Actually it is always good to see so many former players return for Alumni Weekend. Both Bennett and Bo Ryan have been great about reaching out to the players of past seasons, and it is fun to chat with those folks when they get back to town. They might not have their annual alumni game anymore, but I'm sure the old "war stories" get better and better each year.
I suppose it's another sign that I am getting older, but I have to stop and think that many of today's students were in diapers when the Badgers were winning their first Rose Bowl title. Even with the Final Four season being just 10 years ago, consider that today's college freshman was eight or nine years old when Coach Bennett's team made its famous run. Don't even get me started about those who thought the Miracle on Ice was nothing more than a movie!
Pardon the REALLY awkward transition here, but now we get to today's topic. Being an "older guy," I sometimes will speak to high school and college students about the broadcasting business (and they look at me funny when I mention a former standout basketball player such as Rick Olson, or a terrific three-point sharpshooter such as Tim Locum). I'll get questions ranging from how I got started in the industry to recalling some of my favorite memories. During the course of the year, I also will get requests from several younger broadcasters to hear samples of their work. Recently, I spoke to a couple of college students, and they asked me to give them some advice on how best to succeed in a very competitive field.
So, even though you students are too young to appreciate the greatness of so many of those basketball alums who were in town last weekend, maybe I can offer a little help, such as it is, from someone who gets paid to watch 18-to-22 year-olds play games :
1) Be Versatile: If you want to be a sportscaster, great, but don't limit yourself. Develop your writing skills. More and more broadcast outlets are asking their "talent" to have blogs. Also, it is never a bad idea to keep up with current events in the real world. Knowing Prince Fielder's batting average is nice, but being well-rounded doesn't hurt either. Feel free to read a non-sports related book once in a while.
2) If you want to be on the air, get on the air, even if you don't get paid. Last Sunday I did a show on the UW campus radio station. If you are a college student with an interest in broadcasting, get on the campus radio station. If you want to be a good free throw shooter, you shoot a ton of free throws. If you want to develop your skills as a broadcaster, get on the air.
3) Listen to other announcers, but develop our own style. There are many popular play-by-play announcers out there. In this state, Bob Uecker is the king. Nationally, Gus Johnson has quite a following, especially with younger fans. The styles are different, but you can learn from both. Just don't try to be the next Uecker or Gus Johnson. Be yourself.
4) Network! Even though the economy is struggling, I think this is an exciting time to be a 20-something who is interested in sportscasting, especially in television. The Big Ten Network uses students to call a number of events. What an opportunity for those who are serious about the industry. If you are a college student at a Big Ten school, get to know those folks ASAP.
5) When you are on the air, act like there is no place you would rather be. An event is never beneath you. Nobody cares if you are going to miss your dinner reservation because the game went into overtime. Nobody cares if you have the sniffles. You get to describe a game, something a billion people would love to do. Have fun with it.
There are other points I could make, but maybe the final piece of advice would be to get advice from several other people. This is a very subjective business. One person's garbage could be someone else's gold.
Oh yeah, one more thing. The hours can be lousy, the pay can be worse and some holidays can vanish. If you are willing to handle all of that, chances are you will make it. And chances are you will discover that it beats working.
Now get back to class, and then when you have some time, learn about those former Badger players who were in town last weekend. Trust me, there were some very good ones who wore the Wisconsin uniform long before you were born.