You hear it time and time again: sports broadcasting is a “who-you-know” business, much like any profession in life. I’m willing to bet if you asked most sportscasters how they got their gig, they would tell you a story about their connections.
That leads me to believe that when asking the question “how do I get that job?” you should first start with the question “how do I make the contacts necessary to get that job?”
Creating a network of contacts is an inexact science…much like dating. Hear me out.
If you meet someone stunningly attractive in an elevator would you:
A) Tell them how beautiful they are and ask them out before the elevator doors open
B) Make small talk such as introducing yourself or just saying hi, etc.
If you went with A, you would probably scare that person off and never have the opportunity to pursue them again and if you went with C, you may have missed out on an opportunity to say SOMETHING. So the obvious answer is B, right? This applies to creating your contacts as well.
Over my 12+ years in sports broadcasting, I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of industry professionals, whether that’s fellow broadcasters, producers, executives, directors, etc. In my earlier years, any chance I had to meet these people I would get very excited, whether to pick their brain, ask them if they would be willing to listen to my demo, see if they needed anyone to broadcast their games. It didn’t take long before I realized that was the wrong approach. Just like in the dating world, I was “moving in too fast”.
So over time, I changed my approach. For example, if I’m at a major sporting event and there are people there I’d like to meet, I’ll simply introduce myself and then maybe make some small talk with them:
“Big game tonight…can you believe that call in Game 2…you must enjoy covering this series”.
After that, I’ll end the conversation accordingly as to not take up too much of their time. In the oft chance I get to see them again, the conversation can grow from there:
“I really admire your work…I’m interested in television play-by-play as well, any advice?”
This is just one approach to creating contacts, because there are several. You could cold-contact industry professionals by e-mailing them, telling them who you are, what it is you would like to do and if they had any pointers. You would be surprised how many respond, as they too were in your shoes once before.
One of the best contract-creating stories I can give, is that shortly after graduating from college, I e-mailed Roy Acuff, the longtime (and since retired) radio play-by-play voice of the San Antonio Missions. I didn’t know Roy, but I knew of him, and let him know who I was, a *little bit* of my background, and that I’d like to visit with him at the press box sometime if that was possible. He responded, got me a press pass and I got to talk with him in person. A few weeks later, I followed up, asking if it would be alright if I could “practice call” a game from the auxiliary booth and he obliged. From there, I would stay in contact every now and then, and lo and behold, about a year or two later, Phil Elson of the Arkansas Travelers needed someone to fill-in for him for a road trip in San Antonio, and when he approached Roy about someone in the area, Roy recommended me. I not only filled in those three games, but six more the following year.
That e-mail I sent to Roy Acuff led to a gig, “tape”, two contacts (Roy & Phil), and most importantly, two friendships.
The bottom line is always use your best judgment when given the opportunity to make connections. Those contacts, like that pretty girl in the elevator, don’t like it when you come on too strong.