Bad habits. We all have them. Maybe you chew your nails or are constantly late. Maybe you’re aware of what you or maybe don’t even notice. The one universal truth is that nobody wants bad habits, but we all have them, and they are hard to get rid of.
As a sportscaster, I was largely self taught. I went to a small liberal arts college where I got the opportunity to call games as a student, but got very little critical feedback to ensure that I was learning to do things the right way. Whether it was cutting words short, speaking in passive voice, or using crutch words, they all affected my broadcast negatively.
Over time I’ve realized what my bad habits are and have been able to reduce or eliminate many of them. Here are some of the methods I used to do so:
Have Someone Listen To Your Work: The first step to eliminating bad habits is to realize they exist. You can learn a lot from self-critiquing, but at some point you will need honest critical feedback from someone who can listen to your work with complete objectivity. Here are a few tips to find someone to listen to your work. If you want something quicker, we offer a critique service here.
It’s Easier To Add Than To Subtract: One of my bad habits was that I used to frequently say the score without the time. With some focus and a few notes on my spotting board, I was able to solve that problem. However, when I found out that I had a habit of cutting ing’s off of words, it was really difficult to stop doing so. It was ingrained into my subconscious and took a long time to change. There are still ways to do it, but they take longer and you have to be prepared to struggle over months instead of days or weeks.
Focus On One Thing At A Time: I once took a golf lesson from a teacher who tried to fix my swing. He tried to change my grip, my stance, my back swing, my follow through, and I’m sure other aspects of my broken swing for good measure. I went out after that lesson and proceeded to play the worst round I had played in years. A year later I was talked into taking another golf lesson, and this teacher turned out to be far more competent. I’m sure he could see my entire swing was awful, but instead of trying to fix everything, he taught me to fix my stance. With a small adjustment and just one thing to focus on, I proceeded to play one of my best rounds ever!
The same principal can be applied to breaking bad habits in sportscasting. If you focus on one thing, you can usually see improvement quickly. If you try fixing everything all at once, it’s easy to be overwhelmed, remain stagnant, or even get worse!
Get Daily Reps: In my opinion, the best way to break a bad habit is to build a new positive one. To do so, decide what you want to focus on, and get to work! The most effective way I’ve found to do this is to call 7-10 minutes of action from a TV broadcast or YouTube clip and record it on a small digital recorder or phone app. When I’m done, I immediately play it back and count the number of times I made the mistake that I’m trying to eliminate. Write it down and try to make the number smaller each day.
Write It Down To Track Progress: When you’re trying to get daily reps, life has a tendency of getting in the way. If you write down and keep track of your practice reps, it’s easy to see any gaps in your progress to get yourself back on track. It’s even more effective if you have another person who also has access to your written records who can call you out if you get off track.
It can also have the reverse effect of helping you to realize that what you’re doing is working! Seeing the number of times you screw up slowly shrink to zero is a satisfying feeling of accomplishment.
Constant Maintenance: Once you get to a point where you’ve made progress, it’s important to make sure you don’t regress. That means regular self critiques and occasional critiques from others. If you find yourself sliding back into a bad habit, if recognized early, a few days of focused reps can help swing it back the other way. If you don’t notice and re-develop the same issue, it can take weeks or months of focused reps to eliminate it again.
Be Patient: Bad habits are bad because they aren’t easy to change. I personally required over a month of focused practice to eliminate cutting ing’s off of words. And when I began making progress, it sounded awkward because I would start to catch myself saying the wrong thing mid sentence and cut it off.
I remember how excited I was when the number of mistakes in my recordings finally started to taper off and show progress. If I would have quit after a week when the number actually got higher, I’d be worse off today.
What do you do to eliminate bad habits in your broadcasts? Share your story in the comments section or contact me via the contact page.