Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sportscasting Advice To College Students

Hello all!  Time to switch things up a little bit.  The majority of my posts on here are Grizzlies related and the few that aren't usually involve one of the colleges I call games for.  This time, I'm going to switch gears.  With a lot of people graduating from college this week, I figured I would write about sportscasting and what it takes to succeed after college.  By no means do I know it all (heck, I'm only 24) but I think I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to make it in this business.  Getting started in the business as a young sportscaster is something I think about often and have a lot of opinions here I go.  Warning: This will be a long post and you may disagree with some of the things I write, but I'm going to write anyway!

First off, I love this business.  It's tough and grueling with long hours (like many professions) and it's competitive as heck.  "So you think you want to be a sportscaster?" is a question that a lot of veterans in the business will ask a youngster when they first talk about getting into it.  I never discourage someone from going into sportscasting, but I'll be straight up honest with them when they ask me questions.  Be ready for rejection, because it happens to everyone.  Don't expect to be good when you start (no one is).  If you don't have drive, thick skin and a strong work ethic, forget about it.

The key to succeeding in the business starts in college.  Now more than ever, college students need to graduate from college with a strong resume.  It doesn't have to be loaded with on-air work, but it must be loaded with real world experience.  That coupled with strong references and the willingness to start anywhere in the country will serve you well.  When I was in college, all I thought about was how I could put myself in a position to succeed when I left Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.  Every job I worked in college was in the radio or TV business.  I worked long hours for little or no pay and somehow, someway managed to get by.  I lived off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and GT Cola ( friends still get a kick out of that) but I knew that all my work would pay off.  If you aren't getting real world experience and building your resume in college, your career will be over before it even begins in sports broadcasting.  I mentor a young high school broadcaster who visits GCS Ballpark twice a summer and watches me do my work.  He travels in all the way from Springfield, IL and reminds me of myself at a young age.  He has amazing drive..he has goals and dreams..he gets it.  He's building a strong resume in HIGH SCHOOl folks..before he even gets to college.  I constantly remind him that when he gets to college he is going to be way ahead of pretty much everyone.  Don't get behind..start early.  If you can't find a job anywhere..get a recorder, sit in the stands at high school games and broadcast mock games.  Many have done it, heck I did it.  In college I hadn't called a bball game in a year so I sat in the top row of the bleachers @ Edwardsville High School and called games on Friday night's I was off work.  Go the extra mile to enhance your career.

Campus radio is where it needs to start.  Most colleges have campus radio stations.  SIUE does, and the reason I went to SIUE was because of the campus radio station and the fact they had (still do) credentials to the St. Louis Cardinals, Rams and Blues.  I was able to start covering those team's when I was an 18-year-old the summer before I began college.  I also met with the News/Sports Director and the GM before I chose SIUE and I hit it off with them from the start.  Campus radio is where you should get your start and make your mistakes.  Get all the bad stuff out of the way in college.  Learn, improve and work your tail off.  I practically lived at the SIUE campus radio station when I was in college.  I wasn't the most talented student there, but I can guarantee you no one worked harder than me.  Before class, I was there...between classes, I was there..after classes, I was there.  I grinded for four years and became extremely close to the Director Tom Dehner and the GM Frank Akers.  Tom, who recently retired did a feature on me in May 2011.  It stems from a thank you card I gave him when I was done with college.  I wrote him a letter..told him how much he meant to me.  He gave me my start in radio and taught me everything.  When he talked, I listened.  I'll never forget the day I told him goodbye before leaving for N.C.  It was the week before I was going to walk at graduation and leave for Fayetteville the next morning.  I told him thank you, him and I stared at each other for a couple seconds standing about 10 feet away from each other.  He started to choke up when talking, I did the same..we started to hug and next thing you know we are both crying.  Tears of joy of course.  A 60-year-old man who had put in 30-plus years in the biz and a 22-year-old about to embark on his post-college career.  I had tears because of how much he meant to me and the fact that that I had put my heart and soul into that station.  I'll never forget that moment..and I'll never forget what Tom did for me.  Below is the feature he did.

Tom Dehner Feature

You must love this to do it.  Most men in the world like sports..not all, but most.  That doesn't mean sportscasting is automatically for you.  Most, not all, who go into the business have stories of wanting to do this their whole life.  They were broadcasting the neighborhood games in their backyard as kids (I was no different) and always knew they would be doing this.  I love coaching basketball and if I wasn't doing this that's what I would've done for a career.  I also would enjoy teaching (I still would like to teach later on in my life..sportscasting class of course), but nothing is more enjoyable than calling a game.  It's a rush, I get zoned in and I don't think about anything else.  Believe it or not, I like preparing for the game just as much as I love calling it.  The key word is love..if you don't love it, this business will eat you up quick.  I moved 14 hours away to North Carolina the day after my college graduation.  I knew I needed to be there to continue and advance my career.  I left everything behind and did it without hesitation.  I love this business and that's needed to succeed.   

Have goals and dreams.  Be ambitious..don't let people tell you that you can't do something.  Don't change your goals until they are no longer attainable.  My goals are something I think about every day.  I have a goal to be in a certain position when I'm 26 and I won't stop until I get there.  Dream big.  Yes, this business is difficult and competitive, but with dedication and hard work, you can achieve anything.

This business can be tough and not fair at times.  Good people get let go for no reason.  Some people don't get the breaks they should get.  Great talent gets beat out by average talent.  It's hard to explain and figure out.  There's no exact way to make it big in sportscasting.  No one has figured it out and no one ever will.  I see something amazing every week.  One of my mentors and good friends, Joe Pott, has MLB talent.  Joe Buck has said it, I say it and so do many others.  I've heard him call A LOT of baseball games..he should be at the major league level, but he isn't.....yet.  I hope he will get his shot one day.  Those jobs just don't come open often..pxp guys get in those positions and latch on to them, never letting go.  Joe wants to be an MLB Voice..I want to call high-level Division I College bball as the Voice of a team...that's my goal.

Enjoy the ride.  To me, it's one of the hardest things to do.  I've heard a lot of good advice from veterans in the business recently about enjoying the ride.  I'm blessed to be where I am today in this business.  I've caught a lot of great question.  I'm one of the people who rarely will sit back and try to take it all in and enjoy the moments as they come.  My eyes are always set on the future and what my next step will be.  While that's fine, I've started to try and enjoy the moment a little more as of late.  These are moments you will never get back.

Random thoughts from a 24-year-old sportscaster to college students who are getting into this crazy but incredible business.  One thing I can assure you..if you were meant to do this, when you are calling games it will never feel like work.  Preparation, hard work and dedication:  three words to live by.

     -Adam Young

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