Football Play-by-Play Without an Analyst: Tips to Sound Great

The first time I broadcast football play-by-play without an analyst was 1989, McPherson (KS) High School versus Ark City. For a reason I don’t remember, my regular analyst was unavailable that night. What I do remember is what I felt.

Sheer. Terror.

At that point, my football broadcast experience was limited to a handful of games. Carrying a two-hour broadcast by myself seemed impossible. I was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. As it turns out, the things I learned that night carried me though the rest of my football play-by-play career.

Here are three steps to surviving a broadcasting football by yourself:

1. Be the analyst

In a traditional booth, the play-by-play guy’s job is to tell what happened. The analyst’s job is to explain why it happened. Working alone, you can be your own analyst. If you notice that the guy who just sacked the QB came in on a blitz, or you saw the tight end make a key block, mention it after you describe the play.

2. Emphasize storylines

Fill time otherwise reserved for your analyst with storylines – the plots and subplots of your play-by-play story. Consistently remind listeners what is at stake in this game, on this drive, and on this play. Also more fully develop the characters in your story. What is important or interesting about the guy who carried the ball or made the tackle on the previous play?

3. Be quiet

This is the most important and easiest to implement of the three tips. Don’t feel like you have to be talking every single moment. It is okay to occasionally have three or four seconds of dead air. Trust the ambient sound to carry those moments. Your listeners will appreciate the break from your monologue and your voice will appreciate the rest.

Good luck on your next football play-by-play without an analyst. Make it a great one!

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  1. Bill Oliver

    For #1 & #2, it may go without saying, but you can help fulfill both of these points with indepth pregame interviews. Refer to those comments as the analyst and as a part of emphasizing storylines. It also cross promotes the pregame for future broadcasts. And jot down those storylines and other in-game key moments for your postgame show.

    Add to #3…whether it’s McPherson Stadium or Curry Field (the now retired home of Ark City HS football), you’re also close enough to the action to bring in the band and/or the cheerleaders for some nat sound and a momentary break. And there’s the obligatory pause to let the listener drink in the cheers following a touchdown or a great defensive stop.

    • Jon Chelesnik

      Great suggestions, Bill. Thank you.

      For anyone else reading this, it’s especially cool for me to hear from Bill Oliver. In my first job in McPherson, KS, I followed Bill. My first few days on the job, Bill introduced me to key people around town, showed me how to use the radio station equipment and even helped me to find a place to live. I will always be grateful to you, Bill. Thank you!

  2. Ben Simon

    This might be me this Friday! Great tips, as always.

    • Jon Chelesnik

      If you have to go solo, you’ll be fine. Many folks find solo is a bit easier because they don’t have to worry about an analyst holding onto the mike too long. Plus, once you’ve done a game solo, working with an analyst might seem easier.

      Good luck on Friday!


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