7 tricks for memorizing play-by-play rosters

A photographic memory is a fabulous benefit for a play-by-play broadcaster. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.

For those of us who can’t remember what we ate for breakfast this morning, here are seven techniques you can try for memorizing your play-by-play rosters:

  1. Watch video of the team’s you’ll be seeing. Everyone has something on YouTube. Look for notable physical characteristics like wristbands, shoes, gait, body type, etc.

  2. Write names and numbers on a flash card and carry it with you in the days leading up to your broadcast. You can study at stoplights, in waiting rooms, before going to bed, whenever.

  3. Fill-out your spotting boards by hand. On the rare occasions I made cheat sheets in high school (sorry Mom and Dad, but the time Mr. Williamson busted me wasn’t the only time), it turned out I rarely used them because the process of writing down the info committed it to my memory. Your boards won’t look as neat as something you did on your computer, but you’ll remember the info better.

  4. Connect names that you are struggling to remember to something funny. Maybe No.13 is John Baker, so you remember a Baker’s dozen. Not always easy to do but it does work occasionally.

  5. Another one for tricky names — draw a parallel between the name of the player and a celebrity who shares that name. For example, your player’s name is Khalil Webster. Draw the “memory parallel” to Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack.

  6. Memorize one player at a time. Start with No. 1 on the roster. Once you have him committed to memory, then memorize Nos. 1 and 2. Then Nos. 1, 2 and 3 and so on until you have it all stored in your head. For large football rosters, memorize receivers one day, running backs the next, etc.

  7. Complete your spotting charts using ink that corresponds to the color of each team — your Jets chart in green, Chargers in blue.

If memorization isn’t your thing, don’t try to memorize everyone. For football, memorize the offensive skill position guys and the leading tacklers on D. For basketball, memorize the top eight players on each team.

This tip isn’t related to memorization, but it will help you if your memory isn’t great: Only cover one ear with your headphones. This allows you to hear the public address announcer. He’ll often ID tacklers before you are able to.

I will be grateful if you will share your comments and suggestions below. That is, of course, if you remember to…

Photo credit: palindrome6996 via photopin cc


  1. Chris Davis

    The keeping one ear open for the tackles trick is great, when the PA Announcer isn’t looking at you for the tackler…

  2. Jon

    I used to do the flash cards system when I was on radio and it did work well. I’d also recommend you watch the players (football/basketball especially) during warm ups with your chart. Try to practice spotting them before the whistle.

  3. jorge

    Usually I have to have some kind of “double vision”, I mean, working for tv stations I have besides my desk a monitor or in basketball games right outside the court and have at hand very near my numerical roster with BIG numbers, not alphabetical. It’s much easier, when you don’t know the players to look quickly at his number and in my country (Mexico) is not usual to have last name players’ in their backs.

  4. 7 tips for broadcasting a new sport - Sportscasters Talent Agency of America

    […] Broadcaster Phil Giubileo wrote about the three things he does to commit players to memory, and I have previously shared tips for memorizing rosters. […]

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