Group Critique 28: May 2019

This month we are featuring radio critiques of basketball, baseball and an interview. The TV critique features basketball play-by-play.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • A simple exercise to help you immediately find your big play voice
  • What it means for a play-by-play voice to get out of the library and onto the roller coaster
  • Two words to eliminate from your play-by-play vocabulary
  • An example of a strong interview question technique
  • Something you can get away with radio but not on TV
  • Good example of word economy in TV Play-by-Play


Find ESPN3 & Other Webcast NCAA Play-by-Play Opportunities

The following advice comes from an industry source who prefers to remain anonymous. Reap the wisdom from our generous benefactor!

With so many colleges and Minor League teams now moving to Web only productions like ESPN3, let’s look deeper into what the differences are and how to get your foot in the door.

Changes in how sports broadcasts are produced

Let’s first look at some differences of Web only productions. The old ESPN3 model has shifted over to ESPN+ for most conferences. What does that mean though?

For many viewers that means a small monthly fee to watch many of the same games that were included in their cable package. For others, it means being able to just pay the small fee and not being required to have a cable provider at all. This is important to note with the trend moving to an increase in cable cutting.

In terms of the schools and conferences it means big changes. If you search the Web hard enough, you will see press announcements with one common theme: Schools are now building out their own control rooms and producing games on campus versus hiring out local TV production companies to produce the games.

There are many full-scale content providers outside of ESPN

I define “full scale” as a live multi-camera video broadcast with dedicated broadcasters, graphics, and replay.

Along with ESPN & Fox, many tech companies now offer live full-scale streaming sports services. Facebook, Twitch, and YouTube are good examples. Many conferences in Division II have also decided to build their own channels on Roku. A few D-II schools are now moving to the E+ platform as well.

Long term ramifications of Web-only broadcasts

One common thing you see in the press releases is ESPN+ becoming a platform for not only football and basketball but all the major sports a school competes in. In most cases E+ is the exclusive home to a school or league’s coverage. It’s probably the most overlooked part of the contracts.

With more coverage comes an increase in demand for broadcasters. Now covering soccer, softball, volleyball, lacrosse, wrestling and other secondary or Olympic sports is more important than before. Schools may find more conflicts with multiple broadcasts happening on one day. This opens doors for more broadcasters.

How do I get in?

If you are looking to break in to the TV/video streaming world, first do some homework before reaching out to potential employers.

1. Think outside of your home base

Maybe you live near a city that has a major Power 5 NCAA program close by, but within a 90-minute drive there are 3-5 other programs that also air games live; Not to mention a number of Minor League and Independent league teams in that same radius.

2. Locate distribution details

Once you locate the teams, you next need to locate the distribution details. Review schedules to see which sports a school airs on which platform. Many of these details are publicly available with a quick Google search.

Look at some of the secondary sports. Chances are that football, basketball, and baseball are already covered by the a broadcaster that works year-round.

You then have a decent idea of how many sports a school covers and on which platform.

3. Look for local tournaments

Be sure to look at your area to see if they host any kind of tournaments. Florida, for example, hosts several college tournaments.

The organizers crewing those events often look for local broadcasters so they don’t have to pay travel expenses.

4. If you’re a college student, maximize the opportunity to gain reps and demo material

The interesting thing about broadcast trends is that student involvement is at an all-time high.

Many schools around the county use current or very recent students to fill out broadcast positions throughout the year. These positions often include sideline reporters, pre/post game reporters, or a play by play broadcaster for “Olympic Sports”.

Reach out and see if you can be in a broadcast assistant role like a spotter, stage manager, or stats person. These roles often have you sitting directly beside the broadcasters and you can learn a lot from just watching. Plus, you are now in the door and only one person getting sick or quitting away from being on air.

What should I include on TV/video streaming demo?

TV is different from radio in what to include on a demo.

Include an open

Shooting an open is a VERY important thing that producers look at when evaluating talent.

Demonstrate your ability to execute the details

Little things like getting in and out of breaks smoothly and ALWAYS having one eye on the program monitor are important.

Nothing is more frustrating than when a broadcaster is talking about something different than what is on the screen (which may be a graphic, featured player, or replay).

Edit the broadcast down

Include a number of short clips that show different aspects of the broadcast. Nobody has time to fumble through a link to a 3-hour broadcast.

How do I get TV/video demo material?

If you need to make a demo or even need some extra reps here are a couple suggestions:

Look a level down

Go to the high school level and see if a local high school does any video broadcasting. Many states have live broadcasts of football and basketball. Some just layer a radio call or may not use broadcasters at all.

Look to the D-II and D-III levels

Reach out and see if you can bring a camera, microphone, and tripod to do your own segments.

In a pinch, grab a special cable, mic, and tripod to record a standup using your smartphone. Even major broadcasters are using smartphones for productions!

Group Critique 27: April 2019

Your April group critique includes an interview, plus play-by-play critiques of football and basketball.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • A helpful technique for asking good questions.
  • The interview equivalent of time and score.
  • Why it’s important to ask open-ended questions.
  • Right and wrong ways to give the score.
  • Various ways to convey energy and drama.
  • What basketball voices should be doing instead of narrating every pass.
  • Terrific examples of plots, subplots and character development.


Group Critique 26: March 2019

Fitting that a month of March Madness should feature an all-basketball edition of the Group Critique with both radio and TV Play-by-Play up for review.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Where pauses will quickly improve your basketball play-by-play.
  • The two most important differences between radio & TV play-by-play.
  • How to handle one of the biggest play-by-play challenges.
  • Suggestions for overcoming a nasally delivery.
  • A common word to avoid in your play-by-play.
  • When to mention which team has the ball other than after a change of possession.


Best Advice For Hockey Play-by-Play

The following advice comes from friend of STAA, Matt Dumouchelle.

Before the game

1. Do your research

If possible, get a game tape or audio from the team to get comfortable with their lineups. Coaches will change lines open during games, but as an example, the #1 and #2 power play and penalty kill units normally stay the same. If you can nail down those units it will make a difference during the game.

2. Talk to the coaches

If you are doing pregame interviews for your broadcast, that is the perfect time. Record your conversation and then ask afterwards who he likes playing together, if he matches up lines etc. Some coaches will be hesitant to divulge that information, but even knowing #12’s line will always be out against #97’s line, it’s something you can watch for.

3. Warmup like it’s a game

The best time to nail down the rosters for each team is in warmups. All players are on the ice, it’s moving fast and it keeps your eyes active. Every time you read a number, say the name, even do a quick line or two of what he’s doing when you notice him. You can also use this time to pick up intricacies about the player (skating style, appearance – long hair, tucked in jersey etc).

During the game

1. Time and score

Just like any sport, you will always have people popping in and out of your broadcast. Giving the time of the period should almost be done every other whistle. Give the score every 3-4 whistles.

You don’t want to be overloading the game with only time and score because there are several things you would miss out on (being more detailed with who scored the goals, shots, sponsor reads) but those are the two biggest pieces of information the listener always wants to know.

2. Save the inflection

Hockey is a fast paced sport and has many up and down moments in a short period of time. The one thing I always key in on is not to sound too hyped all the time. A shot on goal from the blue line is seen and saved easily does not have the same emphasis as a shot on the power play through traffic that hits the goalie and slides behind him.

If you try to make every scoring chance or shot sound like a Game 7 winner, you will tire yourself out and the listener.

3. Lay off the refs

Referees can be blamed for pretty much every game a team loses. Missed calls, calls that shouldn’t have been made, waved off goals – countless things. It is not your job to decide if they made the right call or not. You are the communicator and instrument for the listener, you aren’t a fan or a coach.

Describe the call, announce the power play is coming for whatever team and prepare to call the game, as much as humanly possible leave your opinion of the call to yourself.

4. Track the centers

Don’t do this to the point that it takes away or distracts from your broadcast but if you see #12 out against #97 all the time, make a note of it to help keep track of who is on the ice. One of the more chaotic times of a game is at a whistle when both teams switch lines, that’s 10 skaters off and 10 skaters on without much time to see who is who. If you can identify which center is coming on the ice for each team, in most cases you will be able to identify who the wingers will be.

5. Take your eye off the puck…for a moment

In live action, you can easily get caught missing a line change or penalty behind the play if you are only focused on the puck. Perfect example, if the puck is dumped in at the red line, be more concerned about who is coming on and off the ice at that moment than the puck being collected behind the net.

It will only be a few seconds but just as the team with the puck regroups, you can take that time to regroup and identify who is on the ice.

6. Use your vocabulary

There is an incredible Google image of New Jersey Devils announcer Mike Emrick using 153 different verbs to describe how the puck is moved in a game. If you use a fifth of that your game will sound clean and exciting. The puck isn’t always shot, it’s angled, blasted, tapped, sent, slipped and swatted.

Group Critique 25: February 2019

Love basketball? Then this is the group critique month for you: Jon is reviewing four clips, three basketball and one football.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • A good example of how you can make your listeners care about your broadcast.
  • A “small investment, big reward” technique for conveying emotions of players and coaches to your audience.
  • Advice for controlling tempo in your basketball broadcasts.
  • The play-by-play fundamental that is similar to a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
  • Great examples of how you can hear a smile on radio and why it matters in your broadcasts.


Work in Esports

Esports is a rapidly growing section of the broadcasting industry. The following advice comes from an industry insider who prefers to remain anonymous.

Do you love broadcasting sports and playing video games? Esports may be a perfect gig for you to explore.

Esports broadcasts have been embraced by not only major networks like Turner Sports, Disney, and others, but virtually every tech company as well. Even pro sports leagues are offering Esports divisions to connect more with millennials.

Gain Experience

Find matches to broadcast online and stay with what you know! Much like calling traditional sports, Esports requires a certain skill set. Knowledge of the video game being played is a must.

Promote Yourself

Let the world see what you are doing. Two ideas:

  1. Ask the league you are covering to make a post on their website
  2. Link to your work on popular community sites

Hit the Job Market

Look around your area to see who is hosting large competitions. Research to find the platforms upon which the competitions are being broadcast.

As of 2020, casters for these sports are in especially high demand:

  • League of Legends
  • Overwatch
  • Counter-Strike
  • Fortnite
  • StarCraft II
  • Heroes
  • Starfighter 5
  • Apex Legends

Not all Esports air on Twitch

Other platforms include:

  • YouTube Live Gaming
  • Mixer
  • Facebook Gaming
  • Steam TV
  • Caffeine

Another Twitch note is that they are moving into live sports programming with the addition of NBA G-League broadcasts, among others.

Group Critique 24: January 2019

Ringing in the new year with a new round of radio critiques in the basketball and hockey departments.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • A common mistake in description that hurts more than it helps.
  • How to increase your energy without sounding over the top.
  • Examples of what basketball broadcasters should do instead of narrating every pass.
  • A unique, effective description to add to your basketball vocabulary


Group Critique 23: December 2018

Ho ho hope you pick up some useful tips from this month’s group critique session. Radio critiques of basketball and football play-by-play plus a double helping of football TV play-by-play.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • When using the shot clock becomes a PBP crutch
  • How to tell if you’ve prepared well for your football broadcast
  • When to watch the field and when to watch the monitor


Group Critique 22: November 2018

Your November critique session includes football, baseball, volleyball and sports talk.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Two techniques for instantly improving your voice quality, regardless of how good it might already be
  • Examples of great description for football broadcasters
  • How thinking of a football field as being sloped will help your broadcast
  • The five letter word to avoid to make your broadcasts more personal
  • The one thing you should do in every sports talk monologue segment