Sports Broadcaster Job Description:
My preparation begins months in advance. I always look forward to the day that the schedule comes out because then you can start doing a little research on how the upcoming season's opponents performed last season. I generally do no more than glance at their statistics and their roster to see if an opponent is going to be a veteran side or one that is looking to rebuild.
I drop the most current statistics into my chart as game day approaches. I also do monotonous things such as fill out my scorebook and label my Mini Discs ahead of time. The night before a home game or a travel day, I go to the radio station and spend a couple of hours in the production studio. There, I record the game open which airs during my opening billboards. It's generally a minute or so and quickly recaps the last game and previews the upcoming game.
During the broadcast, I go with the flow. I have been taught that an average listener only listens to a radio sports broadcast for around 15 minutes. You have to keep that in the back of your mind when doing the in-game part of the broadcast. I've gotten into a habit of trying to force myself to emulate what I see on television. Generally you'll see a scene setter or a recap at the top or bottom of the hours to remind new viewers what they have missed in case they are joining the broadcast. I've found that this style translates well into radio.
How did you go from college to a sports broadcaster career?
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I've known for a long time that I wanted to be a sports broadcaster. With that in mind, I knew the first thing that I had to do was somehow break into media when I started attending Radford in 1997. I started taking a practicum class which produced a 30-minute weekly news show which aired throughout the region. I got on as an entertainment reporter going around to concerts and events. It was a lot of fun.
Spring of 1998, I knew that I was having fun as an entertainment reporter, but I wanted to get into sports. I was able to call some innings at the Big South Conference Baseball Tournament in the Spring of 1999 and that gave me some more experience. I would then get the call to do color and play-by-play for the few women's basketball games that were broadcast during the 1999-2000 season.
After the 1999-2000 year, I had to get a "real job" so that I could make some money to pay some bills. In 2001 I went to Alaska to do play-by-play for three games for the Radford Men's Basketball Team. I was asked if I wanted to go and do the games and it was a no-brainer. I jumped all over the opportunity and consider it one of the best memories of my life. I continued to broadcast sporadically until 2003.
I finished my degree in December of 2003. I was the voice of the Radford Women's Basketball Team for the '03-'04 and '04-'05 seasons. In August, a friend of mine called me up to inform me that he was leaving his job as the voice of Virginia Tech Women's Basketball to take a radio/TV job for an NBA team. I was out of town and came back, put my demo together and submitted it. A few weeks later, I was hired. I had gone from the Big South to the ACC. That was a huge jump for me. So here I am today, the voice of Virginia Tech Women's Basketball.
I also am the voice of several Olympic sports at Tech which include soccer, volleyball, softball, and lacrosse. I also get to work on my men's basketball broadcasting skills by doing Tech's games on the ACC's website. Because of my ties with Tech, I also have had the opportunity to do some webcasts for the ACC in the last two years. I also string for Fox Sports Radio, Sporting News Radio, and ESPN Radio as I provide live updates for all Virginia Tech home football games. Although it can be crazy at times, doing that is a lot of fun and provides me with some national exposure.
Do you recall any humorous moments from your sports broadcaster jobs?
I remember that in September of 2003, I had to host a three-hour show outdoors in tropical storm force winds. Half of the show was a normal talk show. The other half was the "tailgate" show which served as a 90-minute preview of an upcoming Virginia Tech football game. The rain began a little after 2:00 in the afternoon and was a steady downpour for the entire evening. I was under a tent the entire time, soaking wet from the horizontal rain. My papers were blowing all over the place and I tried not to get electrocuted. But I had an absolute blast and eventually dried up around the third quarter of the Thursday night game inside of the Virginia Tech press box.
Are there any sportscasters that influenced you to pursue a sports broadcaster career?
As far as television sports broadcasters are concerned, Jim Nantz stands out the most. Every time you turn on the television and you see that he's on, you know you're going to get a quality broadcast. Jim is such a conversational broadcaster and ranks at the top of my list. He knows that viewers are tuned in to see a sporting event; he hasn't gone the route of "sports entertainment" in his commentary which has happened to many of the professional sports leagues in the United States, in my opinion.
From a radio side, I would have to say that Warren Swain was my favorite broadcaster. He was the voice of the University of Virginia for several years before he left UVA to become the voice of the University of Nebraska. Warren was fantastic and was almost like a grandfather to those of us that listened. I would turn down the television sound when UVA played on TV and turn the radio up to listen to his broadcasts.
Any advice to those interested in how to become a sports broadcaster?
You have to be able to do anything to get your foot in the door. Don't be afraid to ask questions either. If you're in high school or in college and you want to become a sports broadcaster, contact the "voice" of your school and get advice there. Volunteer or get a student-worker gig at the sports information office. If your campus has a radio station, try to get involved in that.
Also, listen to as many broadcasters as possible. Don't think that you have to be a stand-up comedian like the guys on ESPN. That, in most cases, turns purists off. Get a good feel for the different types of approaches to broadcasts by listening and watching as many different talents as possible.
Don't get discouraged! Sports broadcasting is an extremely tough business. Not only is it tough to get involved in, but it's tough once you're in it. I was once very discouraged by the way I was treated and ended up writing down a quote and putting it next to my door so that I wouldn't let anyone make me feel that way anymore. The note says: "Those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
What factors affect sports broadcaster salaries?
I think sports broadcaster salaries are handled differently in the various broadcasting roles. I've learned from my own personal experience and through the experiences of friends that things can differ when it comes to college sports broadcaster salaries.
Many times when you take a look at job postings, you'll notice that they often don't list the sports broadcaster salaries. Or the posting might say, "salary commiserate with experience." In many cases that I've seen and heard, I don't find that to be true all the time. Sports broadcaster salaries can often be tied into several factors such as an athletic department's budget or outside sales figures.
I also think broadcasters that work at a school with a media rights holder have an edge in salary over those schools that do everything in house. Generally, those schools that do everything by themselves do not have the manpower, tools, and resources to sustain viable sales revenue to then add to their athletic departments' budgets and therefore offer to pay a good salary to their "voice."
Obviously, the big money is on the television side whether it be pro or college sports. If you're good enough to do both, that means more opportunity and bigger paychecks at the end of the day. I think if you diversify and do as many sports as possible while you're young, that gives you more time to get better. The better you get, combined with the more contacts you make, will often lead to opportunities. And just having the opportunity to do something you love, money aside, is something that you should soak up and enjoy.
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