Sometimes inspiration comes from strange places. Today, I was brainstorming blog topics with my fiancée while eating Chinese food. There were several good topics up for discussion, some of which I’ll delve into later, but when I opened up my fortune cookie, I found this:
Not being one to deny fate when it slaps me in the face, versatility in sportscasting is today’s topic.
To me, developing versatility in sportscasting is a double-edged sword. You definitely need a wide variety of skills, especially in small-market radio. Most of us don’t find jobs where we can pay our bills by just calling games; I know I sure haven’t. Instead, we have to be able to do news, sales, run a music shift, or handle some other responsibility in order to cover games. I, personally, have been fortunate to find success on the sales side of broadcasting and that has allowed me the freedom to pursue sportscasting without being overly concerned about how the bills are going to get paid each month.
Versatility is also important within sportscasting itself. If you want to call games all year long you better know how to do football and volleyball in the fall, basketball and hockey in the winter, and baseball in the spring and summer. You should also have sports update and sports talk skills to round out your repertoire.
What is the other edge of the aforementioned sword? It’s hard to develop excellent skills in all areas across the board. Last summer, when I was in the middle of my job search there was a women’s basketball and baseball job that came open. It was a great job that would have been a great opportunity. Maybe this was a mistake, but I didn’t even bother applying. The Reason? I have confidence in my skill and experience calling basketball, but my baseball tape is just above hot garbage. My path has led me to opportunities to call hundreds of basketball games, but very few chances to develop my baseball play-by-play. As a result, I felt unqualified for the position. I’ve also missed out on jobs where I was qualified for play-by-play, but didn’t have great sports update or sports talk skills, and that made someone else a better fit.
Is it better to a be a jack-of-all-trades and master of none or to specialize in one or two areas and become a specialist? I don’t know the answer to this but small market radio pushes you towards the former. But what can we do to build that versatility in the land of scarce opportunity?
I don’t truly know the answer to this question, but I believe that the first step is to take advantage of every opportunity offered. Even if it’s on a non-paid basis, don’t ever say no to a chance to learn or practice calling a sport that you lack familiarity with. Second, make opportunities for yourself. You may not be able to call a hockey game professionally, but if you want to call hockey go to games and call them from the stands, turn your X-Box on simulator mode, or find a clip on TV/YouTube and call the action.
It’s a tough dilemma we all face. The one thing I’m sure about is not to count on finding the answer in a fortune cookie. Keep grinding until you turn yourself into a sportscasting Swiss Army Knife with every blade being razor sharp. What are your thoughts on developing versatility in sportscasting? Share them on the comments below.