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“Fly ball into right field!” “Touchdown!” “Goal!” These are just some of the expressions you'll hear from a sports commentator reporting live on the air. These knowledgeable, charismatic individuals provide the live play-by-play analysis of sporting events broadcast on television and radio stations. They also conduct interviews with athletes and provide post-game analysis. Only gifted commentators can make it in this highly competitive field. Hard work, natural talent and luck are crucial if you want to succeed.
Start preparing to be a sports commentator while still in high school. Fill your head with sports statistics and facts by reading sports magazines, watching games on TV, perusing sports almanacs and attending sporting events. Join your school’s AV or media club to gain experience working with broadcasting equipment. You may even get a chance to provide commentary for the school sports teams or report on games for the school paper. Take classes in public speaking, English, foreign languages and drama.
Choose a college with a strong broadcasting or communications department and apply for admission. Consider other important factors such as tuition costs, campus life, distance from home, quality of career services and alumni profile. Consider applying to a school in big city that is home to lots of sports stadiums and professional teams. Look for schools with strong athletics departments as well.
Obtain a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university. The Education-portal website recommends taking courses in relevant subjects such as mass media, media writing, communication law, audio production and broadcast journalism. Focus on developing your writing and oral communication skills by taking writing-intensive courses and courses that require public speaking.
Apply for, and complete, an internship at a radio or television station. Do this while still in college, if possible or wait until you’ve acquired a degree. Apply to local community television and radio stations, since they are more likely to give you that first-time opportunity. Big commercial stations also hire interns, but they are extremely competitive and may not be suitable arenas for someone just starting out in the business. Internships may provide college credit or monetary stipends. Use the internship to develop valuable skills, learn how the industry works and establish a network of professional contacts.
Gain experience working in the sports broadcasting industry. You’ll likely start at the bottom of the pecking order, perhaps as an assistant, a researcher, publicity personnel or other entry-level employee. Most big-time sports commentators started out in the same position as you, so don’t worry. Go above and beyond the call of duty when performing your job to impress your supervisors. Eventually, you may get a chance to be a personal assistant to a sportscaster and even get some airtime yourself. Be patient and your hard work is likely to pay off.
Join a professional organization to increase networking opportunities and expand your credentials. Examples include the American Sportscasters Association, which provides members with opportunities to express their opinions about the industry, and the National Association of Broadcasters, which hosts conferences and sends out newsletters.
Practice performing play-by-play analysis during games and ask for feedback from your peers.
Charlie Higgins is journalist, editor and translator based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has written for a variety of lifestyle and niche market websites, including International Food Trader, The Olive Oil Times, microDINERO, Sounds and Colours, Connecting Worlds and The Buenos Aires Reader.