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Gameday Preparation From A Broadcaster's Perspective, Part 1

Kevin Ray walks through what it takes to prepare to do the play-by-play for a basketball game broadcast.

Kevin Ray in action. (Photo by Ryan Malone)
Kevin Ray in action. (Photo by Ryan Malone)

It's eight hours till tip-off and the coach is going through the offensive and defensive sets they can expect to see tonight from their opponent. This is all a part of the preparation that takes place on gameday and is done to ensure everyone is on the same page and all are clear about what their responsibilities are. It's typically referred to as a "walkthru" by teams. 

Away from the court, there's another kind of game preparation that's taking place that carries equal importance, at least to the person behind it.

For broadcasters, our gameday is treated in many respects like that of the coaches and players.

To many listeners and viewers, it may seem like an easy job and takes little effort to be a play-by-play guy. What I hear oftentimes is, "Well, all you have to do is just describe what's going on, right? Doesn't seem like it would take much."

On the contrary, there's much more that goes into broadcasting a game than the casual observer would think. In fact, like a coach or player, we broadcasters are always looking for information and material that could be used in an upcoming broadcast. This is part of the ongoing preparation for games.

Typical game preparation for me oftentimes starts the night before a game. If I'm able to get some work done the night before a game, this makes gameday itself a little less hectic. Since we're in season right now with the Phoenix Mercury, I'll use them as the main example for this story.

If the team that Phoenix is facing is playing the night before, I'll try and either watch some if not all of the game either online or on TV, if it's a nationally broadcast game. In the WNBA, there aren't a lot of back-to-backs, so this is a rare opportunity, but an extremely valuable one if it's available.

Instead of relying on reading a game recap or just looking at a box score, I can actually see what unfolds and take both written and mental notes to be sure and use in the game the following night.

If the opposing team is not playing the night before, then I begin my preparation for their team by going to the team's website where I can find stats, a roster, stories and the most important piece of information, the Game Notes, which are prepared by the team's media relations staff.

If I don't already have a game board done for the opposing team completed, that's where my work first begins.

Game boards are the life blood of any broadcast for play-by-play people. While they vary in how they look and are constructed, they ultimately hold a great deal of the important information for the game broadcast. 

I like to put the five starters at the top of the board with the rest of the players placed in order of their average playing time per game. If I can, I'll copy and paste as much of the roster and game information from the game notes or player information to my game board. That's one of the big advantages we have now with the computers and the Internet. Having done all of this by hand before, I can tell you it saves a lot of time.

Once I have the players plugged into my board, I begin adding the information I deem critical for the game broadcast. I always like to have a team and player's stats from the year prior as a reference point to call upon in the broadcast when I feel it's important. Along with stats, I will also be sure and put down the significant honors and awards a player has achieved (All-Star appearances, etc.).

While the Game Notes do provide a great deal of information for each game, the only thing more important than Game Notes for me is the team's media guide.

Next week, I'll explain why the media guide is so vital, along with the final stages of game day preparation. And believe it or not, there's a difference between prepping for a television broadcast and a radio broadcast. Which reminds me, I've got a game I've got to get ready for.