It’s all in the name, or is it the number—or is it both?

We’ve discussed game prep quite frequently on this blog, but one area that is a key to the success of any play-by-play announcer, especially on radio, is that they know the names of the players.

There’s nothing more frustrating when you’re listening to a game on radio, and the play-by-play announcer has trouble identifying who has the ball (or the puck). Even worse (in my book) is when the announcer tries to cover that up simply by identifying the number of the player. The only thing that might drive me more nuts is when I tune in, and it takes forever to get the time and score.

In some cases, the lapse is simply a mental one. The announcer simply can’t get the name out of his mouth, although it’s in his head. It’s happened to me, and if you’re a play-by-play announcer reading this, it’s likely happened to you as well. There’s not much you can do except to forget it and move on.

But there are a number of other announcers who simply do not put in the time to effectively memorize the names and numbers of the players who are participating. I’ve experienced this frequently in listening to some other broadcasters, who often work for the club and strongly focus on “their guys”, while not effectively preparing for the other team. It creates for a poorly structured broadcast in my view.

Some of this is understandable. When you work full-time for an organization, you’re usually piled high with many other tasks outside of broadcasting the games themselves. Simply having the time in the day to effectively prepare for a broadcast can be a luxury for some.  Last month I discussed the importance of developing a routine for broadcast preparation. Memorizing names and numbers is an important part of this, and just as I mentioned previously about utilizing a standard process that fosters a routine for your overall game prep, the same applies here when memorizing.

There are a number of ways to commit this information to memory, and what works for some broadcasters might not work for others. I know of a number of people that write out flash cards. Personally, I can’t stand flash cards, and they do not work for me. Ultimately, you want to find a process that works for you.

When I see a team for the first time, I do three things to help me commit these “new” players to memory:

  1. Write out my scorebook as I normally do the night before the game. As I write, I focus mostly on the number of the player and their last name. Most of the time you’re simply referring to the player by their last name, and if I can get that in my head, the rest of the information (first name, position, etc.) comes along pretty easily.
  2. Watch these players play. Not everyone can do this, but I have a luxury of being able to watch every game in the AHL. It’s definitely helpful to listen/watch a call, and as the players are being identified in the broadcast, it just further cements that name/number identification.
  3. Broadcast the warm-up. For basketball and hockey at least, the players are on the court/ice well before your broadcast time and it gives me an opportunity to envision calling the game while they go through their routines. Now I’m actively saying the names of the players that you’re about to broadcast, which further helps me remember them.

Ultimately, the easier you can recall player names, the smoother your broadcast will sound. And while your memorization “style” may differ, I strongly suggest trying out my 3rd point above, if it’s not something you normally do, as early as your next broadcast. It would be great to know if broadcasting the warm-up was something that helped you in your broadcast.

One Commnet on “It’s all in the name, or is it the number—or is it both?

  1. I found myself starting to do #3 this season. While I do prep well in advance of a game by finding out histories, common themes (players on both teams playing with each other in the past), storylines, etc…I don\’t often \’memorize\’ the roster until before the game or warmup.

    By the time warmup comes along, I\’ve written each name out on my version of a spotting board and also my lineup card. Add in the blog post, and there is 3 places where I\’ve used the name, so it begins to stick. I added in \’calling\’ the game during warmup to help reinforce it. It\’s never more than \’x passes to y passes to z, shoots, scores\’ while they do basic skating and shooting drills in warmup. Without this, it wasn\’t until the first few shifts when I felt comfortable with the opposing roster. Now I\’m ok right off the opening faceoff on most nights.

    I need to find more time to watch other games. In the BCHL, most teams have a blog, so I read that to get a lay of the land, but it\’s not really a substitute for seeing the team in action.

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