Preparation Questions

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Preparation Questions

#1 Post by asdf » Tue Aug 17, 2021 7:33 pm

One of the biggest parts of play by play 101 is player identification. That's something I take great pride in and I take extremely seriously. Perhaps too seriously. A long time ago, my mentors taught me that for action sports like football, basketball and volleyball, you have to do "whatever it takes" to make sure you have those players' names and jersey numbers stapled to your brain. In football, I was taught to memorize ALL offensive skill players' names and jersey numbers and all of their backups (even if the depth chart goes 3 deep) and ALL defensive players (including 3 deep). For basketball and volleyball, I was taught to memorize ALL of the players on the respective rosters. This year for basketball, I had a tournament where I called 6 games in 3 days. I was going to see 8 teams for sure, I would see 10 teams total, but I had to prepare for 12 teams (depending on scheduling, winners/losers, top/bottom half of the bracket, etc.). As usual, I studied my tail off and to be properly prepared, I went ahead and memorized the players from all 12 teams. I literally memorized a total of 144 different players' names and jersey numbers forwards and backwards for this event. Unfortunately, I didn't have access to any game tape that I could watch to help me study up/identify players prior to the tournament like I normally would do. When various people asked me how my prep work had gone, I told them what I stated above. I had so many people look at me in shock and they thought I was crazy that I went to that much trouble for my preparation. So, my question is this: Am I crazy for approaching a multi-team tournament like that with that degree of memorization? And if I am crazy, should I not knock myself out so much and lighten up a bit on the memorization? Or, if I am crazy, should I continue to do what I feel works best for me and what I feel most comfortable doing?

Jon Chelesnik
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Re: Preparation Questions

#2 Post by Jon Chelesnik » Wed Aug 18, 2021 10:02 am

You are smart to memorize as much as you can.

Memorizing play-by-play rosters can be hard. 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 several techniques you can try for memorizing play-by-play rosters. There were initially seven but we’ve updated the post to add more:

1. Video

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. Flash cards

Write names and numbers on a flash card. 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. Write by hand

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. Draw memory parallels

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. The celebrity name game

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. One at a time

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. Color code

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

8. Study the stars

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

9. One-ear headphones

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. Leaving one ear uncovered allows you to hear the public address announcer. He’ll often ID tacklers before you do.

Full credit goes to former NHL broadcaster Chris Madsen for the next two suggestions. Thank you, Chris! . . .

10. Use only numerical rosters

The last thing you want to do is try to identify a player while using an alphabetical order roster. While memorizing rosters, do so in numerical order. The reason being that when you need to glance at your cheat sheet while calling the action, the name of the athlete is so much easier to locate by going directly to their jersey number.

11. Stoplight memorization

This is a method that I (Chris) perfected while the original TV Play-by-play Announcer of the Anaheim Ducks.

Tape the numerical roster to your dashboard. While waiting at every stoplight, memorize at least five names and numbers. Next stop light…five more. And so on…and so on…and so on.

Once you have the names and numbers of players, coaches, assistant coaches, trainers, etc. confidently stored to memory…remove the paper off the dashboard and test yourself. You will be amazed how you can visualize that numerical roster taped to the dashboard and all the details it contains.

Oh, and don’t forget this exercise is to be done, five at a time, while waiting at every stop light.

Otherwise, please keep your eyes on the road.

It would be super helpful to see what other folks think and do on this topic. I'm eager to see what folks add-on here.

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Re: Preparation Questions

#3 Post by asdf » Wed Aug 18, 2021 7:11 pm

Those are great tips and all (which I do most of those anyway), but I have a specific system that works very well for me. Perhaps I wasn’t clear earlier, but my question is what are other broadcasters’ philosophies when comes to putting in the effort to memorize players’ names and jersey numbers? Do you focus on ALL players? Just the starters? Do you “wing it”? Do you do the bare minimum or do you go All Out? Or, are you somewhere in the middle? I go All Out. That’s the only way I know how and that makes me the most comfortable when preparing for game day.

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Re: Preparation Questions

#4 Post by bschultz » Wed Aug 18, 2021 8:56 pm

In your situation, with that many teams, I might focus on learning the top 8 players for each team (in hoops). Spending that much time memorizing every player had to have cut into your time to learn something about these players or nuggets to use on air. In a regular weekend, with two teams to learn...learn them all. In hockey, you have no choice but to learn them all. They all play...and there isn't a loud horn sounded when somebody new comes into the game!

But, like you said, everyone has a system that works for them. If you haven't found that system yet, keep looking. If it's working for you...keep doing what you're doing.

And if you "just wing it"'ll be winging it at the high school level your whole career. Not saying that's a bad thing...just sayin'

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