Sportscaster  What They Do

Just the Facts

Broadcast News Analysts Career Video

Insider Info

dotSportscasters give the play-by-play and other commentary for television or radio broadcasts of sporting events. Sportscasters can also work as sports desk anchors, as researchers, or as reporters for a TV or radio station.

Games often have one sportscaster who gives the play-by-play commentary and one who does color commentary. That means one is telling the viewer or listener what is going on in the game and the other is filling in gaps during the game's broadcast and handling the pre-game and intermission shows. Other events will have just one announcer, who will handle both those duties.

dot It'd be easy to think that a sportscaster has a short day of work, but just the opposite is true! '

Barbara Caines was the first female sportscaster to have a daily program (she used her maiden name, Barbara Ondrusek). Caines -- who now teaches broadcast journalism -- remembers the days being a lot of fun, but long indeed.

"I'd start off my day with phone calls to the various teams by 8:00, and then I put together a hard-hitting report daily, put together the 6:00 sportscast, host it, then I'd put together the 11:00, host it, and get home at one in the morning."

Sportscasters spend a lot of time preparing and finding out information, such as which players are sick or injured, to announce on the air.

For some, like Paul Haysom, it also involves writing a script and putting it into a package for the viewer. Haysom is a TV anchor and reporter.

"My nightly duties include either watching or attending a variety of games and then cutting highlights, writing a script, putting it in a relevant order, and then presenting it to the viewer," he says. "As a reporter I have to find a good story, then figure out an angle I want to run with, go get some interviews, get some cover, and then cut it into a two-minute story."

dotSportscasters prepare for pre-game or intermission shows by interviewing the teams and coaches, gathering statistics, and, for the intermission show, recapping events in the game so far.

Because many TV and radio stations never go off the air, beginner sportscasters can end up working some pretty late --or pretty early -- shifts. Lots of games take place on the weekends or in the evenings, so be prepared to work some different hours.

dot Sportscasters often have a background in journalism. Some used to be athletes.

dotIt would be tempting to think with the rise of the Internet and the popularity of blogs that people can also be looking outside of radio and TV for experience and an eventual career. That isn't the case, at least not yet.

"There are a lot of people who are trying [to make a career out of being a sportscaster online], but I don't think it's been mastered just yet," says Haysom. "I think it will happen; with Twitter and online sports sites growing, it's only a matter of time before it will take off, but I don't think anyone can make a living doing it just yet."

Caines says that learning how to be a sportscaster yourself by doing it online is just not realistic. Competition is incredibly fierce for sportscasting jobs, so only those who are the best at what they do get in. That means seeking out the best education and training possible.

"No, you can't learn yourself. You absolutely can't," she says.

Caines says this brings up an important point: that at the beginning of their career, a sportscaster must know to not give their opinion and simply tell the story or narrate the game. People who have their own blogs tend to want to be commentators, she says.

"They all want to be [famous sportscasters] Bob McKenzie or Fergie Olver. They've been couch coaches their whole lives and know the sport inside and out and they make great commentators, but the industry doesn't want a young person to be a commentator. That goes to the greats, to the Bob Costas of the world. That's the hardest thing to get across with young men; it's easier with young women. That's why we've had a lot of young women get higher-profile positions than some of the men, because all the men want to do is commentate."

dot Caines says that it can be a very tough industry for women, however. Unfortunately, she says that she knows many female sportscasters who have quit their jobs, or moved elsewhere, because of the pressure on them.

"A lot of them were big names on network sportscasts," she says. "They might go to a smaller market and just cover sports for, say, Calgary, as opposed to for TSN in Toronto. They just find the pressure of constantly proving themselves intense."

Deb Carson is a national anchor for Fox Sports Radio in the United States. She says it's easier for women to break into this field than it was 20 years ago. But she says it's still harder for women than men.

"I do believe that women are still held to a higher standard than men are when it comes to being accepted for credibility," she says. "A woman's credibility is more immediately damaged if she makes a mistake or misspeaks on the air."

dotSportscasting doesn't require a lot of physical strength. What a sportscaster does need is a good voice, excellent memory and strong concentration skills. Sometimes sportscasters will walk down to the game area to talk to the players. A good amount of travelling can be involved, getting from game to game.

At a Glance

Report sporting events on radio and television

  • You'll spend time memorizing the opposing team's players and numbers
  • Salaries can vary -- a lot
  • A journalism degree is a great beginning to your career