Sports Broadcasting Tips
For Radio Beginners

The following was sent to the ASA by Bill O’Shaughnessy, President of Whitney Radio in New Rochelle, NY. It was written by Paul Tinkle of Thunderbolt Broadcasting in Martin, Tenn., and appeared in the Small Market Radio Newsletter.

Before you broadcast any game, make sure your phone lines are working. Check everything out ahead of time; go to the school, even if you were there last year. If the call is long distance, find out if there is a code you have to punch in. Some schools have key systems and you can’t hook up your equipment. (I use the Marti at home and the phone on the road.)

Always meet the coaches, athletic director and principal. Get the lineup or roster faxed to you ahead of time. Watch a practice or two. Find out what players to watch. Interview the coach before and after the games.

At halftime of the boys’ game, interview the girls’ coach. He or she is out of the locker room and this helps you fill time. Plus it keeps the listeners around at the half. At the end of the boys’ game, interview the boys’ coach (our post-game lasts 20 to 30 minutes). We try to do both coaches, starting with the visitor’s coach. That way he can get on the bus. Remember, the first thing the listeners do when they get in their car is turn the radio on.

Have your board operator listen to other games. Give the scores at halftime and at the end of the game on a scoreboard show.

Play-by-Play Tips:

Don’t call numbers. Call names and call them often. Give the score every time someone scores, and give the time often. Remember, the only things the listener really needs to know is: What’s the score? Who’s leading? How much time is left on the clock? What quarter is it?

Describe the gym – but never in a negative way, especially if you’re on the road. Bad PR will mean you’ll never be welcomed back. Describe the crowd. Why is the game important? For the district or regional standing, rivalry, etc.

Say every player’s name on the roster, including the manager, water boy, etc. Name the cheerleaders and their sponsor. Get a bio on the coach. Does he or she teach? If so, tell the listeners.

Describe the action. I use phrases like “pulls the trigger,” “lets it fly,” and “three if it goes,” when the ball is shot. Describe how far out (15 footer). Don’t yell, but sound interested and excited.

Don’t be critical of a call unless you’re darn sure that the ref blew it- and then be kind. “It looks like he missed that one but he’s done a great job tonight, and it’s difficult not to miss a couple.” Refs listen to the radio, and the last thing you want is a ref telling his or her buddies you’ve been hard on him or her.

Always set the defense: “Mount Vernon’s gone man to man, ” or, “in a one-three-one.” Set the offenses the same way.

When interviewing the coach, keep your questions short: “Coach, congratulations…” Then hush up. They’ll take it from there. Or in a loss: “That was a tough one tonight, coach…” Then hush up. The coach will let you know what he or she thought.

I’ve broadcast a lot of games where the team played lousy but the coach thought they played great. The last thing the coach wants is my opinion on the front end. You want his or her opinion. Remember, you’ve been on the air for the last two hours giving your opinion. The interview with the coach is what you want, not more of your opinion.

Be careful what you ask. You may not know about a kid’s problem at home, an undisclosed injury or discipline problem.

Finally, give the score again as you sign off (at the end of both games if you’re doing a doubleheader). I’ve tuned in a hundred times to other broadcasters at the tail end of the interview and they failed to give the score again.

One footnote: pay off the board operator with a compliment.