I am honored to be the play-by-play broadcaster for a NCAA Division-I university. I learned to enjoy soccer back in 1999 as the United States Women’s National Soccer Team dramatically advanced through the FIFA World Cup. Who can forget the Penalty Kick by Brandy Chastain to win it? I was a soccer fan, but not a player or coach, so a lot of the detail and jargon I am familiar with in other sports wasn’t natural to me. When asked to voice the soccer matches, the first thing I did was read the rule book. Each and every year, I spend time with this little blue book and get familiarized with the rules and procedures.
Next, I watch as much soccer as I can to listen to how the game is called on a professional level. Now, of course I don’t have a cool British accents that legitimize broadcasters immediately, so I better know and understand the game. Listening to great soccer commentators allows me to familiarize myself with the jargon used and the spirit in which a broadcast called. Below are the top soccer commentators according to worldsoccertalk.com.
While Darke has been working Premier League matches since the 90’s, he has been a fan favorite here in America ever since he starting doing matches with ESPN in 2010. Darke possesses an outstanding sports voice, and perhaps his best known call was Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup (not to mention his hilarious commentary of a blind date for an ESPN commercial). Premier League fans can now hear Darke on BT Sport in England and the occasional broadcast on ESPN.
One of the most recognizable voices in the box, Tyler is in the upper echelon when it comes to soccer commentators. Tyler has a number of memorable calls through the years and FIFA video game fans surely have his voice branded into their brains. The 68-year-old Chester native was voted as the Premier League Commentator of the Decade by fans in 2003.
After listening to these brilliant commentators, you must understand the concept of elevating energy at the right time. In soccer, the game is 95 percent describing passes and changes in possession. Not exactly exciting stuff, but when the moment happens, that beautiful orb finds the back of the net, you must be able to provide the appropriate amount of energy.
With every broadcast, there are distinct differences in an audio only broadcast or televised broadcast. In soccer, the most important element in a radio broadcast is spotting the ball and identifying who has possession. This can be extremely challenging at varying levels. At the collegiate level, possession can change rapidly and it is nearly impossible to comment on every touch of the ball. But, you should be able to identify what team comes away with a loose ball. It is also helpful to use the the direction and left or right of the player, “Reed passes right to Hepsoe, who advaces the ball past the halfway line, Hepsoe feeds it left back to Hughes who moves to the left wing, she sends a cross to Gaughn in the 18…..” Using spots on the field as landmarks will help the listener place the ball in their mind. Below is a Diagram I use to help place and describe the possession.
I take this in the booth with me on each broadcast. I also write on the diagram with a blue pen in case something happens during the match I want to refer back to during intermission or post game.
A television broadcast is very different, but equally as challenging. One of the most difficult aspects is identifying the players on the opposing team. A perfect example is a recent match between Kennesaw State and Furman. Since I am familiar with the KSU players, I focused on recognizing the Furman players. From the front, I could recognize numbers and from studying the rosters, I was able to identify the player, but from the back…well see for yourself.
From the press box, I found it nearly impossible to see the Furman’s uniform numbers. I began to recognize the players by their appearance, but that wasn’t until late in the first half. In this instance it was a radio broadcast and I didn’t have time during the gameplay to peer down at my spotting board, so I did the best I could. If it were a televised broadcast, I would have used my spotting chart a lot more. With the televised broadcast it helps when you do not have to describe every detail of the match. You have more time to use the spotting board. It is even better when you have a color analyst to help you out.
Of course preparation is still very important. You can never over prepare, but you certainly can under prepare. As a broadcaster, you are there to tell the stories associated with the teams, individual players, coaches, etc. Preparation will give you the necessary outlook to know the teams history, but there is nothing like speaking to the Sports Information Director and the head coach for inside information about the competing teams. Do your prep and talk to the folks available and you will be fully prepared for a spirited broadcast.