High school and college students have many opportunities to investigate this career choice, but the most obvious way is to participate in a sport. By learning a sport inside and out, you can gain valuable insight into the movements and techniques that, as a sportscaster, you will be describing. In addition, firsthand experience and a love of the sport itself makes it easier to remember interesting trivia related to the sport and the names and numbers of the pros who play it.
If you do not have the coordination or skill for the sport itself, you can volunteer to help out with the team by shagging balls, running drills, or keeping statistics. The latter is perhaps the best way to learn the percentages and personal athletic histories of athletes.
An excellent way to develop the necessary communications skills is to take a journalism course, join the school's speech or debate team, deliver the morning announcements, work as a deejay on the school radio station, or volunteer at a local radio station or cable television station.
Finally, you can hone your sportscasting skills on your own while watching your favorite sports event by turning down the sound on your television and video-recording your own play-by-play deliveries.
One of the primary jobs of most sportscasters for both radio and television stations is to determine what sports news to carry during a news segment. The sportscaster begins working on the first broadcast by reading the sports-related stories that come in over the various news wire services, such as Associated Press and United Press International. To follow up on one of these stories, the sportscaster might telephone several contacts, such as a coach, scout, or athlete, to see if he or she can get a comment or more information. The sportscaster also might want to prepare a list of upcoming games, matches, and other sports events. Athletes often make public appearances for charity events and the sportscaster might want to include a mention of the charity and the participating athlete or athletes.
After deciding which stories to cover and the lineup of the stories that will be featured in the first of the day's broadcasts, sportscasters then review any audio or video clips that will accompany the various stories. Sportscasters working for radio stations choose audio clips, usually interviews, that augment the piece of news they will read. Sportscasters working for television stations look for video footage—the best 10 seconds of this game or that play—to demonstrate why a certain team lost or won. Sometimes sportscasters choose footage that is humorous or poignant to illustrate the point of the news item.
After they decide which audio or video segments to use, sportscasters then work with sound or video editors to edit the data into a reel or video, or they edit the footage into an audio or video clip themselves. In either case, the finished product will be handed over to the news director or producer with a script detailing when it should play. The news producer or director will make certain that the reel or video comes in on cue during the broadcast.
Frequently a sportscaster will make brief appearances at local sports events to interview coaches and players before and after the game, and sometimes during breaks in the action. These interviews, as well as any footage of the game that the station's camera crews obtain, are then added to the stock from which sportscasters choose for their segments.
Usually, the main broadcast for both radio and television sportscasters is the late-evening broadcast following the evening's scheduled programming. This is when most of the major league sports events have concluded, the statistics for the game are released, and final official scores are reported. Any changes that have occurred since the day's first sports broadcast are updated and new footage or sound bites are added. The final newscast for a television sportscaster will most likely include highlights from the day's sports events, especially dramatic shots of the most impressive plays or winning points scored.
In televised sports news the emphasis is on image. Often sportscasters, like other newscasters, are only on camera for several seconds at a time, but their voices continue over the video that highlights unique moments in different games.
For many sportscasters who work in television, preparing the daily sportscasts is their main job and takes up most of their time. For others, especially sportscasters who work in radio, delivering a play-by-play broadcast of particular sports events is the main focus of their job. These men and women use their knowledge of the game or sport to create a visual picture of the game for radio listeners with words, as it is happening. The most common sports for which sportscasters deliver play-by-play broadcasts are baseball, basketball, football, hockey, and soccer. A few sportscasters broadcast horse races from the racetrack and sometimes these broadcasts are carried by off-track betting facilities.
Sportscasters who give the play-by-play for a basketball game, for example, usually arrive an hour or so before the start of the game. Often they have a pregame show that features interviews with, and a statistical review of, the competing teams and athletes. To broadcast a basketball game, sportscasters sit courtside in a special media section so that they can see the action up close. During football, baseball, hockey, and soccer games sportscasters usually sit in one of the nearby media boxes. Throughout the game sportscasters narrate each play for radio listeners using rapid, precise, and lively descriptions. During timeouts, halftimes, or other breaks in play, sportscasters might deliver their own running commentaries of the game, the players' performances, and the coaching.
A sportscaster who specializes in play-by-play broadcasts needs to have an excellent mastery of the rules, players, and statistics of a sport, as well as the hand signals officials use to regulate the flow of a game. Some sportscasters provide play-by-play broadcasts for several different teams or sports, from college to professional levels, requiring them to know more than one sport or team well.
Some sportscasters, who are often former athletes or established sports personalities, combine two aspects of the job. They act as anchors or co-anchors for sports shows and give some play-by-play commentary. They may also provide their television or radio audience with statistics and general updates.
Sports announcers provide spectators with public address announcements before and during a sports event. For this job, announcers must remain utterly neutral, simply delivering the facts—goals scored, numbers of fouls, or a time-out taken. Sports announcers may be sportscasters or they may be professional announcers or emcees who make their living recording voice-overs for radio and television commercials and for businesses or stores.
Sports announcers usually give the lineups for games, provide player names and numbers during specific times in a contest, make public announcements during time-outs and pauses in play, and generally keep the crowd involved in the event (especially in baseball). Baseball announcers may try to rally the crowd or start the crowd singing or doing the wave.