This week’s post is in reply to a reader who sent in the following question:
What do you consciously do while on the air (or getting ready to go on the air) to block out all the extraneous stuff outside the broadcast that might distract you from calling the game?
I ask this because I think I’m going to need a lot of help in this department. My mom has been battling a fever in the ICU for about a month and the doctors can’t figure out the cause. Obviously last night’s election and upcoming news events could qualify as potential distractions. How can we as broadcasters get past some of this stuff, no matter how bad it might be, and still get a good-quality product on the airwaves???
Maybe I’m over-inflating this. Maybe I should be expected to do this without fail and not even ask for help on how to do it. I just have the impression right now that I’m not the first broadcaster to ask and probably won’t be the last. Anything you post might be a big help.
Whether you’re a sportscaster, or a member of any other profession, you’ll eventually have to deal with difficulties in your personal life. Whether it’s the death of someone close to you, a loved one facing a severe illness, a break up or divorce, it’s inevitable and difficult.
Personally, I can tell you that when facing difficult life situations, calling games becomes an escape. It allows me to put all of my focus into the game and not think of what’s going wrong in life outside of the booth. Where adverse situations have affected me in the past is during the preparation process. When you’re on the road for a funeral, visiting someone at the hospital, or trying to work out relationship issues on the phone, it’s impossible to get work done.
Here are a few methods I’ve found that have helped me focus on prep during tough days:
- Work early in the morning — When the sun is rising, nobody is there to bother you with phone calls or questions. Also, a little drowsiness can be like Novocain for your inner turmoil. This allows you to get some work done before your issues catch up with you for the day.
- Work somewhere unfamiliar— If you usually work at your home or office, try going to a cafe, library, or park. Taking yourself away from the environment that reminds you of your problems can make it easier to focus on something else.
- Turn off your phone and stay away from social media. You’re already distracted, don’t put yourself in position to be distracted even more.
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. It really comes down to what works for you as an individual. This is what works for me. I reached out to several other broadcasters around the country and this is what they had to say:
My feeling is that as a professional broadcaster, you should be so focused on the job at hand that you can’t be distracted. I realize in some cases, easier said than done. But with experience comes the ability to block things out. -Dave Goren, Executive Director, NSMA
Don’t know if this is good advice or not, but sometimes when I feel like it’s all getting a little stale, I try to freshen up my routine and insert new elements to my game prep and game day routines.
One thing I’ve done recently is make a 5×8 note card of “storylines” that have what I think are the top 10-12 storylines worth bringing up during the game. It’s good to revisit those during the play-by-play and helps recalibrate my focus. Also, trying a new spotting board or something like that could force you to focus a little harder in-game just to find the info you’re looking for. -Tony Castricone, Clemson Men’s Basketball Broadcaster
I think we can all relate to it in some way. For me, one thing I do is put my phone completely out of my reach. I don’t check it at all during the game. I have communication with my board op via an instant messenger on my laptop (where I view stats, etc.) so if something goes wrong, he can reach me that way.
I know a lot of broadcasters that go to a Timeout, then immediately check their phone … maybe for scores, but I think most for social media, girlfriend/wife texts, etc.
Outside of that, I write notes on my spotting board – things I can bring up or focus on (and don’t want to forget to bring up)…. Weather, crowd, player appearances, what’s at stake, field design, uniforms, etc. I write them in BIG letters so they are easy to spot (bigger letters than the player names, I should have those memorized anyway). James Westling, GM at Rocking M. Media, Salina, KS
It is hard. And everyone goes through it. But focus on the kids you are covering. Or the fans that rely on you. Or the normalcy of doing something away from the distraction. Focus on ANYTHING you can grab! Even if it is a false motivation. (the sports equivalent of “they don’t respect us”!) Focus can be hard to come by, but focusing on the task while you would rather not is what defines a pro. – Mike Henriksen, Calling All Sports, Sioux Falls, SD