How being a ‘hater’ can make you a better broadcaster

Are you your own worst critic? If not, what are you waiting for?

As play-by-play announcers, we’re constantly trying to improve. The competitive landscape for jobs forces those of us who are looking to climb the ladder to find ways to deliver a more entertaining broadcast and improve in our craft.

Of course as we all know, that doesn’t guarantee one’s dream job, but the other intangibles that separates being a “have” from being a “have not” in this industry are fodder for a number of other conversations.

Many of us in our networking efforts often reach out to other broadcasters (our peers) to listen to and critique our work. Additionally, there are a number of broadcast coaches available that charge for their services, and they can be quite useful for those who have that kind of budget.

But many of us often forget the one resource that is always available, never charges a fee, and should always be able to schedule their own time to critique their work—ourselves.

I learned a lot from Marty Glickman during my years at Fordham and WFUV Sports, but one important lesson I learned was how to critique my work and be my own worst critic.

During my coaching sessions with Marty, I would always keep my fingers crossed that when he hit play on my cassette of the broadcast, that we would be able to go more than 30 seconds without him stopping the tape and then offering a scathing critique (most of his critiques were rather scathing by design).

In addition to Marty’s own insight, I also learned how to sit alone and listen to my own work, picking out with painstaking detail what can be improved upon during my broadcasts.

While I think many of us are often too hard on ourselves when compared to when others (especially our non-broadcasting friends) listen to our work, not many of us productively (and consistently) use that time to sit down and critique our own work, although many of us have no problem critiquing the work of others—especially those whose positions we covet (I’m talking about Gus Johnson, Joe Buck, and many others).

Many of us who have worked in the field for a while know what goes into a good broadcast, even if we don’t consistently practice what we preach. I challenge those of you with a broadcast coming up to find some time beforehand and listen to one of your recent games with a critical ear—the same kind we often use to lament (insert the name of the play-by-play announcer that personally drives you nuts).

Take copious notes, and find several areas where you think were most deficient in your call. While there are many ways once can approach a process to critique and improve, one simple way is to look at this in four steps:

  1. Plan
  2. Do
  3. Check
  4. Act

Your initial critique should also help you create your plan (Step 1). While you might have 10-15 items in your broadcast that you might want to improve, it’s ideal to break this into chunks. Find 2-3 deficiencies that you want to immediately improve on, and plan to work on those items during your next call (Do – Step 2).

Following your next broadcast, critique your work again (Step 3), checking especially to see if you were able to improve on what you previously found to be deficient. Sometimes these are measurable (for instance, giving the time and score more often), while others are a little more difficult to define in a way that could be easily compared. It really depends on what you’re looking to work on.

After your 2nd critique, you should be able to determine if you were able to make progress on improving in those areas (Step 4). Of course in our field it can take several games for those improvements to “stick” and become a more consistent part of your call.

None of this works without two important items:

  1. The ability to be brutally honest about your own work
  2. The time needed to check and re-check the steps you’ve set out for improvement

Additionally, this process also works even if someone else is critiquing your work, as they’re basically assuming your role in steps 1 and 3 if you’re consistently using that resource to help you out.