Announcers educate, entertain, and inform the audience during games on the house (or Public Address) call or on a broadcast. But they can do so much more when hosts prepare materials for the call! The preparation invested in the announcer script is returned tenfold in getting the best information to your fans.
WHAT AND WHEN
Whenever possible, leagues should get the announcer script to the announcers at least a week before the game and early information to announcers up to a month in advance. Even if rosters won’t be settled until a later date, getting the core information to announcers up to a month before your games allows for preparation and questions.
Every season has an amount of early information, meaning information that won’t change, and leagues know this information well in advance. If we think about the information we give to officials, much of this information should also be distributed to announcers. Here’s a list of information that should get sent to announcers when it’s available:
Including complete home and away game schedule.
Timing: With announcer application or as soon as available to rostered announcers
Including venue safety information such as emergency exits, venue or league-specific information (such as restroom rules/accommodations), announcer-specific information such as sound system specs (wireless/wired), announcer location, game layout – team benches/penalty box/scoreboard location(s)
Timing: With announcer contracts or as soon as available
Including league events like recruiting, related team events (sister/brother/junior leagues),fundraisers, tournaments
Timing: Whenever appropriate, but at least one week before event.
SAFETY AND TIME MANAGEMENT
Announcers provide the first line of safety and schedule to the fans, programs are second. Critical to the success of the event is getting this information out quickly and efficiently. Inform your announcers of the safety information for your venue and the schedule of the event, and they, along with your officials, will keep things running smoothly, safely and on time.
For safety, you should provide written instructions on: Emergency Exits, restricted areas that are skaters and officials only, restroom information (location, front-of-line instructions) and emergency management. Emergency management includes things like restrictions on seating or access near play areas and benches, and audience use of EMTs. Much of this information we hope we never use, but better a prepared venue should an emergency occur than lose time or create havoc in not sharing.
Help facilitate communication between your announcer and head referee regarding official reviews. The audience feels more engaged in the game when they know what’s happening during game stoppage. Some referees prefer to make the announcements themselves and some prefer to let the announcer take on this role. An announcer trained in proper protocol can listen in on the concern and objectively share that information in proper officiating terms with the audience—skaters involved, approximate time in the jam, location on the track, observed action or non-action, on-track call or non-call, and desired outcome. An announcer can listen in on the officials’ discussion then, after the team captains have been advised of the result, relay the conclusion to the fans.
Too often providing announcers with rosters is an afterthought. This announcer has, in the past, felt blessed when someone printed off the Rosters sheet from the StatsBook. That should be the lowest bar of information delivery to your announcers.
The ideal roster sheet provided to announcers will be formatted to include all the pertinent team and roster information on one sheet so the announcer doesn’t have to shuffle papers while calling the play by play. I’ve provided an example from ECDX 2018 to show how you can get numbers, names, pronunciations and pronouns on one sheet with other information.
Get this information from your visiting team with team spreadsheets or surveys you incorporate into your contracts. Yes, you can have your announcer do the legwork of pronunciation on game day, but this arrangement is less than ideal for all involved.
Every game can have preparatory statistics. Do not rely on memory! Once in preparation for a game, this author had already found the past record between two teams of three games, but the Captain informed the author they’d never played before. They were games that had probably occurred before the Captain had joined the team. Just because an 8-year-old game feels like irrelevant derby history, the fact we’re a sport and leagues with history like this is a storyline that fills out a good announcer call. Check FlatTrackStats.com or your own game statistic repository. If you have skater stats from those games, share them as well. If you’re preparing a home game, make sure you get the league information about the visiting team. A good coach would already have prepared this information to prepare the team. These are great tidbits for an announcer to work with and sound professional. Some items to include are where the team is based, what kind of floor they practice and compete on at home, their WFTDA ranking if they have one, and how many years they’ve been around.
Season information for both teams brings color to a game and a good announcer will find opportunities to incorporate this information. Don’t forget to include the bench staff for each team as well. Even if they aren’t included in team intros, there’s opportunity to talk about them during official reviews.
When THAing (Tournament Head Announcing) for events, I also like to provide production notes on this sheet regarding the other games these teams are playing or have played in past instances of this event, the information about what is going on on other tracks, and what will happen next on this track. All this information is helpful to derby-aware audiences to plan their days and movement between tracks.
If you have access to skater statistics from previous games, share them in your announcer script. If you need a reference of what that might look like, see the Sports Information Books associated with post-season events at Tournament Central on WFTDA.com.
Sponsor reads and game component sponsorship bring in necessary production funds for leagues. Empower your announcers to give those sponsors a positive return on investment by getting those reads to the fans fluidly and without interfering with their enjoying the game.
It is worth asking your sponsors if they have a couple short reads about their business or product or shout-outs to skaters. Let them know it should be 1 to 3 sentences but, more importantly, can be read in 10 to 15 seconds which is the amount of time available between jams to tie up the jam, read a sponsor read and introduce the jammers for the next jam.
Could you leave your announcers to their own devices working only from the program? Sure. But this is taxing on the announcers, and it leads to opportunities to offend sponsors. Take the time to prepare this and work with your sponsors. It makes them feel valued and involved, and it makes everyone sound more professional and on message.
GAME COMPONENT NAMING
Having sponsors lend their name to time outs, the jammer line, the penalty box and others usually sells some of the highest dollar-value sponsorships. Get this information to your announcers as it comes in. Hopefully you’ll be using this in your social media as well, so the sooner you get everyone referring to the ABC Widget Jam Line, the more easily it will flow and stay on message for your sponsor.
Print out all the information for your announcers. Even if your announcer is known to print their own material or use a tablet, it’s good practice to have backups. I started my announcing career in 2008 because traffic kept the scheduled announcer from making the game, and the team moved me from NSO (scoreboard) to announcer!
Announcer scripts are an investment. They put the finishing touches of professionalism and message for your league’s most visible product – your games. Putting this level of work into them is time consuming, but it is the difference between purely amateur and putting the value into your ticket price. Caring about what your announcers say and giving them the tools to excel will also show to these volunteers how much you care about them and how they sound.
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