This article is not meant to be a primer for those interested in being professional talent.
Instead, it is meant to help the production crew understand the talent's role and responsibilities.
The talent needs to know their specific role in the production and understand the vision of the director and producer. The play-by-play person should have the ability to call a sporting event with a concise description of the action, while maintaining a natural delivery. The role of the color commentator or analyst is to enhance the broadcast by adding specific and important information, while interacting with the play-byplay announcer.
Play-by-Play Sportscast Training
Many times, former athletes or coaches are chosen for the role of analyst since an in-depth knowledge of the sport is required. While the play-by-play person describes who the athletes are and what they are doing, the analyst is responsible for explaining to the viewer why the athletes did what they did.
Research"With the competing television channels, newspapers, magazines, and Internet, television commentators have the difficult task of being innovative every time they are on the air. The audience tires of listening to the same information and the same statistics. Research is the commentator's weapon in being able to comment on the really important issues and describe the images provided to the audience with the maximum drama."
The talent is responsible for being thoroughly familiar with the event, which involves a tremendous amount of research. Of course, the extent of the research required varies based on the size of the event.
To prepare for a production, talent should:
• Study the teams and players (know numbers and names so that they can be easily identified).
• Study team and player strategies.
• Study supplemental information from team publicity offices, contacts, and press clippings. Read newspapers, Internet sites, and articles, talk to and/or interview coaches and team members.
The announce booth is designed to give announcers immediate access to information about the event and athletes.
Before going on the air it is imperative that all equipment is checked to make sure that it is working properly. While this may happen during the facilities check, microphones, intercoms, and monitors should be double checked right before air.
The play-by-play person is almost always in the lead with the color commentator playing a supportive role. Commentators generally work out a signal to let each other know when they want to step into the broadcast. However, the play-by-play person usually determines who will talk.
Talent input should complement the visual component. Don't state the obvious. As former ABC commentator Keith Jackson liked to say the role of the sportscaster is to amplify, clarify, and punctuate. Sometimes there are moments when it is important not to talk allowing the event to speak for itself.
Sportscaster James Brown stated that the influx of ex-athletes and coaches (to television) can be a plus. They "have a wonderful way of telling riveting stories and they, more than anyone, understand what the athletes on the field are going through. But unquestionably, the successful ones are those who know they have to put in the time, that they have to work as hard in television as they did (as athletes)."
Announcers must keep one eye on the field and the other on the air monitor in the booth. The game is actually called from the monitor. Most booths also include an additional monitor that shows the announcer the slow motion footage. The challenge commentators face is the numerous tasks that they must do at once-they must watch the field, watch the monitor, listen to the director and/or producer and still make sense to the viewing audience.
"The key to good interviewing is to find the things that aren't so obvious. Interviewers should strive to get responses that tell us something we don't know or something that adds a level of depth to the scene."
The secret is to know (the athlete), if not personally then at least by having read about him or her, to know what their interests are and what they like to talk about. Get them going on what is familiar, easy ground for them and you have the makings of a good interview. Interviews are another essential part of sports broad casting. There are a number of basic rules that need to be kept in mind when conducting an interview:
• Guests need to know the amount of time allocated for the interview. They usually range from 20 seconds to a few minutes.
• Commentators need to communicate their goals for the interview to the guest.
• The commentator should let the guest know how they plan to close the interview.
• Unless using separate microphones, the commentator should always control the micro phone so they can decide who will speak. Commentators determine who will speak by aiming the microphone at the talent or at themselves.
• In order to obtain a good response from the athlete, commentators should always ask questions that require more than a yes/no answer.
Go Beyond the Obvious
Asking the right questions when doing interviewing is key to obtaining great story coverage. However, it is sometimes tough to know how far to push or just how to elicit the information that you need. Joe Gisondi has the following suggestions to think about as an interviewer:
• Athletes are people, and people make mistakes. Don't shy away from asking a player or a coach what his/her rational was behind a bad play. You can present a different side other than critiquing how wrong that last play was.
• Bring a fresh perspective. Think about what other angles there are or find fresh sources.
• Talk about the big plays, but don't forget to discuss what led up to them. Who were the playmakers?
• Know the terminology of the sports you are covering.
• The coaches and players know more than you do. Use them as a resource.
• Go to practices and establish relationships.
Let them see that you are going to portray them in the most accurate light possible.
• Don't create heroes/villains, state what is there.
• Talk to multiple people. The more perspective you have the more educated you will be to decipher a player's strengths/weaknesses and what they need to improve.
Spotters are often used in the announce booth or in various positions around the field of play to help announcers and the director identify the various players and to point out significant developments during the competition. The stage manager is generally responsible for the broadcast booth, including assisting the commentator and giving them requested information.