Archive for the ‘High School’ Category

Eight Days, Seven Championships, One Announcer – Part 2 Gonzaga

February 22, 2013 started a span of eight days in which I would announce seven championship games.  In that mix, there were two semi-final games.  We’re going to cover those eight days in this eight-part series.

 

Part 2 – Mid-Atlantic Prep Hockey League 2A Championship Game, The Gardens Ice House, Laurel, Maryland

The Gonzaga Eagles won their second MAPHL championship over Calvert Hall.  It's their fifth league championship in nine seasons.

The Gonzaga Eagles won their second MAPHL championship over Calvert Hall. It’s their fifth league championship in nine seasons.

 

The Gardens Ice House has seen the Gonzaga Eagles win five championships over the last nine years against four different opponents.  This night, the Eagles would skate against the Calvert Hall Cardinals out of Towson, Maryland.  The D. C.-based school has provided a good mix of talent, as has the rest of the MAPHL in its brief six-year history.  There are dozens of players who are playing in college that have participated in the MAPHL, with a few making their marks on the lower levels of professional hockey.  The last time Gonzaga made it to the championship game was four years earlier when they defeated long-time rival DeMatha Catholic.

 

Because this game is arguably the top high school hockey game in the Baltimore-Washington area, this game receives a lot of coverage.  The Washington Capitals were on hand for this game and produced this video after the game.  The Washington Post covered the game as well producing their own video.

 

The 20th Annual National Capital Hockey Tournament, the Purple Puck was contested December 26-31, 2013 at Ft. Dupont Ice Arena

The 20th Annual National Capital Hockey Tournament, the Purple Puck was contested December 26-31, 2013 at Ft. Dupont Ice Arena

One more thing to mention, I have been the P. A. announcer and music person for Gonzaga for 10 years.  At this year’s Purple Puck tournament, I was presented with a plaque commemorating my 10 years of service.  The parents from Calvert Hall knew my role with Gonzaga and after the game, thanked me for being there, thanked me for setting a great atmosphere, then congratulated me on the win.  It was a true honor that Calvert Hall’s parents, coaches and players all recognized that even though Gonzaga is my main team, that I was there to provide a championship atmosphere for two great teams.  Since this was the second of two championship games on the same night, you could possibly think I was geared up for this game and yes I was.  However, that didn’t affect how I handled the first game, nor did I show favoritism toward Gonzaga in this second game.  Announcing two championship games in the same night can be tiring, but it’s all in how you pace yourself.  It was fun and I love doing it!

 

Calvert Hall advanced to the championship game with a shootout victory over the favored Landon Bears.  Landon was the defending champions and number one seed in the playoffs for the second year in a row but the Cardinals were able to force overtime and eventually a shootout where the Cardinals  held the advantage.  It was the second game in as many nights for Calvert Hall to pull out the 2-1 upset, just one night after dispatching Mt. St. Joseph 4-1.

 

Gonzaga played a great season and had only lost four times all year, two of those times in their Purple Puck tournament, once to one of the top teams in New York and the other in the championship game.  Their first MAPHL playoff game was a 6-3 win over DeMatha.  They turned around the next day and too a 5-2 win over Archbishop Spalding who held control of the game through the first period.  The Eagles were able to break through and then cruised to the victory setting up the championship game.

 

Calvert Hall knew that Gonzaga had a strong offense and they needed to play an almost perfect game.  They did just that in the first period, with many tense moments in the first period and the Cardinals appeared to have the bounces going their way when, with 3:02 left in the period, a Gonzaga shot rang off the crossbar and out keeping the score tied at zero.  Dominik Petty broke through for the Eagles with 1:13 left in the first as he had help from Jack Slater and Michael Logan, who missed more than half the season with a wrist injury suffered during the Purple Puck, to put his team up 1-0 heading into the first intermission.

 

The teams traded power-play opportunities in the first, but the Eagles Bobby Hally was caught for interference less than two minutes into the second giving the Cardinals hope to tie the game.  It didn’t work out that was as Ridge Slater poked a pass to his brother Jack who skated out of the zone and onto the Calvert Hall goal.  He would find the back of the net, shorthanded at 3:42 and give Gonzaga a 2-0 lead.  The momentum began to shift noticeably for Gonzaga at that point, but Calvert Hall wasn’t going to give up.

 

Calvert Hall needed something to go their way and hope to score a late goal to go into the break on a high note.  Tim Carson did just that for his team when he scored on a Barlow Sanders head contact penalty to cut the Gonzaga lead to one.  The Cardinals seemed to find new life and were pressing the Eagles until a late-period rush by Gonzaga got the puck to Connor Van Hoose from Pettey and Logan.  Van Hoose scored with 14 seconds left in the period to grab that momentum back and pretty much stick a dagger into the Cardinals.

 

After the 12-minute intermission, the teams returned to the ice and it was all Gonzaga.  Logan scored his first of the playoffs from Ridge Slater and Chris Meloni 5:06 into the third.  Just 2:25 later Jack Sanborn scored from Meloni at the midway point of the period.  The final nail was delivered by Jack Slater from Pettey with 2:47 remaining in the game.

 

Instead of mobbing goalie Nick Platais on the final horn, the team continued a tradition that was started in the Maryland Scholastic Hockey League days when the team won its third championship, and skated to the boards in front of their fans to celebrate the win together.

 

Alan May presented the Eagles with their fifth Capitals Cup championship trophy after the game.  The Eagles were also the first team to ever be ranked as the number one team in The Washington Post from the start of the season to its conclusion.  Of Gonzaga’s 22 wins on the season, two came against MSHL 2A champion Winston Churchill and one against NVSHL runner-up Langley.

 

Metro DC DJs Three Stars of the Game:
3.  Dominik Pettey (GON) goal, two assists
2.  Michael Logan (GON) goal, two assists
1.  Jack Slater (GON) two goals, assist

Eight Days, Seven Championships, One Announcer – Part 1 Good Counsel

February 22, 2013 started a span of eight days in which I would announce seven championship games.  In that mix, there were two semi-final games.  We’re going to cover those eight days in this eight-part series.

 

Part 1 – Mid-Atlantic Prep Hockey League 1A Championship Game, The Gardens Ice House, Laurel, Maryland

 

The 2012-2013 Good Counsel Hockey team and MAPHL 1A Champions

The 2012-2013 Good Counsel Hockey team and MAPHL 1A Champions

 

The Mid-Atlantic Prep Hockey League came about a few years ago as a way to separate the more powerful private schools of the Washington, D. C. area from those playing in the Maryland Scholastic Hockey League (now Maryland Student Hockey League).  When the MAPHL formed, it consisted of 11 teams in Virginia, Washington, D. C. and Maryland.  The first championship was won by DeMatha Catholic High School.  Last season, the league split its teams into two divisions, with some schools fielding teams in both 1A and 2A divisions.  This allowed some of the schools to better compete with each other while fielding teams that allowed some of the younger or less-experienced players a chance to play for their school.

 

TGIHThe Gardens Ice House has been home to many championship games over the years and is a nice facility that we’ve worked in many times.  The Patrick Rink is the rink all the biggest events are held.  I was there to announce the opening ceremonies for the Special Hockey Tournament that was featured on Ace of Cakes.  The last two seasons, the arena has hosted the American Heroes Hockey Challenge which has put DeMatha against another local hockey team to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project.

 

The second MAPHL 1A Championship was a rematch of the first, with the Loyola-Blakefield Dons out of Baltimore, and the Good Counsel Falcons out of Olney.  Last year, it was  9-0 drubbing by Loyola-Blakefield.

 

Both teams easily cruised through the playoffs with Good Counsel winning their games 6-2 (over Gonzaga) and 8-2 (over St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes) while Loyola-Blakefield scored victories of 8-2 (over Landon) and 5-1 (over DeMatha).  The teams combined to score 27 goals in their four games and came into the championship game with the thought of winning the whole thing in mind.

 

maphlFans who were expecting to see a defensive battle between these teams that allowed a combined seven goals over four games were going to be disappointed when Jack Goodwin started the scoring 3:33 into the game to put Good Counsel on the board first, the first of 17 goals the teams would combine for in the game as Good Counsel took the win 11-6.

 

Loyola-Blakefield tied the game 6:40 later when Jonathan McGrath scored his first of the game with an assist from Eric Snyder.  Good Counsel took the lead for good 91 seconds later as Steven Ralston scored his first of four goals in the game with an assist to Mason Leahy.

 

The Falcons would take advantage of Loyola-Blakefield’s inability to stay out of the penalty box by scoring three power play goals in the first 5:03 of the second period to take a 5-1 advantage.  With Matt Ortenzio in the box just 18 seconds into the second period for roughing, Ralston converted just 39 seconds later with help from Malcolm Combs and Goodwin.  Ortenzio was back in the box at the 2:25 mark as an errant elbow was caught by the game officials.  Goodwin w

ould score his second of the game 11 seconds later as Chris Sabate and Combs assisted on the goal.  For Sabate, it would be a sign of things to come.  At the 4:30 mark in the second, Isaac Sebastian was whistled for cross checking, setting up Ralson’s third goal of the game from Leahy and Sabate just 13 seconds later.

 

Alan May

Alan May, an analyst for Comcast Sportsnet and former Washington Capitals tough-guy was on hand to present the Capitals Cup Trophy.

Loyola-Blakefield now faced a 5-1 deficit and set forth to get back into the game and did so by scoring twice within a minute on McGrath’s second of the game and unassisted at 5:27.  Exacly a minute later, James O’Malley scored on a pass from Snyder to make it a 5-3 game.  Good Counsel’s Sabate scored his first of the game at 8:09 with Dan Godwin scoring his lone tally at 9:21 and Sabate’s second at 10:48 to extend the lead to 8-3 heading to the second intermission and ice cut.

 

At the end of the period, tempers flared around the Good Counsel goal as a fight broke out and other penalties were assessed.  After the offending parties were removed, and the penalties figured out, the Falcons began the third period on the power play.  And they did just as they had done on their previous three chances and scored when Ralston notched his fourth of the game 95 seconds into the third.

 

The Dons defense was able to keep the Falcons off the board and the team was able to stay out of the penalty box in an effort to get back into the game on goals by Snyer, Sean Stanton and McGrath’s third of the game.  The game stood 9-6 in favor of Good Counsel with 2:43 left in the game.

 

Loyola-Blakefield pulled their goalie for a chance to grab a couple more goals but a pair of empty net goals by Good Counsel sealed it.  Clayton Dwyer and Ben Masters scored their only goals of the game into the empty net.

 

The Falcons celebrated the first MAPHL 1A Championship and were presented the Capitals Cup trophy by former Washington Capital Alan May.  Good Counsel was 4-for-6 on the power play.  Every MAPHL championship game has been played at The Gardens Ice House.

 

The Metro DC DJs Three Stars of the Game were:
3.  Eric Snyder (L-B) goal, four assists
2.  Steven Ralston (GC) four goals, three power play
1.  Chris Sabate (GC) two goals, four assists

Using Full Names vs. Last Names

Back in the late winter of 1999 (right before Spring Training started), I was told to go home from a job that I absolutely loved.  I loved being at the ballpark every day, working the hard and long hours to get the stadium ready for that first game of the spring, moving chairs, hoses, tables, concession equipment, filling ice bags, whatever it took, but I was told to go home during a break one night and not to come back.  Why?  Because I called the GM of the team by only his last name.

 

Now, I know this can seem disrespectful in a lot of cases, however in a previous job within the same organization, we frequently called our superiors by their last names and since I was new to working in baseball, thought that’s how it went.  I mean, that’s how it went when I was in high school and manager of the baseball team, and how it was when I was a batboy for a local Minor League team.  I thought it was ok to do that in the baseball setting.

 

Well, that night I learned a very important lesson.  Not only is a person’s name what you call them, but it is their identity.  Having never, up to that point, announced using only last names; I decided that I would never announce using only last names.  There are many reasons, but respect is at the top of the list.  If you really need more, then I’ll go into them below.

 

Respect – it’s always respectful to call a person either Mr./Ms./Mrs. and their last name, or by their first name.  If you don’t like to be called by only your last name, then don’t do this to someone else.

 

Identity – A person’s name is their identity and some last names are fairly common.  Jones and Smith immediately ring to mind but in all the years I’ve been announcing I’ve had even some uncommon names repeated.

 

Multiple players with the same last name – At lower levels of sports, it’s common to have family members on the same team.  Though we’ve seen in major professional sports such as hockey (Howe, Hunter, Miller and Sedin) and baseball (Griffey) it happens more so in youth leagues, high schools and even colleges.  So if you just announce by a last name, someone may not know which one you’re talking about.

 

Honestly, if you have to recap something by only using last names, or add an assist, call out a tackle, etc., by only using last names, then you really should think about adding that piece of information.  Instead, use their full names, you won’t seem like a lazy announcer for going the extra tiny step.

Recap of the 20th Annual National Capital Hockey Tournament

Defending a championship is one of the hardest things in sports to do, and in the 20th Annual National Capital Hockey Tournament, the Purple Puck, defending champions fell in both the Varsity and Prep Division tournaments during the final week of the calendar year.

Gonzaga dropped a 2-1 decision to St. Ignatius of Ohio in the Prep championship, but opened the tournament following the Varsity championship three days earlier that saw Team Nova pick up the victory over Chantilly. Team Nova consisted of players from several area high schools including Bishop Ireton, Bishop O’Connell, South County and W. T. Woodson just to name a new.

The two divisions were almost mirror images of each other as offense dominated the Varsity Division, with five goals scored in the first three minutes of the first game on December 26 between the two eventual championship teams. The was just a sign of things to come as the four teams in the division combined for 82 goals in just seven total games.

Chantilly’s Keegan Kelly led all players with 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) while teammates Clay Shapiro (seven goals, eight assists) and Cobey Hernandez (10 goals, five assists) finished with 15 each. Duke Roach of Team Nova tied Hernandez for the goal scoring title with 10 goals. A total of 10 power play goals with Roach and teammate Nick Tangora leading the way with a pair each; and five short handed goals with Hernandez leading the way with two were scored in the Varsity tournament.

West Mason and Gonzaga’s Varsity II team rounded out the Varsity tournament. West Mason’s top scorers were Tommy Cleary, Nick Gorgone and Remi Paine who scored the Mustangs goals. The Eagles were paced by Chris King (four goals, four assists), Michael Dewhirst (three goals) and Patrick Kirchner, Willie Leidolf and Matt Nicholson who all had two goals each.

Before the Prep Division got underway with its seven-team field, the tournament recognized its history with an opening ceremonies that included the first coach in Gonzaga hockey history in Ed McGonigle who was there at the first Purple Puck 20 years ago. During the ceremony, tournament director John Cotten, read a proclamation from the DC government recognizing December 28, 2012 as Purple Puck Day in Washington, DC. Following the proclamation, the tournament presented Jarrod Wronski with an award of service for his 10 years with the Purple Puck serving as the tournament’s announcer, music person, game operations specialist and statistician.

The Prep Division feature a total of 14 games with the teams combining for 84 goals. There were four shutouts and six games decided by two goals or less, as goalies and defense became the focus.

Gonzaga’s Jack Slater lead all goal scorers with five while Jack Olson of Georgetown Prep tied with two players from Canisius and one from St. Igantius for second. Georgetown Prep’s Ryan How tied with Gonzaga’s Michael Logan for second in assists while Slater was one point off the pace with seven. Gonzaga’s Chris Meloni, was the Mike Green of the tournament, posting three power play goals to lead all with the extra man. In fact, Gonzaga’s power play was tops by converting 27.3% of the time with six tallies with the extra man. The remaining six teams in the tournament scored eight power play goals. Huntingtown led all teams on the penalty kill by killing off all nine of their opponent’s power play chances.

In addition to the three local teams in the tournament, the Purple Puck welcomed Canisius (Buffalo, NY) who registered 22 goals for in the tournament while allowing only four, Loyola Academy (Chicago, IL) who was making their third appearance in the tournament, St. Ignatius (Cleveland, Ohio) who tied for Canisius for most goals scored in the tournament in winning their first Purple Puck championship and St. Joseph’s Prep (Philadelphia, PA) who was also appearing in their third tournament.

Home Visitor Home Score Visitor Score
Gonzaga Canisius 0 2
St. Ignatius Huntingtown 9 0
St. Joseph Prep Georgetown Prep 5 1
Loyola Academy Gonzaga 1 1
Canisius Georgetown Prep 11 3
St. Ignatius Gonzaga 5 7
Loyola Academy Huntingtown 3 0
St. Joseph Prep Canisius 1 5
St. Ignatius Loyola Academy 2 1
Huntingtown Georgetown Prep 2 5
Gonzaga St. Joseph Prep 7 2
#1 St. Ignatius #4 St. Joseph’s Prep 4 0
#2 Loyola Academy #3 Gonzaga 1 3
St. Ignatius Gonzaga 2 1

Championship Games, Fun, Stressful, Memorable

I’ve lost track of the number of championship games I’ve announced.  I’ve announced championship games on the professional, collegiate, high school and youth levels.  Each one is the culmination of a season’s worth of hard work, determination, and sometimes luck.

I’ve had some championship games that have gone to overtime or extra innings, I’ve had others that have ended due to mercy rules, I’ve had some that wound up with more people watching at the end than were there for the start of the game.  No matter what sport, what level, championship games are an honor to announce. (more…)

I’m A DJ: High School Kids Terrify DJs

I started as a mobile DJ while in high school and I knew then that one of the toughest things for DJs to do was to make everyone happy, especially if everyone was a high school student. It’s not uncommon to have kids whose families or they themselves come from 30-50 different countries at a high school dance. How do you make everyone happy? Keep it upbeat and LISTEN TO THE KIDS.

I know it’s hard for adults to actually listen to teenagers because the adults feel the kids already know it all and the kids, well they feel they know it all anyway so there is a source of contention that it seems everyone can agree upon. However when DJing, you really do need to listen to the kids and have a wide variety of music. Know and understand the school, their sports and their support systems. Learn as much about the school and the students as possible. It’ll only benefit you in your work. (more…)

Dealing With Announcers Who Don’t Care

Over they years, I’ve had the chance to hear several announcers who’ve done a great job.  At the same time, I’ve heard even more that just don’t seem to care or are just announcing to announce.

I’ve always kept myself to a high standard, that every game is the most important game because it’s the one going on right now.  I also treat every game as if it’s the seventh game of the World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals and Super Bowl all wrapped up in one.  Because of my perfectionism toward announcing and game operations, I also expect others to treat the job with respect.  Disrespecting my profession brings out the ugly in me and that ugly has reared its head on a few occasions.  Some say it’s unprofessional of me to say something, personally I believe that it’s not only professional but warranted. (more…)

Fans Sitting on Hands…Here’s Help

Over the course of any given season, you’ll have a crowd or two that just doesn’t seem to get into the game.  Whether it’s uninspiring play by the team, the weather outside or just simply one of those days, there’s nothing much you can do about it except give your best effort and try to entertain the crowd as much as they’d like to be entertained.

However, there are some places who have fans that just never seem to get into the game.  There are many factors for this and a lot of people think a simple change–changing the person doing the music–is the answer when all they really need to do is a little legwork.  If you’re in a town or area in which the crowd shows up, watches the game, goes home and doesn’t care about the production, then this is for you.

Step 1: Identify the Demographic of Your Crowd

This is something that’s very simple and a lot of places already think they know what the demographic is, but it changes on a nightly basis.  You can, however, get a general idea after a couple of games as to the kind of people that come to your games.

Play music that is relevant to your fans.  If they’re primarily a country crowd who likes a little bit of rock, then do that.  If they’re a crowd who can’t stand country, don’t play it.  But take notes each night on what kind of music you played, the crowd reaction, the situation and the weather.  Wow, that seems like a lot, but keeping this info on simple note cards or on your computer will help you in the long run.  I’ve had many people who were higher up in the organization find my cards or my notes and ask my why I’m wasting my time doing all of that.  The next season, when I wasn’t there and their attendance went down, I had my answer in the notes.  I looked, I listened and I responded.  That’s the basis of a good salesperson.  Look at the situation, listen to the needs and respond with something they can’t refuse.  Notice their age and try to play music from that era, that’ll give you a good starting point.  Once you’ve established that starting point, expand genres and see how that works.  If two or three songs in a row from a certain era don’t work, avoid that era.  If they do, keep playing more and more.  But don’t get down on one song not working, try a three or four.

Step 2:  Talk to the Fans

This step is very simple and basic, however too many people fail to do the actual leg work to make this  a success.  You can be a success overnight.  I was a quick success–had the fans engaged the first night and in the palm of my hand after the first homestand–in Portland, Oregon; Modesto, Calif.; and Potomac, Va.; though I struggled a little bit up in Auburn, NY and St. Petersburg, Florida at the outset in those cities.  I listened to the fans who had no problem talking to me, but then I started asking fans and that’s when you get some good responses.  Yes, most will say, “Oh it’s fine”, but keep asking until you find the one or two who are vocal enough to tell it like it is.  Most places, that’s the fan club.  In Portland they had a group of fans online that liked to chat about everything and anything under the sun and that was an awesome resource.

One thing to avoid is sending out a questionnaire about the music and game production that people will answer after the fact, because they’ll forget most of what they saw and heard if you’re asking about levels.  Most teams pre-script everything so the only thing they can really change on the fly is the levels.  Engage them at the game and they’ll be more favorable in their responses, telling you what you want to hear, but you’ll also get some nice quick responses that’ll help you.  Someone is more likely to mention a minor annoyance at the game like the music is too loud, too quiet, we couldn’t hear the video, etc.

Once you’ve established your in-game production, ask fans specific questions about this video or that segment and even try to provide a review for them using YouTube or your team’s web site.  This will allow them to comment more on the content they want to see and gives them a chance to respond accordingly.  These are the kinds of details that will make your show better as the season progresses and people are less likely to make snap decisions based videos or promotions.

As you’re talking to the fans, ask open ended questions.  “What did you like about this promotion?”, “What didn’t you like about the host?”, and “Why don’t you find coming to games as much fun as you used to?” are three examples of open-ended questions.  This allows the person to respond with actual information rather than, “Yes, I liked it” (but how much?) or “I didn’t like it” (why not?).  Asking “Why” after the fact can make it seem a little confrontational and you don’t get the answers you like.  Simple yes and no answers or rate-by-number don’t provide you with ample information and was always one of the problems I had when working in sports.

One of the teams I worked for set-up a questionnaire and asked 1,000 fans over the course of three games (Monday-Wednesday) questions about the in-game production.  I asked it to be Thursday through Sunday to give us a better picture of our overall demographic because those four days were four different crowds.  The responses to the music questions were all 4′s and 5′s except for a few 1′s and 2′s.  But I couldn’t address the 1′s and 2′s because there wasn’t anywhere for the fans to leave comments.  Why did I get such low ratings from a couple of people?  I know you can’t please everyone, but was it something minor they were upset about?  What it something major?

A few years later I’m working for Potomac and they did the same questionnaire except better spread of dates, they did an entire homestand and allowed for comments.  Again, lots of 4′s and 5′s with a few 1′s and 2′s.  Except on the 1′s and 2′s I got my answers.
“Too many sound effects during the game”
“Too much music during the game”
“Not enough country music”
“Change the home run song”
“I don’t like you”

The last one was a real response and even though there was nothing I could do about it–didn’t know who it was that put it in there–I could do something about the other four.  The first two comments came during the early/mid-week games.  So for those games, I played fewer crowd prompts and sound effects.  Rating went up on the midseason questionnaire from those.  The third one I kind of had an idea that I wasn’t so I changed it.  The fourth, we were playing “Rock and Roll Pt. 2″ so we changed it to “Gone” by Montgomery Gentry.  Two birds with one stone on there because our team was hitting a lot of home runs that year.

Another fun surprise that we did for the fans that year is had them vote on the “first song” of selected games.  This was to eventually turn into a full night of fan-selected music, but we never got around to getting that completed.  We would give fans a selection of five songs to vote on starting Monday before a Saturday night game with fireworks.  The songs varied and most of the time it was a baseball song that won, though there were times fans wanted to hear something different.  We would then encourage the fans to send in their requests and this helped build a good music library for us to build off.

Step 3:  Get Out And Listen

Ever go to a bar and hear a DJ playing music?  Well, that DJ is perfect for that bar because he’s there nightly playing to the same crowd.  Is that a good DJ to hire for your team?  NO.  Capital N, capital O.  Why?  Because in sports your crowds change by night and their emotions can change in a split second.  That bar DJ is playing the same music for the same 10-100 people every week.

Go to a hotel, conference center or try to find someone around you that’s hiring a DJ for an event they’re doing and see how that DJ works.  Myself, I’m a mobile DJ as well as P. A. announcer, sports-music DJ, in-game host, etc.  The experience in sports helps me with the parties and the party experience helps me in sports.  Each night is a different animal.

On one recent Saturday, I was DJing a friend’s wedding in the morning/afternoon and then DJing a private graduation party where I only knew one person–the person that hired me–that night.  The reception had mainly oldies and swing music with some recent stuff.  The grad party featured a lot of country to start, 70′s, Motown, Funk, Classic Rock and some newer Top-40 along with the traditional line dances that weren’t all that popular at the wedding.  I was able to do this based on my past experience in knowing every crowd is different and how to adjust my comfort level to their liking.  Both were successes.

But another key factor of this, is listen to the music that’s played.  If you go to five or six events and the same song is being played at all of them, then you might want to write it down and play it at your place.  If you notice that the people get up out of their seats and dance with a particular song or particular style of song, then play that.  The key here is to watch and listen.  You may have a song that you absolutely don’t like, but the fans love.  Play it.  It’s not worth the fans not having a good time because one person doesn’t like it.

Step 4:  Set the Atmosphere

Many times people ask me, “How do I get people up and dancing when I want them to?”  The answer is to set the appropriate atmosphere.  People are coming to a sporting event looking to have fun.  Play fun music.  Occasionally, I’ll get the comment, “That’s not a [insert sport here] song.”  My response is, “It’s a song the fans like and that’s who I’m trying to entertain.”

Setting the atmosphere can only happen if you’ve diligently performed the first three steps.  You also need to watch the crowd during the pre-game and even during the game.  Earlier, I mentioned some teams script EVERYTHING.  I’ve worked for one of those teams.  It wasn’t fun and most of the time the game didn’t go the direction of the script.  Something out of the ordinary happened and you needed to think on your feet, but robots don’t have the ability.  The big key to success is to be ready for anything and not to overscript.

I’ve had interns with other teams try to do that.  One of which was so insistent that she get to run the show for a night to show how much better it’d be with her running the show.  I then asked her, “Ok, what’s the final score of the game going to be, I want to place a bet in Vegas on this one.”  She had no clue what I was talking about until I said, “Look, if you think you know what’s going to happen in the third inning to go with that song, then I want to know what the final score is going to be so I can make a little money on this game.”

Was I being a jerk, yes, but I knew my experience and I knew our team that year.  She had a Wednesday night to work with and boy did it fail.  First two innings went ok, but that third inning we made a couple of stupid plays in the field and didn’t fare well at the plate so the big dance number at the end of the inning–that we would have normally moved to later in the game to allow for that situation of the fans being stunned–didn’t go over so well and many fans asked why we did it then.  By the fifth inning, I was back in charge of the music and everything else in game and she never bothered me with her antics again, though did ask many good questions the rest of the year and learned a few things.

The key is to realize that you may need to move some things because of the atmosphere.  Normally, I would have taken the fifth inning announcements and moved them to the end of the third and put the dance number back in the fifth.  I also would have followed up that third inning with something upbeat, but not over the top.  The atmosphere the rest of the night was off and people started to leave early.

Step 5:  Enjoy the Successes But Learn From Failures

If you do the first four steps, you will have a lot of successes.  If you try and succeed, great, you learned well.  If you try and fail, don’t worry.  Learn from the mistakes, identify what went wrong and figure out IF you want to make changes.  Maybe it was a bad call to go with that video at that time, but tomorrow it may work.  If you fail again in that situation, then make the necessary change.

One of the great things about the first four steps is that your fans will feel closer to the game and to the organization.  The Washington Capitals do a lot for not only their season ticket holders  but for their fans as a whole.  You don’t need to be a season ticket holder to feel like you’re part of something special and the Caps do a great job with that.

Fans who feel  like they’re a part of the organization will have a greater sense of pride to the team and that pride leads to bringing their friends to the game, buying souvenirs, talking about the team at work the next day, etc. which only adds to attendance which means more money in the bank.  And that’s the bottom line in sports these days is that bottom line.  I’ve worked with some organizations who spend thousands of dollars per fan to get them to come to the game, then pennies to keep them coming back once at the park.  That’s not right, there is a finite number of fans who are going to come, make them feel welcome, make them want to come back and avoid the minor annoyances.  You can avoid one minor, but potentially major, annoyance by simply following these steps.

Need Help Finding Announcing Jobs? This Will Help

Find tournaments to find jobs.

If you’re an announcer, search for tournaments in various sports that you might be able to announce a championship or semi final matches/games.  See if you could even announce a few of the round-robin tournament games to get your feet wet and get familiar with the tournament.

Having served as a tournament director as well as announcer, and even being looked at as the tournament director because I was announcing, it’ s a hard task and usually a last thought to find announcers for all the games.  Most tournaments, you’re worried about getting volunteers to staff a merchandise table, concession stand, ticket area, serve as liaisons for the teams, operate scoreboards, do the scorebook and other duties that a lot of people don’t quite see.  You consider that throughout the course of a simple tournament with only one field or rink, you could need about 10-20 volunteers per day to assist in the duties that need to get done.  Then it comes down to the extras.  If the tournament director is comfortable in knowing they have everyone they need, then they’ll start looking at announcers but even then some directors just don’t think it’s worth it, it’s too much, not needed or one of several other excuses.  If you can offer an additional skill to help out, you could possibly make a little money or lay the foundation to make a little money,  but most importantly, you’ll start building up your network.

You never know who could be hearing you at the tournaments, or seeing all the work that you do.  One example of this came in 1998 when I was announcing the NCAA Division-II Baseball Tournament at Florida Power Park, Home of Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Gil Swalls, the Assistant Athletic Director at University of Tampa heard me do what I do, started a conversation with me about all the things I do, and then had me over to UT to do some games there.  I announced for women’s soccer, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball and baseball during my time there.  I was also asked to run the scoreboard for the basketball teams when I wasn’t announcing, which was fun.  I got to fill in some off dates with a lot of games over the course of the offseason and make a little extra money to pay bills, all because I started networking and getting my name out there.

The options I’m listing below are all non-high school levels.  High schools are an excellent resource for sports announcing because they all have varsity teams and most will want announcing.  Not just basketball and football, but baseball, softball, lacrosse, soccer, etc.  You can volunteer to help out the high school or even offer your services in exchange for money in some cases.  I’ve been able to earn an ok living doing that in the DC area.  With the demand, I’m able to charge enough that doesn’t break their bank, but also allows me to pay bills.

I’m coordinating announcers for three ice hockey tournaments in the next couple of months.  I need announcers because the tournaments want them because of what I do.  I made these contacts from doing various things in the past, but if you want to network, you can meet a lot of new people at the tournaments.

Below are some examples of how you could help out in various sports you may enjoy, beyond the high school ranks:

Baseball:  Little League Baseball has announcers at all of their post-season games.  It’s in their rules.  They typically grab a parent or two to volunteer.  You can do that.  Do a search of your local districts and see if any are hosting state tournaments, or even district tournaments.  Volunteer your time.  Same works for Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken I believe, but check with you local or state administrations.  You can also search for Collegiate summer baseball leagues.  Baseball America is a good resource for this as they list all of the college summer baseball leagues in their annual guide.

Basketball and Volleyball:  There are numerous AAU tournaments and facilities for hosting up to 20 games at a time.  Will you be able to announce all, no.  But you can throw your hat into the ring to provide announcing and some music to “further enhance” those games for the facility.  If they don’t have a sound system, offer to bring your own if you have one.  Search around for volleyball organizations or approach your local high school if they have one.  Ask to speak with the coach and then find out as much as you can about club volleyball.

Ice Hockey:  Leagues from youth to high school have post-season tournaments.  Most rinks have inputs in their penalty boxes which is where you need to be.  Search the internet for local teams and the leagues they play in to find out how you can help.  You can also check out USAHockey.com and search tournaments.  You could even contact them to find out if you could help when their national tournament is in your city.  There are even some rinks that will allow you to announce adult hockey.  Not always the most organized, most rinks do a great job at making sure all the players have the same uniforms and are wearing numbers on their backs.  You’d probably be thrown into scorekeeping as well, but if you’re able to multi-task, this gives you another avenue and could even get you to decision makers for their kids teams, or if you DJ possibly some gigs.

Football:  There’s a few 7-on-7 style tournaments that happen around thanksgiving, find them and ask how you can help.  Most are held in parks the don’t have a scoreboard or stands, let alone a sound system, but you might be able to work something out.  Youth leagues tend to play in high school stadiums and you might be able to volunteer to help a team or two announce their games.  Find your local leagues and ask.  There’s also a semi-pro league that plays during the summer in many different areas.  The only difference is that instead of the frozen tundra, it can be 100 degrees with a thunderstorm on the way.

Soccer:  Is like football and basketball combined in that they’re outdoors at facilities with little seating, but soccer-only facilities usually include a “main” field that has lights and a sound system.  Find these facilities then find tournaments that are to be played in them and see if you can help out.

Swimming:  Local pools tend to have meets almost every weekend during the summer and all have sound systems because they need to tell people when to clear the course and other basic announcements.  Sometimes, it’s someone who gets thrown behind the mic, or may really not want to do it but they have to because of one reason or another.  This is your chance to offer to help them out, and forge a great resource for the future.

Gymnastics/Cheerleading:  Most gymnastics meets include a floor exercise which means they need a sound system.  There is most likely going to be a microphone and someone is needed for the processional before the meet starts.  Once you get into the competition, there is a lot you can announce, or announce very little at all.  There are all kinds of gyms around your area, look for them, or even contact the local youth football team and ask to speak with the cheer coordinator.  They probably have a few girls who are also into gymnastics and can provide some gyms and information.  The cheer coordinator can also tell you about cheer competitions that are going on.

You’ll notice I’m hitting youth leagues, some of those kids play up through high school and that could be your foot in the door.  An athletic director’s son or daughter plays in a game you announce, their announcer is failing or they don’t have one, and now you have a way in.

You may also hit this common objection, “We already have someone to make the announcements after the championship game.”  They may not be as blunt as that, so you have to find out if that’s all they do.  I had a guy running a tournament ask me to announce the championship game, but didn’t have any money to pay me to do it.  Then he was going to do the trophy presentation.  He sounded bad on the mic in a previous tournament I’d been part of so I knew it wasn’t a good situation, to provide my services for no compensation and then have to turn over the trophy presentation to a guy who couldn’t speak clearly on a mic.

When you hit this block, simply say that you’ll do everything.  Announce the ENTIRE game with music during stoppages (or within the rules, make sure you know the rules) and you’ll also handle the post-game ceremonies as well.  If you have experience doing this at the high school level or with other tournaments, let them know.  You will probably be put off more than you’ll be accepted, so don’t get disappointed.  You will eventually work your way in and if you’re good enough and very reliable, will probably end up doing that tournament in a couple of years.

I post this because I could use help at all three tournaments I’m doing, but if I was on the outside, I wouldn’t have the right way in.  Two of the tournaments are through the Washington Capitals, one is through contacts I’ve made over the years and caught an ad on Craigslist last year.  I created that opportunity in knowing the rules and offering what I do.  The tournament director had knowledge of me and since we’ve become good associates, working on a couple of projects together.  Now, the question for me right now, is how do I best find people to announce?  My first thought is through high schools and through the youth hockey leagues.  So now, I’ve gone from looking for games to announce, to trying to find people to announce.

When I talk about networking, I’m not solely concerning announcing, but real life as well.  People who work youth tournaments take a special shine to those willing to help their kids out, because it’s a found resource.  It’s something parents will appreciate and you may get treated to a dinner or two, find another job, a room to stay in, moving help or someone to help you work on your house.  All of these things happened to me over the years and came through announcing various sports.

Use this post as a means of finding jobs.  If you have questions, ask me and I can help you find resources.  But simply don’t read this once and never come back to it.  As things progress, I plan on adding resources that will help you in your search.

Wrestling Speak Can Be Fun

When I started announcing, I never thought I’d get much into wrestling.  Why?  Because I knew nothing of it, had only maybe kinda seen it on TV once many years ago, knew nothing of the speak and didn’t have much interest in it.  I had already grown tired of the World Wrestling Federation, which was really my only exposure to the sport.  But that’s really like comparing a remote-controlled car race to a NASCAR event.  Yes, it’s racing, but it’s two completely different animals.

So when I started, I needed a lot of help.  Paul Labazetta, the long-time and legendary coach at W. T. Woodson High School practically begged me to start announcing for his wrestling program when I was a senior in high school.  I had done an NCAA wrestling event at George Mason University and was basically led by the hand through it.  Was it my best work, not really but all seemed to enjoy it and I was told how great I was.  One of the wrestlers that day was Bryan Hazard, who would later go on to coach at Robinson Secondary School and would also have me announce some of his events.  He even announces some national wrestling events at different locations around the country when the high school season is not in action.

Wrestling is different, because you can have from one to 18 mats going at any one time.  You can actually have more, but it depends on space available and how many wrestlers you have.  The largest I’ve ever seen was seven and that was at Fauquier High School for an event that my wife’s cousins were participating in.  My wife was a graduate of Fauquier and I was curious to see her school.  They had four mats going in the main gym with another three in an auxiliary gymnasium.  Most tournaments will start with a lot of mats and work their way down to one if there is going to be a trophy presentation for the top six or eight.  This allows the winners to be recognized while other matches are going on with out a whole lot of presentations going on at one time.

My first introduction was a quad meet which is four teams competing at the same time.  Team A will take on Team B on one mat, and Team C will take on Team D on another mat.  Then Team A will take on C, while B & D go up against each other.  Finally, A & D will take the mat with B & C competing.  The beauty of wrestling is you can have an odd number of teams competing and everyone competes the same amount of times.  The quads can be difficult because you have action going on two mats at the same time.  But double or triple the number and you no longer even think about doing play-by-play, but simply introducing the wrestlers when they’re starting (or as close to the start as possible), and announcing the results as they are turned in to you.  I’ve been to some where all the announcer does is announce where certain matches are to take place, where the wrestlers need to report to get their assignments and that’s it.  Those can get boring because there is so much going on, that it can be too much.

When I do a larger invitational, I will announce who is competing and the results until you get down to two mats.  At that point, I’ll start adding play-by-play as I can see it.  Now, sometimes something will happen on two mats at the same time, I will address both if I see it.  A takedown by one wrestler on mat one with a reversal by a different wrestler on mat two can be confusing but speaking clearly and slowly will help you separate who is where and what score happened where.

Wrestling can have its fair share of mistakable moments, especially for novices.  One of those instances happened in a quad meet when the announcer was announcing the line-ups for the matches.  He would alternate correctly the teams and the mat they were competing on, however he ran into the largest family in wrestling history, the Forfeit family.  Forfeits are fairly common in wrestling, especially if a school doesn’t have a good enough wrestler at a certain weight class, they’ll give up the forfeit.  I’ve done matches of 13 weight classes and had six forfeits between two teams.  What happens there is the wrestler who is there wins.  He or she receives the forfeit.

This announcer, however, announced only last names so he figured that forfeit was an actual family name, but wrestling for three total teams that day.  About midway through the line-ups, the announcer then decided it was a French name and pronounced it, “for-FAY”.  Again not right, but funny.  Hearing the announcer say, “Wrestling for Centreville, Davis.  Wrestling for Chantilly, Forfay.”  All who I’ve told this story to over the years have all laughed at it because it’s funny.  To not only get the term wrong in context, but then to change the entire word, yeah, I still laugh.

At a recent tournament that I was assisting with (I have a vast knowledge of scoreboards which is why a lot of people like having me at events because I can fix and explain problems quickly without much loss of time), the announcer had a problem announcing “consolation”.  Seem simple, but all of a sudden, there were championship matches and “constellation” matches.  Constellation and consolation I guess are the same thing because they both consisted of wrestlers who’d lost in their previous round and if they lost again, they’d be out.

Now, wrestling is fairly easy to score.  If you’re running a scoreboard, you add 1, 2 or 3 points.  A match ends when someone achieves a lead of 15 points or more (yes, you can win by 16 or 17 because of the scoring on the match-ending move).  Falls and pins are the same thing and are very interchangeable.   A win by 15 (or 16, or 17) is called a technical fall.  There are major decisions and regular decisions (to this day I can never remember the difference, I think it’s a win by 8 points), there are discussions between coaches and officials that take place right in front of the scorer’s (which is cool to hear sometimes), there are quick matches (pins in 4 seconds) and the possibility of a match going on forever, but highly unlikely.  There’s overtime, there’s blood, there’s a lot of action and a lot of dead time and some stalling.  It’s a different sport than most, but one thing about it, it’s easy to announce because there’s not much to announce.

After you introduce the competitors and the color anklet they will be wearing, you can say nothing the rest of the time until the next match at the next weight class.  That’s how I started though have expanded to doing play-by-play and announcing the takedown, back points (or near fall points), reversals, escapes, choices and penalty points.  If I forgot something, I’m not sure.  It’s simple and even the list of signals by the officials is simple.  It fits nice and neat on one page with fairly large pictures and plenty of room to explain it.

Wrestling tournaments can be all day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, a meet can simply be an hour or less depending on pins and forfeits…or forfays!