prep
One of my favourite things about sportscasting is that there’s no right answer. There’s no ‘correct’ way to call a game, there’s no list of ‘must-use’ words to describe a play. Take 50 different sportscasters and get them to call the same play or the same game…and you’ll get 50 different views and 50 different descriptions. Sure they’ll overlap and they’ll be commonalities but you’ll get a different flavour and a different angle from all of them.
My way of prep is unique to anyone else I’ve come across, and it works for me. Over the years I’ve aimed to trim down the amount of prep I do by working smarter and not harder. This involved automating some stat gathering, staying connected more through the season which cut down on game-day prep and other tricks and techniques. But what works for me, doesn’t work for others as many like to cram the day of or night before. The topic of individual prep popped up recently on social media when one Lifer posted about his unique way to score baseball, foregoing the drawing of a diamond or common abbreviations in favour of numbers and his own shorthand. At the end of the day, if it works for you then it’s right.
You’re Going to Work….A LOT.
Sportscasting rarely pays the bills exclusively. In order to make ends meet and finance a passion that you have, you’re going to need to find and maintain a full time job. That involves working anywhere from 30-40 hours a week, then putting in another 20-40 hours a week for your sportscasting responsibilities. In my pursuit of a junior hockey broadcasting career, I cycled through five different full or part time jobs in support of my sportscasting dreams. At its best, those jobs took up an additional 25 hours a week…at its worst I was working three jobs and spending 65 hours a week away from the team I covered.
Whether that second job is sales, retail or something unrelated…it’s all time. So that means all the work it takes to get you on air like prep, recording interviews, writing articles and web pieces has to take place in your “free time”.
Often times you’re paid ONLY to broadcast
Whether you’re on a limited salary or a per-game agreement with a station or team, many job situations come with the condition that a decent portion of your salary is made up by sales commissions. To tie in with the last point, this means you have to devote more time, energy and resources into something else OTHER than broadcasting. If stations are hiring a broadcaster, they want to get value. So that means you not only have to pay for yourself, but also the airtime and resources you’re using to call a game.
What you say on air matters just as much as what you don’t say
Think about some of the greatest moments in sporting history. Walk-off homers, buzzer beaters, hail mary touchdowns. Now think about the broadcast, the play-by-play that’s associated with those moments. What do they all have in common? Silence. Silence from the announcer at a key point in the call, allowing the crowd to tell the story. You may be a natural linguist, but the old saying “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” rings true in sportscasting. If you can’t add to the pictures or the natural sound…don’t. What better tells a story than the roar of a crowd, or the silence of the fans with one team going wild after a big road win.
To be good, you’ve got to want it
Sportscasting is very much a work-reward based profession in that you often reap the rewards of hard work. Whether that reward comes in the form of a promotion, a new job, a raise or just kudos from a fan, there is a direct correlation between effort and payoff. So it comes as no surprise that you can’t really “fake it” in sportscasting.
Think about it. Working a regular office job or maybe a retail position, you can not really work too hard at it, you can punch in at 9 and out at 5 and take home a tidy pay packet at the end of the week. It can become mundane or routine…a j-o-b where the amount of effort you put it isn’t as directly tied to your income or your success in that particular position. Sportscasting is completely different. Effort translates to good prep which in turn aids in a successful broadcast which can catch people’s attention. String good broadcasts together and you build a library of work to draw on for demo reels, you gain a reputation as a talented broadcaster and you open doors to advance your career. Effort equals success.
So those are our five facts on sportscasting, ranging from extra work to prep and everything in between….but what about the lie? It’s a simple one and something that we’ve all told ourselves at one point or another.
Even if you’re broadcasting high school sport for the smallest town in the world…there is always somebody listening. Even when the counter on your online broadcast says that there are zero people tuned in…there’s always somebody listing. Even if you don’t get any feedback after a broadcast…there’s always somebody listening. The thing with sportscasting is you never know who your audience is. Sure you can make educated guesses and cater to a majority but it doesn’t matter if the audience is 1 or 1 million…there’s always somebody listening. Whether that’s a parent, an injured player, a friend, a fan or a future boss, treat every game like you’re auditioning for the next one.
There really is no other industry like sportscasting. Nothing else gives you the flexiblity, freedom…or quite honestly the fits like calling live sports for a living. It’s not easy, but as we concluded in the Myths article in 2016…it’s worth every second. If you find happiness in a broadcast booth with a headset on and a live microphone in front of you, sportscasting will reward you with endless riches…if you work for them.