Sports broadcasting jobs are a thrill, bringing an emotional charge to daily life the way few other jobs can. Stepping into a stadium’s broadcast booth or standing in front of a camera before the red light blinks on brings out both nerves and adrenaline, even to the most experienced media members. Professional and amateur sports continue their growth in American society as fans search for fun, new sporting entertainment. In addition to the sports staples – NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA, National Hockey League – others leagues like Major League Soccer (MLS) and UFC show continued signs of growth. The MLS will continue its expansion, with New York City FC set to begin play in 2015 and four additional teams slated to join the fray by 2020. New sports leagues, along with continued growth in existing leagues, have helped create a sports broadcasting boom in America.
As with many jobs in the sports industry, broadcasting job responsibilities aren’t always clear. Sports broadcasters, also known as commentators, fill a variety of positions in the business. Most commonly, they cover teams on game day, doing play-by-play or color commentary as a game unfolds. Play-by-play hosts enhance games being broadcast on one or more media channels – television, radio and internet. Fans watching a game on TV can see what’s happening but broadcasters know the players and their stories, describing the action and prompting the team’s color commentator with questions and other talking points. The color commentator, or analyst, takes what fans are watching to the next level. Instead of seeing a series of pitches that end in a strike out, fans will understand why the pitcher threw two outside fastballs followed by a down-and-in curveball. And great analysts, often ex-athletes, use their own experiences to help fans relate to what is being witnessed. Stories of past playing days are used to teach viewers about the game and, often times, bring humor to the experience. Beyond game day work, broadcasters discuss sports on radio waves and television screens, previewing and recapping games, and discussing off-field happenings including: trades, signings, off-field incidents, hirings and firings. Becoming a promoter of the organization or media company you work for is a given, doing interviews or hosting events is well within bounds. And, while it normally goes unsaid, countless hours of game study keep broadcasters well-informed and properly prepared for their time on-air. Sports organizations need engaging broadcasters to draw in fans and educate them on the intricacies of the game. There is certainly more to it than what you witness on-air and, it’s that preparation, along with some flare, that makes a broadcaster stand out in the crowd.
Top-tier broadcasters want to work games for the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball and NHL. Those analyst and play-by-play jobs don’t come available often and, when they do, they’re filled by those with years of experience. That’s not to say you can’t become a highly compensated, prominently known broadcaster; it means you need to put in the time to get to that level. Sports organizations of all sorts seek well-spoken, knowledgeable, enthusiastic broadcasters to fill open positions. There are scores of amateur and college teams that, at one time or another, need to fill play-by-play or color commentator positions. As you add to your portfolio and improve your resume, major sports organizations will become interested in you. Though you won’t find a job listing in your local paper or at the job fair, broadcast positions are out there across America, promoted through sports job boards and team websites.
In broadcasting, it’s best to find your own tone and style. Emulating Vin Scully, Harry Caray or Marv Albert will only draw disdain from industry power players. While mimicking others won’t take you far, studying the best in the business is a must. Watch how NBC’s Bob Costas presents a monologue, using emotional expressions and powerful words to draw in viewers. Believe that Joe Buck successfully handles Fox national football and baseball broadcasts because of his commitment to his craft and willingness to stay abreast of all the goings-on. And hear the passion that comes from the voices of Al Michaels and Marv Albert as a big game draws to a close. Color commentators bring their own value to the table; people like Steve Kerr, Troy Aikman and Steve Stone prove that sports analysis can hold the interest of a hardcore fan and teach a more casual fan at the same time. Watching the best broadcasters in the world is wise but finding local mentors to learn from will really make the difference. Whether you live in a big city or a small town, there are likely amateur teams somewhere in the area. Reach out to the personalities that broadcast their games, either through organizational channels or directly, if you can obtain their contact information. Offer to take them to lunch or coffee, seeking advice and perspective on the industry. And see if you can shadow them in the booth during a game. Guidance from those already in the business is invaluable to someone looking to grow their career. And, while it’s somewhat hit-or-miss, you’ll find that many local broadcasters want to give back and help newcomers enter the field. Studying best practices is common in all industries and it’s no different in broadcasting. Watch the best, find your own voice and be willing to start small and work your way up to become a successful broadcaster.