The Background…

The electric atmosphere of a stadium is created through a collaborative effort by the players and home crowd as well as some nicely-timed audio-visual effects. It’s this advantage that enabled NFL teams to post a nearly 60% winning percentage when playing at home from 2001 – 2011. Home court has a tangible and intangible advantage in sports. A necessary ingredient in this concoction is the Public Address (PA) Announcer—often overlooked and rarely a household name. True Yankee fans recognize the name Michael Kay, the team’s play-by-player announcer, but few diehard followers know its PA Announcer, Paul Olden. And fans know Vin Scully, Joe Buck and Marv Albert, voices that boom through television speakers around the nation. But at the stadium, the PA Announcer is charged with revving up the crowd and keeping fans informed—necessary parts of a successful fan experience.

Public Address Announcers are present at all home gamesit’s a seasonal joband hold a range of responsibilities. When the lights dim and a spotlight beams down on the home bench, it’s the PA Announcer introducing the basketball team’s starting lineup. As the cleanup hitter trots to home plate at the ballpark, the PA Announcer calls his name and jersey number. And when there are player substitutions and in-game injuries, both inevitabilities, the announcer tells the fans at the stadium. To avoid moments of downtime during breaks in the action, teams fill each minute with something—dancing mascots, racing children, military tributes and photo ops for sponsors all fill out the event card. The PA Announcer guides the evening’s events much like a Master of Ceremonies at a wedding; use the microphone to prompt event staff on their duties as well as steer the eyes of fans to the action.

The position requires vocal talent—timbre, range and inflection. Linguistics study is also important to grow into a successful PA Announcer. Larry Johnson is easy to say—Giannis Adetokoubo is not. Learn how to pronounce the names of coaches and players on the home and visiting teams, from the star quarterback to the third string safety. The job also demands a deep understanding of the game and the team you represent. Know the sport’s rules as well as the ins-and-outs of your own team. To become a number one PA Announcer, you must energize and inform the crowd while letting the play on the field speak for itself. There are moments in a game when silence speaks the loudest.

The Path…

Formal training isn’t necessary to become a Public Address Announcer. It’s truly all about the experience and the talent. Unless you’re well connected, accept that starting at the bottom and working your way upwards is the reality. The part-time position may be volunteer to begin; find a nearby high school that’s seeking a basketball, baseball or football PA Announcer. On-the-job training will make your career; watch and listen to experts in the field to pick up on good habits and avoid the bad ones. And learn the fundamentals of the business as you gosound equipment is complex and powerful.

It might take months and it may take years but your seasoning will eventually open doors to step through. Always watch for open auditions—the Padres and Red Sox have both done it in the recent past. It’s an opportunity to show off your talents and skip a few steps in the process. Collegiate public address announcing is a major step forward whether you’re in Division I or at a lower level. Start making connections in the business to get your name circulating amongst athletic directors and other power players in the field. It may require some job hopping but, with a little luck and a lot of talent, you’ll find your way down a challenging but rewarding career path.

The Money…

Part-time, seasonal, volunteer, full-timethe PA Announcer job comes in more than one package. It’s that reason which makes it a tough job to categorize pay-wise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated a median annual wage of $26,232 for the position, as of May 2012. But as your career progresses into larger markets with bigger organizations, part-time will become full-time and your paycheck will grow. For you, the role of Public Address Announcer may be unexpected supplemental income or turn into a full-time paycheck. Either way, enjoy the thrill of being a team’s voice and the fans’ guide at the stadium. It’s a dream worth chasing for those with a spark in their voice and a love of sports.  

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