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Spotting Board

Preparation is the most crucial element of sports broadcasting. The sports broadcaster must have information at his disposal to draw upon, either by quick reference or through memorization. Thorough preparation involves the development of spotting boards, a visual reference tool which instantly provides key information on vital statistics and information at a glance. As a play-by-play announcer, it is imperative to have the information at your fingertips when you need it. Information from the spotting boards should come from team websites, newspapers, discussions with players and coaches, game notes, stat packs, and media guides.

My current mode of preparation involves the use of a software program, developed exclusively for broadcasters, called Broadcasters Edge. This program was developed by Brian Freedman, and it supports multiple sports. I use the software with ease for my work with Merrimack College as well as with the Lowell Spinners. Within the software itself you can input rosters, schedules, individual and team statistics, as well as several areas where you can input stories, nuggets, notes, and any other kind of customizable information that you may wish to employ in the course of your broadcast. That is the beauty of the program- you can customize the information you need anyway you wish, so that in the course of a game you can find the information you need quickly and easily. You'll know exactly where to look because YOU customized the information. It is designed to function as a normal spotting board would (see below), with the added element of typing updated information in as opposed to whiting out and replacing the info with a Sharpie colored pen. You can even import stats (if supported), this function being available at the professional level, like the NHL, MLB, NBA, and the NFL. The beauty of this program is that you can use it at any level- from high school sports up to the pros, and you don't need an Internet connection to update or use it, except for importing the stats. There even is a feature where you can trade a player to another team! That comes in handy during college hockey season if a player transfers to another program. I'll simply use the "trade" feature and all of his info gets transferred to his new team. There is PLENTY of room to capture all the stats, quotes, stories, and nuggets you'll need for a broadcast.
Preparation for a broadcast involves reading everything available on the teams. It is advisable to research everything, right down to the player's favorite foods. By the time the game starts, the goal is to know everything there is to know. Preparation involves active learning- note taking, reading, and asking questions. I make it a point to not only make use of the Internet, but also newspapers, media guides, and talking to coaches and broadcasters to supplement my knowledge.

In past years, I made use of spotting boards to prepare for my broadcasts. Many broadcasters still use the technique of building their boards by hand, and I advocate for that approach, because I did it that way for many years before Broadcasters Edge came along. The basic boards I used were created using white poster boards which are available in the arts section at most office supply stores. (I always bought mine at Staples). They come in packages of three (I bought the largest size, which is 14” x 22”) for about $3.00 a pack. I always used white boards, because it would allow me to create the board in color for easy visual identifications. Every color I used represented a code for each bit of information, which allows for easy visual recognition. I made use of Sharpie © colored markers in the course of developing my boards.

Large size spotting boards are perfect for hockey and especially football, since the rosters are expanded and there is more information to deal with. I used a smaller board for basketball, since the rosters are much smaller. I typically used a smaller board for baseball as well. A word of caution- when using spotting boards for baseball, always be prepared to update information on a daily basis.

Below you'll find an actual board I used- it's a hockey example here, but when you use spotting boards for other sports, obviously there are different stats to track- each sport has different stats and data. For example, in baseball, one could track home run trends, RBI trends, hitting streaks, strikeout data, and the like. Basketball may involve free throw stats, rebounding and three point stats, turnovers, etc. In football, you can track touchdowns, rushing and receiving data, field goals, first down conversion percentages, and so on. If you would like to see other samples of spotting boards I have used in other sports, please E-mail me at jleahybroadcaster@gmail.com.

Another advantage to hand constructed boards is that it helps with the retention process. Writing info down is an excellent memory aid! When I did boards for my college hockey coverage at Merrimack, I devoted one whole day to each team. I then did a third board covering general information like standings and statistical leaders. This prep process is cut in half when using Broadcasters Edge and can be incorporated and customized into the Broadcasters Edge software.

Now let's take a tour of an actual spotting board I used in a hockey game between Merrimack and Northeastern on Dec. 2-3, 2005. Click on the appropriate numbered tab for more information about each section of the board. This is the same type of information I can incorporate into the software, into customizable boxes.


Story Board Front
Story Board Back
Team Records Player Identification Anecdotal Information Line Combinations League Rankings Season Team Results Last Seasons Results Summary of Last Game History Between Teams Additional Anhecdotal Informatrion Defense StatisticsDefense StatisticsCoaches Information Lasts Information Situational Statistics Specific Situational Statistics Goaltender Statistics Line Charts and Statistics