How to do Sports Play-By-Play

By: David Schiele

San Antonio sports anchor Vinnie Vinzetta hosted a session about sports play-by-play announcing.

His first piece of advice was to “do your homework.” He said that proper preparation is key for a good announcer. He advised us to ask to watch a practice of the two teams playing. If granted permission to watch practice, make observations of the coaching style employed on the players and what formations/ plays they practice.

Vinzetta expressed how hard it is to commentate blowout games, because there’s no need to scrutinize every play at that point. A blowout game forces the play-by-play guy to dig deeper into his or her notes. They can talk about what effect the game will have on the two teams going forward, or have some fun and give random facts about the players. Although, the only way to give these facts is by doing thorough research and having a bio for every player that will likely play.

When it comes to college commentary, Vinnie said it’s important to not compete with whoever your broadcast partner is. Yes, we are all trying to get a job in sports media, but don’t use the broadcast booth as battleground.

Vinnie’s last point was to develop thick skin. Joe Buck, who serves as Fox’s top commentator for the NFL and MLB, is disliked by a multitude of people. He’s accused of being bias against certain teams. He’s been deemed boring as well. But one look on Joe’s Twitter will tell you that he doesn’t care. Audience feedback comes with being in media, just like batteries come with toys. You must have thick skin to survive.

I found this session very useful. I like to do play-by-play announcing when I play sports video games, and would like to commentate a real game one day. It’s certainly no easy task, but I would invite the opportunity.