Being a sportscaster and road trips go together like peanut butter and jelly (unpopular and unrelated opinion: I hate peanut butter and jelly). In fact travel is one of the most fun aspects of the business as you get to see new places, experience new arenas/stadiums and spend endless hours with coaches and players, building a real repore.
However life on road trips can be difficult as it forces you to prep further ahead than you normally would and be on top of your game production and everything you need to execute a successful broadcast.
Here’s three things that can be easily overlooked by broadcasters during road trips.
1. Printing your spotting boards
I broadcast for a junior hockey team over almost 500 games, half of that time spent on the road. The nature of our schedule meant we’d do a lot of “three in threes”, meaning travel and play on a Friday, then bunk down in a hotel for games Saturday and Sunday. A few times a year we’d travel on all three days but for divisional play we’d usually base out of a central location.
So when you’re away from the home or office for multiple days at a time, how do you get your spotting boards and other documents (roster sheets, etc) printed during road trips? Most hotels have business centres where you can print for free, however not many in my experience let you print in colour and fewer let you print anything outside of an 8.5 x 11 letter sized paper.
In my case, that was fine. Everything I had was letter-sized…but several spotting boards are on legal (8.5 x 14) or tabloid (11 x 17) meaning you need to improvise.
In this case, your options are pretty limited. You can either pre-print ahead of the game and update manually as needed (thank you white out/correction tape). You can bring blank templates printed from your home base and do the whole board manually….or you can outsource. Check your road trips hotel location and see where the nearest Office Depot, Staples, Kinkos or other printing place is.
When all else fails, this is when networking plays a huge part…perhaps the home broadcaster can do you a solid favour.
2. Finding backup equipment
We’ve discussed the need for backups to your gear before, however if you haven’t instituted those yet then you need to figure out what you’re going to do during road trips if your equipment breaks, is lost or stolen.
Do you have backups to your gear that you can keep in a separate location (hidden on the bus)? Is there a store nearby where you could purchase (or better, rent) the essentials? Does the home team have an additional kit or elements you could borrow during a game?
I made it habit of having backups in place if my gear ever went down. I was fortunate enough to have two kits, one home and one for road trips. My road trips gear also served as the backup gear for home games for both my broadcast and the visiting team. On a few occasions I installed my gear for their broadcast because they were unable to call a game otherwise.
On road trips, my broadcast backup was my cell phone.
Having knowledge of what’s around your broadcast location is a huge help as well. In 2011, the power supply to my mixer (a JK RemoteSport) blew about 90 minutes before a game. I got the bus driver to take me to a nearby Best Buy when I purchased a universal power supply with several adapters. We found one that fit the mixer and I got that game on the air.
3. How will you pass the time?
Road trips aren’t typically know for their brevity. Few sportscasters have praised “short” road trips, and the best ones are often grueling tours through obscure parts of your regional area. So how do you pass the time?
Don’t get caught with nothing to do on a bus in the middle of no-where with questionable cell reception. Make sure you come stocked with a tablet full of movies, offline games or other ways to occupy your time.
When all else fails, a deck of cards can work wonders to pass away hours on the bus.
Thank you to Ian Paul Auzenne for his post on the Play by Play Announcers, Sideline Reporters, Color Analysts, Studio Hosts Facebook group for the idea of this article…he scouted out an Office Max store around a mile from his hotel that got him out of a bind on the road.