Five Tips you Need to Follow if you Want a Play-by-Play Job

play by play jobs become a play by play announcer

Becoming a play-by-play announcer isn’t as daunting if you follow the advice of veteran broadcaster Doug McLeod.

Breaking into play-by-play announcing seems to be the most daunting of all career choices. It’s easy to become focused on the big sports and the big names and think, ‘I can’t beat that’.

Well, that’s true, right now you can’t (just being honest).

Guys like Vin Scully, Kevin Harlan, Jim Nantz and Mike Tirico have been refining their craft for years; studying, practicing, researching, learning from mistakes, taking advice from mentors.

You can’t match them now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get there.

Stop thinking about the NFL on Sunday and start thinking about minor league baseball, small college football, internet broadcasts, Olympic sports and a host of other play-by-play opportunities and you’ll begin to realize there is a starting point for you out there.

The internet has opened up the marketplace, giving prospective play-by-play announcers a forum for displaying their talents they didn’t have before. But it takes more than just doing it, you have to do it right.

Five Tips you Need to Follow for a Career in Play by Play #sportsbiz Click To Tweet

Veteran Hockey play-by-play announcer Doug McLeod recently shared with us some of his biggest tips he’s learned from over 35 years broadcasting sports.

Tip #1: At The Beginning…

Start by trying to call some games by yourself off a TV or computer screen. The idea here is to get comfortable with the organization and pacing required to call a game.

My advice, don’t do this with your buddies around you won’t be able to take it seriously or you’ll be more worried about how you look to them.

Take it seriously; do it by yourself.

Advanced Tip: Record the audio of your efforts on something, perhaps your phone or computer so you can critique your work. A webcam can work really well, but the most important part of play-by-play announcing is the audio so make sure the quality of the recording is top notch.

Tip #2: Hit the Road 

When you’ve done a few of these, it’s time to go to real events. The object here is to record yourself doing actual games, on-site.

Don’t just show up and try to pull this off from the stands. Way too many people will be annoyed! Clear it with the facility manager or head coach ahead of time.

Be very straightforward with them: “I’m working on becoming a professional play-by-play announcer, I take this very seriously, and I’d like to find a location where I can set out my notes and call the game into a recorder without bothering anybody.”

You will almost always receive a positive and even enthusiastic response.

Advanced Tip: Be smart about where you try to achieve this type of practice, you are not going to stroll into Lambeau Field and ask for a private room to practice your play-by-play job skills.

play by play jobs announcer high school football

High School Football is a good place to practice your craft if you want to be a play by play announcer (Photo Courtesy: OregonLive.com)

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Big Colleges, Smaller Sports: Hockey, Soccer, Baseball, Track, Volleyball, Swimming, Field Hockey.
  2. Smaller Colleges, Big Sports: Football, Basketball.
  3. Minor Leagues: Hockey, Baseball, NBDL
  4. Niche Sports: Arena Football, Lacrosse, CFL, MLS
  5. High School: Basketball, Football, Soccer, Baseball

Tip #3: Listen With a Critical Ear

After you’ve successfully recorded a number of actual games, listen back to them with a very critical ear and tweak your next performance accordingly.

Don’t be your own cheerleader and don’t beat yourself up, find a middle point where you pick up on positives and strive to change negatives.

Advanced Tip: It will be awkward at first to listen to yourself. If you can, try to think of it like you are listening to someone else and learning what you like or don’t like about their style. I know it sounds kind of metaphysical, but I find many people have trouble getting past their own voice and doing an honest critique.

Tip #4: Get Distribution

Look around your market for an outlet that could carry your work on a regular basis. This might be a cable TV channel, community access TV, a suburban radio station with limited resources or the internet.

internet radio for play by play jobs

Internet radio has provided an opportunity to get your voice heard much easier than in years past

Pay? Forget about it. This is where you really create your career.

The internet provides an incredible opportunity for you to get on the air that didn’t exist when I was getting started in the business, so tap into it!

High School is the easiest entry point.

Approach the school’s athletic director and offer to do their games on the internet if they’ll provide access and an internet connection. Most High Schools don’t have any distribution and would love the extra promotion for their program. There is no risk in letting you broadcast their games on the internet so it’s usually an easy sell.

If you’re sharp, you’ll find a way to sell a few ads to help bring in a little revenue, too — which you will share with the school.

Here’s what you need to make this a reality:

  1. Laptop
  2. At least one quality microphone
  3. Headphones
  4. Small Mixer (optional, but not really if you are serious)how to prepare for your sports job search ebook

A small mixer allows you to add crowd noise or a second announcer, which will increase the value of your production greatly. Basic small mixers with USB connections are available for under $60 so there’s no excuse for not having one.

Mixing your games yourself not only provides a more polished broadcast but also gets you into the very important habit of minding your own audio levels and avoiding over-modulation.

Advanced Tip: Pumping too much audio onto the Internet will absolutely kill the digital signal with grunge (not the flannel kind) and may even knock you off the air.

Tip #5: You’re Ready for Action, now do it Right

This is the point in your career where you develop three incredibly important habits before you ever go on the air with a real broadcast:

  1. PREPARE: Get whatever information you can find, organize it in a way that you can use it at a moment’s notice, and be sure you have the pronunciation of every single player on both teams down cold.
  2. EARLY IS ON TIME: Put yourself in the mindset that you are by arriving in plenty of time to park, find your assigned location, get squared away with things like electric outlets, a chair, whatever, and have your notes organized.
  3. DRESS FOR SUCCESS: I am appalled at how sloppily I see some small market radio people dress at games. the fact that you can get away with wearing jeans and a baseball cap and not shaving for a week doesn’t mean you should ever appear that way at a broadcast, real or otherwise.

You absolutely must do all these things when you move up to a professional career so you might as well begin at the beginning. In addition, you’ll feel professional, which is incredibly important.

Advanced Tip: You never know who is in the crowd at any game, at any time, so always act as if your play-by-play idol or your dream employer is listening and watching. Be prepared to put your best foot forward, you don’t get advanced notice when your big break is about to happen.

Doug McLeod’s Final Thought

Becoming a professional play-by-play announcer doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a lot of work.

By doing all these things you will prepare yourself for the big day when you put together a resume and short audio demo and apply for a job at a radio station. Don’t listen to the naysayers, a job in play-by-play is possible if you put in the work!

Summary
Five Tips you Need to Follow if you Want a Play-by-Play Job
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Five Tips you Need to Follow if you Want a Play-by-Play Job
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Tips for becoming a play by play announcer from veteran NHL commentator Doug MacLeod who has been the voice of four different NHL teams over his 35 year career
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WorkinSports.com
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About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the sports media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently, Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, do it.

And if you want to know where our privacy policy is before you submit your comments below, it's right here.

Comments

  1. HI.. I liked what you had to say to get “started.” However, my situation’s a little different. I’ve done “play-by-play” and Color work for high school sports 25 years ago.
    Problem: After a very successful radio career, though getting side-tracked & veering off into news, music hosting and talk show hosting in a Major Market, I’m hankering to get back into my original reason for going into radio–sports announcing. My voice is still in good shape and I sound younger that my age.

    I don’t have a tape, of course, but how would I jump back into sports announcing? Start from the beginning, as you showed eloquently “how to” above, or just get a “tape” together an approach a larger market “Athletic Director,” or person “in charge” of such things?
    I’m 65 and.being older, would those hiring an announcer possibly employ someone like me? with some experience? Or, should I just forget about it?
    I’m admittedly a little confused HOW to approach this at this point in time.
    Can you offer any advice? I’d appreciate ANYTHING you might have to say.. Thank you!

    Doug

    • Great question Doug – you do have a unique situation. My question is this – are you doing it for the love, or because you want/need the income. I ask because if it’s just about the love I”d reach out to small college athletic programs and tell them your story and experience. You may not get paid much but it’ll give you the chance ot build back up again and who knows it could turn into more. If it’s for the income, you’d need to jump up faster and that could be more difficult. Do you have a certain sports expertise? If you do, start there – if it’s a smaller niche sport you may have better luck advancing fast since the supply of talent may not be there. I hope this helps, stay in touch! – Brian

      • Nichols Rocca says:

        Hello sir I am 15 yers old and in the tenth grade I am trying to have a career as a play by play man my dream job is to be play by play man for the university of florida I am starting to do some work for my high school football and basketball team I was wondering what do I have to do to get to be a play by play man does it reqire acollege education and after high school do I find a college or find work to be a high school or junior college announcer

        • Nichols – thanks for reading. Yes, a college education is important for this role, since you need to learn a great deal about television production, improve your writing, make professional contacts and more. – Best of luck, Brian

    • Brian, I am a senior at Barstow School in Kansas City. We have developed a sport show we televise bi-weekly. Any suggestions would be appreciated, Jonathan Felton. http://livestream.com/accounts/1216819/events/6432915?origin=stream_live&mixpanel_id=13895b82a161e1-0ff107da1-30415162-100200-13895b82a17705&acc_id=6396206&medium=email

  2. Thank you for this article, ironically enough I have done these steps. I did them two years ago and have worked hard on the craft. I did play by play for an amateur football team for two seasons and have landed a 3 team broadcasting deal with a new professional football league. So if you know anyone in the Oklahoma City area that is a practiced play by play announcer, let me know (jeffmagmedia.com). I am also looking for anyone in the Houston area/San Antonio area. Thanks again for this article, I have helped a couple of guys learn the craft as well and will refer them to this page. It is very helpful and informative.

    • Jeff thanks for writing in – glad you enjoyed the article. If we hear of anyone in the Texas-Oklahoma area looking for play by play work we’ll have them contact you. Glad to hear after taking these steps you are finding success! And thanks for referring our page to others…-Brian

  3. Andrew Acuna says:

    Great article! I’m looking to become a play-by-play announcer for baseball and luckily I have a radio station at my college. Only problem is we don’t have an athletic team for me to hone my skills. Where should I go from here?

    • Thanks Andrew – we appreciate you reading and commenting! First off, start doing whatever play by play is available at your college…even if it’s volleyball and field hockey, you are learning valuable parts of being a play by play voice – including pace, information, research, timing etc. – and also building a resume/demo reel. Start talking to other colleges in the region, see if they have a baseball program and would let you set up play by play as we describe in the article. As you build your resume and talents consider the MLB winter meetings, you aren’t going to get a job with the Padres, but there are hundreds of minor league teams looking for talented play by play voices. I’ve talked to makny baseball play by play people who got their start in the minors after meeting and networking at the winter meetings. – Brian

  4. I’m definitely going about this a roundabout way. But I am taking your point about using the internet to a whole new level. I created a pet project called Michigan Sports Beat on facebook and started live streaming audiocasts of the Professional sports in Michigan to youtube. It is slowly gaining a head of steam and I’m actually very excited about it. Is there anywhere I can go with these recordings to get them critiqued by someone other than myself? I Think they are fantastic to anyone but me… Only because I cant stand the sound of my own voice doing it. Multiple opinions from friends , family and also complete strangers say that they are fantastic and my growth in viewership has proven that. Now how can I get these recordings to the more serious markets?

    Feel free to listen and tell me what you think as well…all of the videos are at youtube.com/misportsbeat

    • Chris – congrats on your project, it sounds like you have been proactive and shown great initiative….those are great traits. I’ve gotten out of the critiquing business because it turns out no one really wants constructive criticism. As a former news director I evaluated reels for a living, so I would analyze submissions in the same manner and give very detailed reports to people. My goal was to help them get better, but all it ever did was make people mad at me..I think they just wanted someone to say ‘you’re awesome!’

      I get it, it’s hard to hear criticism. Suffice it to say if your audience is growing that is the best metric/feedback you could ever get. Keep at it, and as your audience continues to grow start reaching out to potential advertisers and monetize! – Brian

      P.S. Maybe another one of our very intelligent and talented audience members would want to provide feedback?

      • I am just a factory worker that loves sports…. my question is do these steps help someone in my situation having no schooling past high school or is there more that I should be doing?? I’ve always been Intrested in a sports related career but never had the funds to go to school

        • Paul thanks for commenting – the short answer is talent speaks. Look at the homeless guy a few years back with the “golden voice” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rPFvLUWkzs) he didn’t have any extra schooling…just natural talent. I’d say the most likely plan to find success is through schooling and the steps we outline… but that’s not to say it’s the only one. Keep working at it Paul – Brian

  5. Logan Ross says:

    Excellent article. I’m 20 years old and have always wanted to be a play by play broadcaster in particular with basketball. People have always told me it was too hard to get into the field, but I know I have a gift. I got a studio job at the local radio station operating the board during basketball games (which I hated) when I was 18. After that I got a job doing play by play for football games around the area where I live and they would air on tape delay on a local channel. I absolutely loved it. And I knew that I was meant to do this. While doing that, I was attending a community college. I am going to receive my Associates degree this month and have decided to go to a small University where I will be able to do play by play and color commentary for basketball, as well as play by play for baseball, softball, and volleyball. I will be there for 2 years. I was wondering what would your advice be for when I get done with college? Or between now and then?
    Thank you,
    Logan

    • Logan – great to hear how ambitious you are, you are getting involved and building up your name and demo reel – congrats, it sounds like you are off to a great start. Here are a couple of other resources for you from our blog that are worth reading and learning from.
      We just published a three part series with John Strong, lead play by play voice of the MLS on NBC Sports – he has some great insight:
      http://www.workinsports.com/blog/how-to-become-a-sports-broadcaster/
      http://www.workinsports.com/blog/becoming-a-sports-broadcaster-advice-from-a-professional/
      Part three publishes on Wednesday and involves advice on game prep)
      http://www.workinsports.com/blog/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-play-by-play-announcer/

      That should keep you busy for a while.

      As far as what to do after graduation – sports radio is a great place to start building a network and making contacts in the play by play world and we have lots of jobs there, I know a few play by play announcers who got their first gigs by going to the baseball winter meetings and networking there with demo reel in hand (and not necessarily for baseball jobs). While you are in school start making connections with your college athletic conference – set up an informational interview with someone in the conference and find out how they hire their play by play talent. Also, consider learning the skills necessary to be a production assistant at a sports network – that can get you in the door and again networking with executives in charge of decision making, other sportscasters and play by play voices. When I was the news Director at Fox Sports Northwest we’d have legendary play by play guys like Kevin Calabro, Dave Niehaus and Rick Rizz walking the halls everyday – these are the people you want to learn from! We have tons of production assistant jobs too… so learn thse skills and be well-rounded. Hope this helps – Brian

  6. William Willes says:

    I’m a freshman in college. What schooling would I need to be a play by play announcer. Im hoping to becoming like the radio guy who does the play by play for a college (basketball and football). What classes do you think I should be taking? Great article by the way!

    • William – happy you enjoyed the article, notice in one of the other comments I answered this question in great detail and included other links to articles on our site. As for classes you should be taking – becoming a play by play announcer is more about on the job training, so get involved in your schools athletic department, start doing play by play for all the smaller sports, start up a webcast or look into opportunities at local high schools through NFHS network. Build your demo reel and network like crazy. In school learn everything there is about TV and radio production – you are much more valuable play by play guy if you can also understand the priciples of making TV….also when you first start out you could be a one man band…meaning you do it all! – Hope this helps – Brian

  7. Brian,

    I am a sales and marketing guy for a small private school. I have done public address prior at other institutions but am just beginning to get into play by play. Tomorrow will be my first night doing play by play for mens volleyball actually. I have done public speaking all throughout the country for different functions, but the “one man shop” play by play just seems to be a daunting task. Any further advice on doing it solo? I have practiced already, feel comfortable with the sport, and can talk anyone’s ear off (typical sales guy, right?!). My concern is the silence throughout the game and repetition. Thoughts, suggestions, tips? Thank you!

    Sincerely,
    Jon

  8. This is an excellent article and I feel so fortunate to have come across it. Thanks Brian for posting it and Doug for giving all of us valuable insight. I would never think to try this, but now I will. I got nothing to lose really.

  9. David Hughes says:

    Hello,

    I’ve already practiced a ton and now am in the process of just recording some demos and trying to get my foot in the door somewhere. For doing our first live events, what are some good websites for hosting the broadcasts live, either free or at the very least affordable? Back in high school I used YouCastr but that site went under a few years back.

    Thanks! Great and informative article!

  10. Tomicka King says:

    Hello Brian Clapp,

    Thank you for your article, and I’m glad to have came across it. My name is Tomicka King, and I’m a 29 year old woman who’s thinking about( as well as interested) in being a play-by-play announcer for wrestling. I’ve been in the culinary industry for the past 10 years; however, I’ve been a fan of wrestling since the mid 90’s and have always enjoyed watching on TV and reading about them online or from other sources. I’ve also been trying to learn more on how to go about being a play-by-play announcer in the wrestling industry and will be willing to do whatever it takes to learn everything that I need to know.

    Here’s a little background on myself. As stated earlier, I’ve been working in the food industry for ten years, but I’ve also wanted to change my career in the direction of the wrestling industry. I’ve done announcing for my grade school and been in the school newspaper during my junior high school years. In high school, I’ve been on the speech team, as well as been in the fine arts for all of four years. After high school, I went to Kendall College to get a associate degree in the culinary arts and graduated in March of 2006. Since then, I’ve been in the food industry, all the while trying to look for classes in order to start training. However, I’ve kept hitting some roadblocks in my life which had prevented me from going far. As of now, I’ve moved from Illinois to Texas trying to get myself more familiar to the area.

    I know that with no degree that’s related to announcing, my road to getting there will be bumpy, but I was hoping for some advice as to where to go from here.

    Thanks again,

    Tomicka King

  11. Beau Matthews says:

    Brian,

    I’ve done high school football and basketball and getting ready to venture into some Jr College games. Trying to figure out the travel pay situation. Any ideas for out town broadcasts/overnights? The station I’m working at is actually trying to come with something that is fair compensation for the broadcaster on the road! Go figure!

    • Do you mean a per diem? Like how much extra you get paid in order to eat etc while you are on the road? Usually most stations pay a flat fee, I think I usually got $35 – $50 a day extra, but if we were going to LA or NYC it bumped up to $75. Does that help? – Brian

  12. Matthew Schloss says:

    Brian,

  13. Matthew Schloss says:

    Brian,

    I have read your article and I found it very useful. I am a freshman in High School and one day I hope to be a play by play announcer for an NBA team. I realize I have to work up a ladder to get there. It won’t be easy. I love the sport and I love commentating. My friend and I have practiced broadcasting games together for the Dallas Mavericks on a radio website. It is so hard nowadays to get noticed and be something like this. I really need to your help on what to do at this point in my life. I am only a freshman in High School, but I want to start somewhere, somehow. We already have adult broadcasters for our school unfortunately. I look up to a person named Mark Followill ( He is a play by play announcer for the Dallas Mavericks ) I see where he has been and what he has done and it motivates me and I tell myself “I will be there one day, just like him.” I am looking for a place to start? Any colleges or degrees that can help me? Anything that I can do in high school? Thank you Brian.

    Matt

    • Matthew, some of the best advice I can give is make a plan to start in minor league baseball. I know many play by play people who went to the winter baseball meetings, networked with smaller teams and landed jobs doing play by play. (Look into the east texas pumpjacks, they are always hiring baseball play by play voices as part of an internship program and including room and board). They then took that experience in MiLB to other sports and are now working in the NBA, MLB, college football etc. To advance in play by play you have to get as many reps as possible and minor league baseball is a way to do that since they have such long seasons. You can improve a lot over a single season. Now, since you are only a freshman in high school that is a long term goal, in the short term I know you said your school has adult broadcasters, do they for every sport? Start a webcast of the baseball team or the volleyball team or the field hockey team… anything to get reps and get experience. Then listen back to your reels and critique yourself, or get others to critique. Hope this helps – Brian

  14. Hi Brian,

    Thank you for information that I never considered. I like how you comment on the details that make an announcer successful by doing little things.
    I’m going to approach the local high school and small colleges in the area to see what is available. I have done color commentary, not play by play. I think it will be a fun challenge.
    Keep up the great work!

    Thomas

  15. Joran Palacio says:

    Hi Brian,
    I am in an unique and exciting situation. I am 16 years old and have been working on the craft for two years, my school live streams our varsity games and have been getting progressively better and have plans on attending the Walter Cronkite school at ASU for a Sports Journalism degree. My question for you is, how can I continue to build my skills on air, in you opinion. Thanks for the great article and I will be using the tips you gave in this for sure!
    Thnks,
    Joran Palacio

    • Joran – the ASU program is really good, so congratulations. Outside of the obvious advice to keep practicing, I would reach out to the local sportscasters and play-by-play voices and tell them what you just told me about who you are, what you have done, what you want to do and that you are attending ASU in the future. See if they are willing to meet you for an informal conversation about the business or to review your reel, or to get their advice. What I find is, others are willing to help people like you who are focused on a specific goal and going all out to complete it. If your email said, “I’m 16 and I really want to work in sports what should I do?” that is very generic and you are basically asking someone else to take control of your life – people don’t respond to that, but they will respond to your message. Look at me, I’m responding! – Brian

  16. Be prepared for a very long haul and a lot of hustling kids. It takes years of work and experience to even be considered for the next level. It IS a great way to make a living, but be prepared to WORK to get to the top.

  17. Jim Robinson says:

    Connecticut School of Broadcasting is the perfect place to get the skills needed to start a career in the sports broadcasting industry. Here’s a student testimonial that really explains why Connecticut School of Broadcasting should be your first step towards a rewarding broadcasting career…http://www.gocsb.com/index.php/reviews-detail/9

  18. Hi Brian thank you so much for the helpful and insightful articles! It is much appreciated. I would very much like to pursue a career in brodcasting but have more of an interest in being a color commentator than a play-by-play announcer. Most of the color commentators I have seen are former athletes and for good reason, but is there a way that people without god-given athletic talent can become color commentators? I feel like I have a tremendous amount of knowledge about certain sports and can be an asset. Are there examples of color commentators who were not former athletes?

    • That’s a tough one Stephen – most analysts, as you mention, fill that role based on experience and credibility with the audience. Phil Simms has more pull with a national audience than Brian Clapp, although I’m often convinced I could do a better job than he does. I’m struggling to think of any color analysts without game experience…you have a tough road ahead if that is the path you choose to pursue. I’d say go towards sports talk radio – that’s where you get analysis and commentary from sports people who haven’t played the game. – Brian

  19. Mike Nelson says:

    Hi I am currently studying at cal state la and I am a sophomore. My dream is to be a play by play broadcaster, I am taking an announcing class and my professor said I am good at doing play by play. I plan to intern with a minor league baseball team next summer, but I haven’t started the application process because I don’t have much on my resume and my college isn’t really known. Do I have a realistic chance of landing the internship?

    • Sure! Make sure you have materials from your announcing class, create a demo reel so you have something to include with your resume. Work with your professors to help bulk up the content of your resume…all you need is one page. Be honest in your cover letter, express your passion for the industry, how hard you are working to gain experience, howmuch it would mean to learn the inner workings of a minor league baseball team and how it would propel you to your dream of working as a play-by-play announcer. It’s an internship, not a CEO job, your resume isn’t the main criteria…they need to hear your voice and feel your passion! – Brian

      • Mike Nelson says:

        Hey Brian,

        Its me again two years later haha. I ended up doing an internship with the Pittsburg Diamonds as their play by play guy among other tasks. Went well, I am now doing high school sports for a radio station but I am not paid. I graduate next spring, I really want to find a station or team that would hire me next year. Should I just keep emailing teams and stations until I hit gold?

        Mike

  20. Hi Brian, thank you for all the wonderful articles. I am currently in 8th grade and I want to become a sports commentator. I went through a phase about a year ago, and I fell in love with commentary. I’m not good at sports, but I love watching games. I was thinking ahead to high school and I think that commentating on some games would be a good way to get involved. I don’t know if my high school has a commentator, but I believe that varsity football and basketball games are already covered. My high school also has a low power radio station that it shares with two other local high schools, but they don’t broadcast games on it. What do you think I sould do? Should I contact the schools athletic director? Or should I wait until I actually start attending the school? Also, what commentary opportunities are availible for people my age?
    – Luigi

    • Luigi – good for you getting started early. Definitely contact the schools athletic director – be confident when you speak to them, you need to come off as an authority! Brian

  21. Doug Heikkila says:

    I agree with what was said 110%. I have been interviewed and done color commentary a couple times. Now that my life is somewhat settled down, I would like to get into doing color commentary, but I have no clue where to start or what to do? Any help is greatly appreciated!!!

  22. Luis Barrio says:

    Hello! My name is Luis Barrio. Finding a wesbsite like this that offers info on pursuing play-by-play was really comforting.
    I currently work at a local TV station in El Paso, TX. My goal is to become a play-by-play guy and I took this job because I believed it was the correct route to play-by-play. I’m learning that local TV news/sports might not be the best route. Its about getting the news out fast and quick. Everything is scripted and it seems the whole dynamic of putting on a 30-minute newscast is completely different from play-by-play.
    Perhaps going into Radio best.
    I do have a degree in Multimedia Journalism from University of Texas El Paso.

    I want to know the route I can begin taking now to lead me somewhere in the door for play-by-play.
    As well as what kind of reel i need to be working on? Standups, anchoring, packages?
    Audio tracks? if so…how shouls the tracks be made? what content can i put into it?

    • Luis – great questions! I spent 15 years in your typical studio based broadcast sports operation and it is very different from a live event, play-by-play scenario. If your true dream is to work in play-by-play, keep your local TV station job, but leverage that to get some play-by-play gigs at the local college or minor league team either for their local broadcast, webcast, streaming live or radio broadcast. See what they have and how you can get involved. You’ll probably need to build a few reels, your play by play reel will have more of you calling games, but also still needs stand-ups (but not really anchoring). All the best play-by-play guys still do standups before the game, halftimes or in between innings.Many play-by-play guys also host a pre-game show, so stand-ups are always relevant Your news reel, will probably have you reporting and anchoring on it…no real need for play-by-play examples unless a specific job references play-by-play duties being included. Hope this helps – Brian

  23. Alex Burch says:

    Brian,
    My name is Alex Burch and I am a senior at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. I have worked at our student run radio station. WASU-FM, for three years now. I am the Assistant Sports Director and have done many live play by play games for our football and basketball teams. I have dedicated myself to becoming a play by play broadcaster since I was little and am extremely passionate about it. When employers listen to a demo tape of my work, what are they looking for? What should I include? Thank you for your time.

    Alex Burch

    • Thanks for writing in Alex – it’s pretty simple really, include your best moments…the moments you captured the crowd, excitedly conveyed a game changing moment etc. If you have any on-camera work, include that too, since most TV play by play jobs will require some stand-ups. Include an interview segment if you’ve interviewed players or coaches…and try to keep it under 5 minutes total – you don’t need everything, you want an employer to get a feel for you style and abilities in a short time frame. -Brian

  24. Alex Burbidge says:

    Hello – I have always been interested in a play-by-play career. I want to broadcast baseball, specifically the Royals. How should I get my start, maybe go to the winter meetings and ask a GM about a job in the minors then work my way up?

    • Alex – step one is to get experience and build a demo reel. Call a local high school game into a recorder, do a webstream etc. You won’t be hired by someone without proof of what you can do. Working in the minors is a smart path…but they won’t hire you without a demo reel of your work! Start there. -Brian

  25. Alexander Rojas says:

    Hello my name is Alexander and my dream is to become a professional soccer commentator. What do you mean by “going on air through the internet”. How can I do that?, I’m very interested.

  26. Luke Moores says:

    Mr. Clapp,
    Hello, I am a freshmen in high school and I am really interested in becoming a play-by-play announcer when I grow up. My ultimate goal is to work as announcer for one of the ESPN networks and announce college basketball games. Do you have any advice on where to get started? I have already spoken to the principal of my school on announcing some football games next year. Do you have any other advice on how I could persue my dream? Thank You, Luke Moores.

  27. After a few years, this thread is still going strong. Good! Anyone who wants to get real broadcast radio experience can contact me at info@KLSN.org. We are starting a sports department in partnership with local high schools, colleges and a minor league team.

  28. John D. says:

    Hi Mr. Clapp, not quite sure if you are still replying to the comments on this article after several years, but I figured I would state my mind anyways. I am still young ( ending my ninth grade year in high school very soon) and hope to get experience with play by play broadcasting sometime soon. My high school happens to have a local radio station which has the home football and basketball games broadcast on it, as well as sportstalk shows ( all with students as the on-air talent). As a sophomore next year I hope to become involved in the game broadcasts for the two sports. My question would be whether or not I should begin thinking about keeping a tape that early in my career, and if that experience would be looked on as valuable by people I would meet someday in college. Also, in regards to broadcasting on any other mediums than the school radio station, would it be thought of as unprofessional to send an email or message to a tv station and/or website that broadcast high school sports, or would reaching out to them be useful. On a bit of a side note, would sports journalism for a local newspaper be helpful for any chances ending up as a play-by-play broadcaster, or would that better suit actions of going into a different profession? Thanks, I’d appreciate any feedback you have.

    • Hey John – congrats for having such clarity in what you want out of your life and career!

      1: YES – record everything. Even ifyou never use it in a demo reel, I want YOU to listen back to yourself and as painful as it may be, critique it and be honest withyourself. Think of how th greats would have done it differently than you and learn to try new things. Plus, maybe it does find a placein your demo reel and you can make it clear you’ve been doing this since 9th grade, that it has always been your passion and that you’ve worked hard to continually improve.

      2: It would not be unprofessional to reach out to TV stations or websites to improve the reach of your broadcasts – in fact, that is the kind of initiative that will get you noticed. Just don’t get discouraged if people don’t respond, it’s not a reflection on you, it’s a reflection on them.

      3: Sports journalism for a local newspaper is a great experience for you to learn the art of storytelling and improve your experiences for college and beyond. Go for it!

      Brian

  29. Colin Hawley says:

    Hi Brian,

    Just a quick question. I am currently doing rugby color-commentary for various networks such as PAC-12 and USA RugbyTV. How would you suggest leveraging my experience into other sports?

  30. Justin Velazquez says:

    Hi Mr.Clapp, I am very interested in becoming a play by play announcer for a career. I am still young(I’m about to enter my junior year in high school) and love listening to broadcasts and learning from other great announcers. I’m a huge mets/baseball fan and I love listening to Gary Cohen. Other broadcasters I love listening too are Dan Orsillo, Brian Anderson, Michael Kay, and of course Vin Scully. I have practiced announcing since I was very young(around 7 years old). I currently live in port st Lucie Florida(I actually just moved here from New York last year) and I am not sure if my school has a radio station or not. My question is should I start keeping tape of me practicing some games? I have the MLB.tv app so I can watch every team. and since I am not sure if my school(Port St Lucie High School) has a radio station who should I contact regarding that?

    • Damian Taylor says:

      Im not Mr.Clapp but ask you’re sport advisor to see if you have a radio station and if not Im sure you can find a way to commentate over them the games-Damian

  31. so how do i being come football annousecer i am excited

  32. Damian Taylor says:

    Hi,I am a freshman at messolonske high school in Oakland,Maine and in my JMG class (Jobs For Maine Graduates) we are required to interview someone who work/worked in the job we want to work,so I was wondering I could interview you via email? Thank you,Damian T.

  33. I’m 15 years old and I currently PA announce football, soccer, and basketball. However, my real passion is hockey. Unfortunately, as I live in California, my High School doesn’t have a hockey program. Do you think that my current PA announcing can aide my aspirations of becoming an NHL play by play announcer. I record myself with the TV on when I can, and I hope I can go far with this.

    • I am willing to do whatever it takes. This is my dream. Also, I am thinking of starting by going to Cal Ice Hockey Games and calling them on my own like the article suggested. It is not a big sport at Cal. Do you think this is a good move?

    • Many established play by play voices started in one sport and ended up in another – master the art of calling a game and you can be versatile throughout your career. Working in football, soccer and basketball will help you with your hockey, since play by play is about pace, timing and research. Keep gaining experience, that is the key!

  34. Hello, Brian,
    I thouroughly enjoyed this article. I am a 15 year old with a dream, and that dream is to be like Doc Emrick one day. Unfortunately, there isn’t much hockey around me as I live in California. I am currently a full time Public Address Announcer at my High School (Acalanes), and I am hoping this is a good way of building experience. I know a good amount about hockey, and I call games in front of the TV frequently. I get told I have a good voice, but I am unsure if I can make this a career. I am willing to work as hard as possible to achieve my aspirations. Do you have any suggestions for me in the future, such as how to go about attempting to land a minor league ECHL or AHL job once I am out of college/have experience?

  35. Brett Patterson says:

    Hey! I really liked this article and it was very reliable. I am a freshman in high school and my dream and goal is to become a broadcaster for baseball. What degrees do you need in order to do this, and what colleges are best for this kind of job?

  36. Brian,

  37. Chris Mathis says:

    Hey, my name is Chris. I have been a play by play announcer and public address announcer since i was in the 10th grade. I now am 18 years old and a freshman in college. I started off calling recreational football games, then middle school, junior varsity, varsity football, high school baseball, and now i am play by play announcer for a college basketball team nearby. I am serious about this as my career, after i announced the varsity football game i had a radio station come up to me and offer me role with him on his station. I currently have called 174 games, and i have kept EVERY lineup from every single game. What is my next step to continue to pursue this career? What college education would i need with the amount of experience i have? Thank you so much, Sincerely, Chris M.

  38. David Chasanov says:

    Hey Brian, thanks for these five tips. I’m David, an aspiring sports broadcaster who attends Columbia College in Chicago. I’m currently a junior. I was a sports department intern at NBC 5 Chicago this past summer and while it was a great experience, it made me really think about what I want to do with my future career. I enjoy sports commentating, reporting, editing, etc and I’m not quite sure what I want to do when college is done with just yet. The fact that I’m unsure of what I want to do makes me panic a bit and I’m not sure where I’ll be or what job I’ll be applying for when I graduate. Any tips you have on what I should do and how I should approach my situation?

Trackbacks

  1. […] Strong: Well, it’s better to be organic and original, but you also want to be prepared. […]

  2. […] Clapp recounts advice from broadcasting veteran Doug McLeod in his July 24, 2013 blog, “Five Tips You Need to Follow if You Want a Play-By-Play Job.” Start out practicing alone calling a game on your TV or computer. Work up to arranging for an […]

  3. […] Strong: Well, it’s better to be organic and original, but you also want to be prepared. […]

  4. […] Five Tips you Need to Follow if you Want a Play-by-Play Job – Veteran Hockey play-by-play announcer Doug McLeod offers some tips in this post on WorkInSports.com. One of the tips he offers is to “Dress for Success.” […]

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