How to get unstuck and write your own career map

The confidence that comes with shooting at a stationary target is a wonderful thing.

When I was a kid, my friends and I would see how many shots we could hit with our eyes closed from various spots on the basketball court. Rarely did the shots ever go in, even though we might shoot 50% from those same spots with our eyes open.

make a map shooting baskets

The play-by-play job market can be the same way – like you’re taking shots in the dark. When I was working in McPherson, KS, I applied for play-by-play jobs ranging from the Kentucky Wildcats to the Wichita Wranglers.

I never heard back.
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Basketball PBP tips from a casual fan

Ah, March Madness. The one month of the year when the world of basketball is accessible and fun for everyone, even the most casual of fans who haven’t paid attention since…well, since last March.

basketball tips casual fan

As a basketball play-by-play voice, making your broadcast accessible and interesting to the super fans is easy. But how are you at capturing the attention of the casual fan?

For the last few months I’ve been randomly dropping in to listen to the basketball broadcasts of STAA members. I started to hear patterns. Patterns that yielded four keys to improve your basketball PBP for all fans.
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Two quick tips for improving your delivery

A broadcaster who is doing play-by-play for high school sports was told by a mentor to work on his pacing and energy. He asked me how to go about doing that.

improving delivery

If you have ever been told that you need to work on your delivery and/or your energy, here are two quick tips for you.

1. Read children’s books

One great way to hone your delivery, especially your inflections, is to read children’s books out loud. They are written in short, simple sentences with lots of adjectives – just like your play-by-play should be.

Harold and the Purple Crayon is a great one for this purpose. Read the books with the same animation you would use if reading aloud to a child. You’ll develop a feel for pacing, pausing and emphasis that will work for you on air as well.

2. Let your enjoyment show

Some broadcasters struggle to sound excited without being over the top.

The best way to increase your energy is to let your love for sports and your love for broadcasting come out in your delivery. When someone gives you a surprise gift, you use a different voice than you would if you were telling someone that their dog died. Some broadcasters get too caught up in trying to sound “professional.”

Screw professional. Sound personable. And smile when you speak. You can hear a smile on the air.

Two ways to improve your baseball play-by-play

It may only be February, but for all the voices of our national pastime who are motivated to make their broadcasts great, now is the time to begin preparing for the long baseball season.

baseball play-by-play

After I read The Baseball Thesaurus by Jesse Goldberg-Strassler in 2013, I wished it was 1992 again and I was back on the air doing American Legion baseball in McPherson, KS.

Here are two things you can work on now that will improve your baseball play-by-play:
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SCP 15: How to prep for a basketball tournament – with Jay Sanderson

jay sandersonA challenging circumstance that most basketball play-by-play broadcasters will face at one time or another is having to broadcast many games over the course of a two or three day tournament.

Last year, Montana State University Voice Jay Sanderson did 13 games in four days at the Big Sky Conference tournament.

In this podcast, Jay shares advice for how to be your best come tournament time.

Listen to the Audio

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Dick Enberg’s accidental lesson will help you

Last week I was going through some old stories I had kept from the newspaper. I came across a wonderful piece of advice for TV play-by-play broadcasters from Jim Nantz. It is from John Maffei’s column in the February 1, 2013 edition of U-T San Diego.

TV play-by-play captions

Nantz said longtime network announcer and current Padres TV voice Dick Enberg taught him a valuable lesson.

“Dick and Merlin Olson were calling the Super Bowl in 1983,” Nantz said. “The entire first quarter, they had feedback in their headsets. So they talked in short sentences. After the game, Dick said people came up to him and said he had never been better. Dick told me he used that was a learning tool. He learned less is better.

Remember that in radio, you are describing the pictures — creating images on a blank canvas.

In TV, you are simply providing captions to the pictures.

Doing this will immediately make your broadcasts better

No good. No good. No good.

This is a phrase that many play-by-play broadcasters use repeatedly on a missed shot in basketball. “Over to” is another that you will often hear when the ball is passed between players.

pbp vocab

Varying your PBP vocabulary is important for all broadcasters. It makes for a more entertaining and intelligent broadcast.
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This common mistake will sabotage your interviews

When I was on-air, I took great pride in my interviewing skills. I wanted to be different and better than everyone else. At one point, I decided I could do that by making my interviews sound less like Q&A and more like conversations.

Big mistake.

interview sabotage

Interviews are NOT conversations. By definition, interviews are Q&A. They are input/output. You input questions and your guest outputs answers.

If you hold conversations, it gives your guest too much leeway to go whatever direction they want. Usually, it won’t be the direction YOU want. Your guest will often steer clear of subjects that make them uncomfortable.

Another reason that conversations don’t work is because they often involve you making comments instead of asking questions. Guests often won’t reply to comments, which brings the entire interview/conversation to an awkward, grinding halt.

If you want to distinguish yourself as an interviewer, do these four things:

  • Be well-prepared
  • Have a plan — know what you want from the interview
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Be a good listener and ask follow-ups

It’s funny – I wanted to have conversations because I wanted to distinguish myself. However, it was only after I realized the error in that that I was able to set myself apart.

5 tips to ensure you are welcome in the locker room

When I was covering San Diego Chargers and San Diego State Aztecs football in the early 90s, I would escort a female reporter friend of mine into the locker rooms. She would hold my elbow, keep her head down, and ask me to lead her to the players she wanted to talk to. Whether it was for religious or personal beliefs, this was part of her locker room etiquette.

locker room

For the most part, the etiquette inside the locker room is the same as on the outside.

  1. Don’t go into the trainer’s room. That is totally off-limits to the media.
  2. Don’t follow guys to the shower.
  3. When guys return from the shower to their locker, either (a) wait for them to acknowledge when it is okay to start asking questions or (b) wait until they have put their pants on.
  4. Don’t be “that guy” who never asks questions but instead only takes audio back to the station that came from the questions of others. You’ll gain respect from your peers if you actively participate.
  5. Always thank people for their time.

Sports talk hosts – here is another point about the locker room that is particularly relevant to you:

You will gain the respect of the players you cover if, after you have been critical of a guy, you make yourself available in the locker room.

Being critical then hiding inside the press box or radio or TV station is a fast way to lose respect.