The Hard Reality of Working in Sports Radio

sports radio jobs

We can help you find sports radio jobs, just remember, everyone starts in a small market and works their way up.

The reality of working in sports radio is that it doesn’t begin with catered lunches, fancy cars and billboards sprawling across major highways with your dimpled chin on it. Sports radio jobs start in small, humble markets far from your creature comforts.

“If play-by-play or sports radio jobs are something you want to pursue out of college, realize that you better have your bags packed and be ready to move to a small market away from friends and family,” says Jim Tarrabocchia, Sports Director and Play-by-Play announcer for KASL radio in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

“Listening and seeing sports radio personalities and play-by-play guys on radio and television looks like a blast, and it is, it’s a very rewarding career, but be realistic, those guys paid their dues, and you will have to too.”

What gets lost on many aspiring sports journalists, whether in sports radio or television, is that everyone they watch on network television or hear on sports radio started small and proved themselves with hard work, attention to detail and an unwavering passion for what they do.

“I grew up in Southern New Jersey in the shadow of Philadelphia with the beach 30 minutes away,” recalls Tarabocchia. “I knew though, that while I may return to that area someday, I have to work my way up the ladder in this industry and getting this opportunity in Cheyenne is huge.”

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Here’s more about starting a career in sports radio and play-by-play announcing with KASL sports director Jim Tarabocchia:

I had a former Associate Producer of mine start his on-air career in Pocatello, Idaho and he called me one day and said ‘they want me to report on the rodeo and I know nothing about rodeo’… have you had moments like that and if so how did you handle it?

Tarabocchia:  It’s funny you ask that because, when I was talking with management about coming to KASL, they told me right out that not only would I be doing play-by-play and covering football and basketball, but I would also be calling volleyball matches.

As soon as I heard that, I studied up, watched film of matches, and listened to other broadcaster’s call volleyball matches. I grew up watching all four major sports not mention played all four – I know as little as one could about volleyball.

For two weeks before I started, all I did was try to learn about volleyball every day.

People don’t always appreciate the amount of work that goes into sports radio jobs, take us through what a normal day is like for you as sports director at KSAL radio.

Tarabocchia:  Every day is basically trying to touch upon every one of my duties as Sports Director, some more than others.

I get into the station around 6AM, Prep for my morning sports update, perform, and then prep for the upcoming football, or basketball game that I’ll be doing that weekend.

I stick with that routine throughout the day, and sprinkle in phone calls I have to make, talk to some sales clients, and produce promos for upcoming sports events on the station.

You started out doing play-by-play for the Florida Collegiate Summer League – how did you get that opportunity and has it helped you build your confidence in doing play by play?

sports radio jobs florida collegiate league

Jim Tarabocchia got his first big break by networking – next thing he knew he was doing play-by-play for the Florida Collegiate League

Tarabocchia:  I was a Division 1 college baseball player and not only did I collect some great memories, I also made some great contacts.

I really wanted to get some baseball play-by-play experience, so I got in contact with MLB Network personality Scott Braun, looked through the top 5 Collegiate Summer Leagues throughout the country, one thing led to another and I was a play-by-play broadcaster for the Florida Collegiate Summer League.

Looking at the bigger picture, it did really help my confidence.  I really figured out my style, different ways to call things, how to weave stories in and out, and how to be descriptive while broadcasting on a sports radio platform.  All of those elements I learned and that in turn helped improve my confidence.

You mentioned that you played baseball in college a La Salle– how much does that help you calling a game?

Tarabocchia:  There’s an abundance of ways that I could answer this question but I’ll break it down in two ways.

First, by playing baseball in college for two years before suffering a career ending injury, I’ve had the chance travel to different places across the country, and endure long bus rides. I still feel like a baseball player, I still throw and hit in the cage for goodness sake.

I know how to talk to players; I get a good idea about how their feeling just by looking at the way they carry themselves.  I feel so comfortable walking around the ballpark and because I’m so comfortable it helps me prep smarter.

Number two, speaking of prepping, because I played for so long I prep differently for baseball then I do for football or basketball.  I don’t fill out any boards for baseball.  I use game notes, media guides and then I take it one step further by looking over scouting reports, and watching film of hitters hitting and actually knowing what they’re trying to accomplish.  From there I gather everything together and create stories.

I’ve learned that stories are so crucial in a baseball broadcast, and being that I’ve been on bus rides that lasted 11 hours, stories help pass the time.  While it may be small; playing helped me develop my story telling because while I’m biased, baseball players are great storytellers.  These elements build confidence, and help me calling games.

What do you think were the most important skills you learned at La Salle which helped you land a job after graduation?

sports radio jobs tarabocchia

While at La Salle, Tarabocchia got hands on experience at the campus TV and radio stations

Tarabocchia:  La Salle gave me the opportunity to learn audio editing software, make mistakes, and network.

I just wanted to take advantage of everything the La Salle Communication department had to offer.  Whether it was calling games, working for the TV station, or radio station, I had the opportunity to develop my skills even further.

Lets talk about internships, you interned at NFL Films – that had to be an extremely competitive position – how did you get it?

Tarabocchia:  I was fortunate enough to have a friend from grade-school whose father has worked at NFL Films for over 20 years. I heard through them that there were intern spots open for the spring of 2012, I applied, got the opportunity to interview and prepared like I would for any interview.

When I first got there I was a bit in awe of the campus. The facilities are first class; I just tried not to get overwhelmed.  I must have done a great job in the interview process because I got the Internship.

To this day I still tell people that internship was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

What skills did that internship help develop?

Tarabocchia:   I mentioned earlier that I’m a baseball guy, so when I got to NFL Films I got to see the NFL in a different level.  I saw all the different NFL Films camera angles, watched old footage of even older games and really became enamored with football.  I met some players, and media personalities.

I wanted to learn everything I could about the NFL that could help me expand my football broadcast skills. I had the chance to learn so much more about top notch production, and about the NFL, the history, and the game of football overall.  It helped me with my confidence calling football games, which helps me be a more well-rounded play-by-play announcer.

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. Chad Patillo says:

    I’m 38 years old and still looking for that internship. I attended a local community college and a radio internship is all I need to graduate. My belief is I will be a star in sports talk radio. However, I live in a fairly large and successful market (RDU). Give me a variety of sports topics besides maybe hockey and lacrosse, I can go with the best of them! This won’t happen overnight I know, but please believe I’m ready to put in the work. Also,to all scouting departments, my belief is that I can help in that area as well.#38yroldinternhopeful

  2. I’m about to graduate with a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Arkansas. I realized not to long ago that I want to do something that I am passionate about, and decided I wanted to look into sports talk radio. I’m most passionate about NFL, but know a good amount about other majors sports and enjoy them. Sports are my life and I want to work every day with the topic. Do you have any advice as to internships, the process, or steps I should take after I finish my degree this Fall? I’m a bit at a crossroads since my B.A. isn’t in Communications or Journalism, and a lot of internships are for students and I’ll be finished with undergrad. Thanks for your time, great column!

    • Cameron – Thanks for commenting. You have to find a way to develop the skills employers need, a Psychology degree won’t do all that much to tell an employer in the sports talk radio that you are the guy to hire. Check out our site and look at the jobs in sports radio – read the job descriptions and understand the skills they demand of their employees. You can’t expect to get hired into a sports talk radio station if you can’t run a board, edit audio or things of that nature. Put a plan together to learn the skills needed to thrive in the industry – which will probably mean taking additional classes. It takes a lot more than just knowing sports to make it in the sports industry! That said, you should pursue your dreams – check out sites like Lynda.com that teach online course in technical skills that could fit the radio world… – Best of luck, Brian

  3. Emory Rodriguez says:

    Hey great article by the way. But I’m a sophomore in high school. I’m very passionate about this job and willing to do everything necessary to get it. I listen to a sports radio every morning before school. I know a ton of football and a lot more than people my age do. I know the recruiting process, the combine and draft process. I just want to know; what can I do now to help my chances of doing my dream job in the future. If you could e-mail me with more information I should know that would be great. Thanks for the help too!

    • Emory – start a sports talk radio show! You don’t have to have a job at your local station in order to start recording, learning and getting better. If your school has an internship program (many do for juniors and seniors), start talking to the intern coordinator now and let them know your goals. They might be able to start making connections in the radio world to set you up on an internship when you are the right age. Practice practice practice, it’s not just about what you know, it’s about how you deliver information in a clear, concise manner with personality! – Brian

  4. Brian-As always your content is spot on! I am wondering what your thoughts are on podcasting to develop the skills needed for sports talk radio. Since podcasting can be fairly cheap I thought this might be a great way to develop the skills and produce a product that can get me into sports radio. Also, how might I find a mentor to get feedback on this show. I have tried numerous sports guys locally in WI and IA. I have yet to get a door opened. Most responses were less then welcoming. Thanks for the great content and Happy New Year!

  5. Thanks for talking abou this. I have a background in sports media. I was sports director at a 100,000 watt station in college. Then I switched to TV News and became a producer at a station in a small town, over night. My body couldn’t handle it and I got engaged so I accepted a PR job back home but I’m aching to get back into sports talk… I have audio of me in college doing a sports talk show and clips of me doing some live reports on practices and games.. what tips do you have?

    • Gavin – make sure you know the production tools. Anyone hiring, especially at small market stations, will expect you to at minimum know how to run the board and edit audio in addition to being able to speak well on a variety of sports topics. – Brian

  6. Justin Gianelli says:

    I just graduated with a bachelors degree in global communication. I’ve known I wanted to be sports radio talk show host since I was 12. Once I got to college I started to take radio broadcasting and 2 TV broadcasting classes and later on took 3 journalism classes to expand my writing knowledge. I’ll also be looking into starting my own podcast to get some audio samples of me talking sports to show people how passionate I am, and that I have the credentials from college to back it up!

  7. I am in high school and this is by far my dream job, I wake up every day and listen to mike and Mike, and then my local show! Thanks for writing this it gave me an idea on the challenges I will face If I pursue this career!

    • Glad you liked it Scott – my suggestion, listen to Mike and Mike to learn how to ask interview questions, they do a pretty good job of it, listen to a local station for subject ideas and approach. Sadly, Mike and Mike tend to be watered down on subject matter for two main reasons – 1: they are national so they have to appeal to a very wide base of listeners, which means they usually lack depth and stick to “who won the game last night” type storylines 2: ESPN has so many agendas with their broadcast deals, that they are unable to take a contrarians voice and disagree with a leagues handling of a situation. They won’t blast Goodell or Silver even if they deserve it, because of contracts.

      Anyway, my point is, to learn the right way pay attention to the strengths of each but in the end – find your voice. Best of luck, Brian

  8. Hey Brian, I started my own Sports Podcast 3 yrs ago, it has grown to live Sports Radio on internet radio, now we are moving to a small market Radio AM station. I think this move will give me the experience I need along with my passion. just wanted to know your thoughts?

    • That is great Horace – this will absolutely show employers your drive and ambition…plus you should have a lot of material to develop a demo reel from… nice work! – Brian

  9. At least this is more informative than one of those reality Television stars, kim who?
    Joey what?

  10. Oliver Sanders says:

    I am a freelance writer/photographer who’s been in sports most of my life. I can talk about football, basketball, college wrestling, volleyball, hockey, gymnastics, international soccer…I’ve seen a lot. I want to get back in as I am currently looking for work, and radio broadcasting is what I seek. All I need is a step in, and I’ll handle the rest. Moving? I used to be a trucker for seven years, I can live almost ANYWHERE. In fact, my boxes are already packed. How can I get started? Searching on the internet is not working at all.

  11. I wanting to be a sport broadcaster because I love talking about sports, but I am really bad at writing, do I need to be a good writer to become one?

    • Yes you do — the best broadcasters are strong in journalism and in composing their thoughts in a logical manner. I never thought I was a good writer either — work at it, read, practice and you’ll improve. – Brian

  12. Brandon Delin says:

    Brian,

    Great article. I am a year removed from graduating from Texas A&M. My degree is in Industrial Distribution, but I have recently decided to pursue my dream job. I listen to ESPNU radio all day driving around during work as an outside sales rep. College sports, especially football is my passion, and my ultimate goal is to become a college sports radio host like Chris Childers, Jason Horowitz, and Taylor Zarzour. I’m thinking of taking online classes in journalism or communications. Other than that, any advice on first steps to pursue this career path?

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