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Professional Development

Lights, Camera, Action: 4 Tips to Begin Your Sports Broadcasting Career

A career in front of the camera is more than just enjoying the spotlight.

Jarrod Barnes

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One of the most visible careers in sports business, on-air sports broadcasting can seem as simple as “lights, camera, action!”

Your favorite broadcaster on ESPN, NBC, CBS, or FOX Sports probably makes their job look fun and effortless, reporting live from the sidelines or studio. Yet, with the broadcasting industry on a 14 percent decline by 2024, careers in sports broadcasting are becoming increasingly competitive.

Megan Perry, a former Division I college basketball player and WNBA executive who evolved into a sports broadcaster and entrepreneur, knows just how much effort it takes to have a successful career as an on-air talent.

SEE MORE: Mastering LinkedIn: Personal Branding Tips for Sports Business Professionals

During the college basketball season, Megan can be found in front of the camera as a sports analyst, covering games on ESPN3, ACC Network, CBS Sports Network, and the Ivy League Digital Network. However, most of her time is spent behind the camera, preparing, studying, and perfecting her skillset.

Through her experiences and various vantage points while being immersed in the broadcasting world, Perry was able to identify four specific tips for a successful sports broadcasting career.

Know Your Fundamentals

“My idea of broadcasting was what I saw on TV, a talking head who was prompted to share candid thoughts without any scripting,” said Perry, who quickly discovered that broadcasting is far more than what you see on TV. “To be a good broadcaster, you have to have the fundamentals in place. You have to have an understanding of the details in order to be the best you can be at your craft. The amount of training and educational components, I had no idea.”

SEE MORE: How Social Media is the Key to Your Next Opportunity 

Gaining as much practice as you can through researching teams, informational interviewing, active listening, and — most importantly — public speaking, will allow you to hone your skills and find the story beneath the headline.

Start Small

Landing on-air time with ESPN as your first role likely won’t happen — but that’s OK.

Perry took her career desire and volunteered her time by calling games at St. Francis Brooklyn College, a small private institution in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. She reached out to the athletic department and began to develop her routines and skills that she uses today on the ACC Network.

Practical aspects such as “getting to know the away team just as well as the home team; reaching out and acquiring information from SID’s (Sports Information Directors), and coordinating times to speak to coaches and players are all necessary parts of doing the job well. Conducting research like this takes forward thinking. It’s not where you start, but rather, who you become in the process.”

When looking for your start, leverage social media platforms to gain practice and feedback. Live-video streaming accounted for 75 percent of all internet traffic in 2017 and is expected to jump to 82 percent by 2020. Don’t just attend a sports event, use it as a platform to build to your resume.

Constantly Evolve

It’s one thing to practice; it’s another to improve.

Perry stated that she’s in a constant progression of redefining. “I didn’t fully understand that when I first got into the industry. Every day is a redefining process. Constantly updating, revising, and seeking new opportunities, people to learn from, and spaces to learn in.”

But it’s not just on-air practice for early career sports broadcasters. “Editing and production are a huge part of my unwritten job description. Your resume is your (highlight) reel. It’s not who is going to do that for me, it’s ‘I have to edit.’ That way, I can continue to redefine and evolve my brand as it continues to grow.”

SEE MORE: 4 Ways to Making Breaking Into the #SportsBiz Much Easier

Becoming comfortable with wearing multiple hats is critical to evolving as a sports broadcaster. Knowing enough about how everything should be done gives you a frame of reference and baseline for attention to detail.

“If you know how to do it right,” Perry said, “no one else can do it wrong for you.”

Remain Authentic

Pressure to conform can sometimes cause us to lose the very thing that makes us unique, our authenticity.

“My authenticity is really valued with my interactions on camera,” Perry said. “The relationships I develop are authentic; I want to know your story. I care about it. It’s different. It comes from a perspective that others may not have. I pride myself on those relationships, the work that’s put into getting to know who I’m interviewing. I strive to get to know the person who they are outside of sport.”

Part of remaining authentic is in how we gain access to opportunity.

“Be aggressive about asking questions; no one will know that you’re interested if you don’t (ask questions). Sometimes it’s hard to self-promote and how it’s received by others. But, no one will invest in what you don’t show off. You won’t give them the opportunity to showcase your talent,” Perry said. 

Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that we may not always get every opportunity for which we’re looking. Perry suggested being comfortable with the word “no” — but don’t accept it.

“I sent countless emails to producers and heads of conferences. No, No, No… You can’t be discouraged. Push further. It only takes one ‘yes’ to have an opportunity. Your job is to stay ready. You can’t forecast the moment; shame on you if you weren’t prepared. Don’t stop learning, networking, preparing. The moment can pass you by.”

Sports broadcasting can be made out to seem effortless by professionals we see every day, yet, for those looking to break into the field, the journey is far from it. By understanding the fundamentals, starting small, constantly evolving and remaining authentic, you can position yourself to be discovered.

Jarrod Barnes has served in athletics administration at Clemson University and is also a former Defensive Back's coach at Ohio State University, where he worked directly with coach Urban Meyer and Greg Schiano. Jarrod was a two-year letterman and first ever Ohio State football player to pursue a Ph.D. while on the active roster. Jarrod currently resides in Charlotte, NC and works with Rise Sports Advisors, a brand management firm for professional athletes and also runs Prime U, a talent & leadership training company for collegiate student-athletes and young professionals. Jarrod has been widely recognized by Who’s Who Magazine, ESPN, Fox Sports and The Big Ten Network as a top up-and-coming young professional. Jarrod can be reached at Jarrod@frntofficesport.com

Professional Development

Why Athlete Retirement Transitions Can Be So Devastating

Sports psychologist Scott Goldman discusses the struggles athletes can face in retirement from their professional and amateur careers.

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Ben Hartsock was thinking ahead to avoid difficulties following retirement.

Following a 10-year NFL career, the tight end jumped right into a career as an agent. For Hartsock, it was better than taking time to figure his life out after the structure and rigidity of an NFL career.

“There’s really two schools of thought, and there’s the school of thought you need something waiting when you’re done because idle time is the devil’s playground,” said Hartsock, who ended up realizing agent life wasn’t right after two years and is now pursuing broadcasting.

“Had I not jumped right into working, I wouldn’t have been able to handle it. I could have downward spiraled.” 

Professional athletes, no matter the sport, leave a life of structure and must transition to a life of relative normalcy. More athletes today are thinking about it, but no matter how well-prepared the transition, it can still cause hiccups, Hartsock said. After 20 years of playing football, Hartsock said it’s almost like being institutionalized.

“I don’t know what other industry or business has a similar experience,” he said. “The shelf life of an athlete is limited in a way I can’t think any other profession is. Think about going to high school getting great marks, going to college and excelling, and after five or 10 years of being the best surgeon in the world, they take it away from you. That’s hard.”

READ MORE: As Retirement Nears, Yankees Star CC Sabathia Experiments With ESPN Deal

Athlete struggles following their athletic career’s end is not an easy topic to address, said Scott Goldman, the president-elect of the Association of Applied Sport Psychology. Goldman is a sports psychologist who’s worked for 20 years with collegiate and professional athletes.

Much of the conversation in post-career struggles revolve around professionals, but Goldman said it’s also a serious issue among collegiate athletes as well, as 90 percent don’t go professional. While many sports don’t have a clear path to the pros, Goldman said those that do — like basketball and football — can make inflate aspirations.

Goldman said he’s happy that leagues, like the NFL, are working intently to help create programs and guide players through their career and after to help ease the pain.

When Goldman works with an athlete struggling post-career, he said he likes to follow the Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief. Leaving an all-or-nothing career, like professional athletics, can leave athletes in a similar depression as losing a loved one.

“For some of them, it’s as much a shift in identity as dealing with a tragic loss,” Goldman said. “Most of these athletes get up at 6 a.m. and their day is largely accounted for and scheduled. It can be really intense when they leave.”

Goldman said he believes more potential employers are realizing that while athletes mostly don’t have lengthy business resumes, the commitment and dedication to their careers and being successful can often easily translate to the business world.

Often times, careers ended because of injuries are worse because they’re sudden. For careers like Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki, players get a goodbye tour and can ease into their retirement through a grief-like path.

Beyond the personal-identity struggle, Goldman said athletes also often struggle with their financials following retirement. The general public has a perception of multimillionaire contracts, and while some athletes are set for life, those contracts are in reality few and far between. More common are the sub-million dollar contracts with athletes averaging less than three years as a professional athlete. Add on trying to ensure that money and whatever post-retirement career the athlete ends up pursuing to obligations, and the stress can be high.

READ MORE: Missy Franklin Opens Up About Retirement and Life After Swimming

“It’s amazing the demand of the million dollar athlete,” Goldman said.

Former athletes balancing a dwindling bank account with their lack of direction can experience a perfect storm for emotional troubles. That’s where people like Goldman and companies like Priority Sports, Hartsock’s former agency, and its Preparing for Life After the NFL, or P.L.A.N., come in. 

Leaving a professional sports career often doesn’t have a ceremonial ending like other transitions in high school to college; college to the working world; or even a long TV series finale. Goldman said he doesn’t often like to use cliches, but can’t avoid one in this situation.

“It’s more of a transition than a severance,” Goldman said. “When you exit one room, you enter another space. Sometimes we focus on what we’re leaving and other times, it’s what we’re entering.

“It’s important to accept what we leave, and see what’s coming next and find meaning.”

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Professional Development

Navigating Negotiation: 3 Tips to Effectively Handle Your Next Crucial Conversation

What’s the difference between those who succeed at negotiation and those who don’t? You might be surprised by the actual answers.

Jarrod Barnes

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Regardless of your role within sports business — whether it’s a raise, sponsorship activation, contract, or expanded opportunity — at least one aspect of negotiation is involved in our daily job descriptions.

According to a recent study, only 29 percent of job seekers negotiated their salary at their current or most recent job. All the while, according to the same report, 84 percent of those confident enough to ask for higher pay succeed in getting it.

What’s the difference between those who succeed at negotiation and those who don’t? Some sports business professionals offered their best tips to effectively handle your next crucial conversation.

Effective Preparation and Practice

“One thing that people tend to do when they get to those crucial conversations in life, no matter how good they are at what they do, they think they have it all in their head, and they wing it,” says sports agent, author and well-known negotiator Ron Shapiro.

READ MORE: Informational Interviews Can Be Crucial to Your Career Development

Negotiation begins with knowing your worth. Gathering the most relevant information to reinforce your position, whether it’s current salary ranges or market analysis, can lead to a more holistic perspective. While it may seem easy to think your position is correct (which it may be), the market doesn’t care much about what you think you’re worth; at the end of the day, hiring managers or customers are going to offer you what they think you’re worth.

Shapiro would go on to say, “a critical step in preparation is weighing alternatives. Alternatives make you less dependent on one option or customer and therefore create leverage, which is particularly useful when negotiating from a position of relative weakness.”

Embrace “No”

While fear of rejection is common when navigating a negotiation or crucial conversation, a strong reality is that negotiation doesn’t actually begin until someone says “no.”

“No” signals an opportunity to problem-solve the conflicting and overlapping interests both parties want to serve and figure out how both can get as much of their desired outcomes as possible. Our reluctance to negotiate past “no” may keep us from obtaining the “yes” we truly desire.

“Whoever you’re negotiating with is a person just like you. Don’t overthink it or assume it needs to be more than it is. Make sure to level the playing field and refuse to let your worth slide, especially your non-negotiables. Be overly clear,” says Connor Dietz, director of sales & strategy for Train Up First.

Listen and Respond

When preparing and practicing for a conversation, it can be easy to allow our emotions to overtake us if things don’t go according to plan. Yet, being “hijacked” by our emotions sabotages our ability to make good decisions or to react skillfully.

READ MORE: How to Master the First Month of a New Job in Sports Business

“It’s not only what you say; it’s how you say it. Because as a negotiator, you want the other side to feel your confidence,” claims Shapiro.

It’s easy to avoid difficult conversations, but the more conversation you have with those involved, the more natural it feels. Start small when the stakes are low, try negotiating with your colleagues, at a garage sale, or with family. There are countless opportunities to practice. Negotiation begins with knowing your worth and ends when you’re willing to walk away.

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Professional Development

Inside Julianne Viani’s Whirlwind of a Broadcasting Career

The broadcaster has made a name for herself, thanks to a tireless work ethic and covering everything from college basketball to the NBA and WNBA.

Bailey Knecht

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Julianne Viani might be the busiest analyst in sports.

The 33-year-old originally from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. is constantly on the go, working as an analyst for major networks like ESPN, CBS, NextVR, Big Ten Network and Pac-12 Network. Between games, travel and preparation, Viani has a full slate, bouncing from city to city for the majority of the year.

“Some people only cover men’s college basketball and only focus on that,” Viani said. “I cover everything, from men’s college basketball to women’s college basketball to the NBA and WNBA. I have to keep tabs on what’s going on, on all platforms. It’s a lot of work, and you don’t have to know everything there is to know, but you have to know enough about the big picture on every single platform.”

Even on her off-days, Viani spends her time studying teams and taking conference calls with coaches.

“People are too smart and can pick up whether you know the game,” she said. “You can tell when someone isn’t prepared, and my biggest thing is, I never want to not be prepared. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s going to happen, but the bottom line is I need to make sure I’ve studied up.”

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Viani is a basketball lifer, having played Division-I basketball on a Marist team that made multiple NCAA tournament runs and then played professionally overseas. When she returned to the U.S., she was presented with an opportunity to break into broadcasting, starting with high school games.

“When you produce long enough, you just know right away,” said Steven Fenig, ESPN remote producer and director who has known Viani since covering her as a player at Marist. “It’s weird, I mean, a lot of people that play the game and coach game know it inside and out, but not everybody that’s played is able to take what they know and communicate that to the average viewer and break it down easy for the viewer to understand. Right away with her, I saw that she was really talented.”

Viani worked her way up, and now, one of her main jobs is with the NextVR, where fans can experience NBA games in virtual reality. Her experience with NextVR puts her at the forefront of a branch of the sports industry that most analysts have yet to delve into.

“It’s a full-blown broadcast like regular TV, but it’s fusing technology with the sports industry and broadcast world,” she said. “It’s all about catering to the public, so they can turn their head to the left and right and experience the game. It’s different.”

Matt Drummond, coordinating producer at NextVR, explained why Viani has been so successful in her role there.

“I think it’s her diverse experience and relaxed nature, which are the two ingredients that we look for from everyone involved,” he said. “She’s willing to do whatever to get the job done, and she has the experience to draw from and work through it. We’re always problem-solving on the run because things rarely go to plan, so we need someone with a cool head and calm voice to work through it.”

When it comes to NBA games, it’s still relatively uncommon to see women in the broadcast booth, but NextVR has made it a point to hire diverse analysts.

“The chance to call a full slate of games as a color analyst as a female — it’s really rare,” Viani said. “NextVR has given me a lot of opportunities, and they’ve been good about having women and former players do this. It’s amazing to see the technology out there and be on the front lines and gain experience at the highest level.”

“It’s great having a female voice in our group, and that was something we were looking for,” added Drummond. “She’s brought everything we need to the table. Her work ethic is ridiculous. I don’t know how she puts in that much travel. Every day, she’s in a new city.”

Viani is transparent about the challenges of her job — she admits that the jam-packed schedule takes a toll on her.

“It’s hard,” she said. “During the year, I do get burnt out by the end of the year. By April, I’m really drained and ready for the beach and downtime. I need a whole month to recover. It goes from late October through April nonstop. December, January, February and March are bananas.”

Viani also acknowledged that the scheduling challenges stem from her involvement with a variety of networks, which makes for an inconsistent routine.

“For me, it’s hard to work for a lot of different networks,” she said. “Being an independent contractor is not easy. I get paid by the game, so you’ve got to hustle, and you can do well and make living if you’re getting opportunities, but not having the protection of being with one network is tough.”

Viani is able to keep her spirits high throughout the season, though, because she genuinely loves what she does.

“She just does a spectacular job — there’s always a smile on her face, she’s easy to work with, she’s got a great attitude, she gets along with everybody,” Fenig said. “She’s worked hard to improve her craft, and you can see that by watching her and listening to her.”

She also leans on her faith to get her through the grind of the basketball season.

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“My faith in God is the most important thing that drove me as a player and now in broadcasting,” she said. “I know every door has been opened because God has opened it, and I’ve walked through it and worked because He’s given me talent, so I want to give him glory.”

Although travel and working with multiple networks has become second nature to Viani, she has dreams of locking down a deal with one network and developing a steadier routine.

“I think my goal would be — I love doing a variety of things, but I’d love to be married to one network and focus my attention to just one, whether it’s ESPN or CBS or whatever,” she said.

And even though analyst jobs are in high demand, particularly at the top networks, those who have worked with Viani have faith that she has what it takes.

“For Julianne, the sky’s the limit for her, and as long as she’s willing to stay with it, she’ll get that opportunity as long as she’s persistent,” Fenig added. “Her work ethic and attitude is certainly there, and the talent is there. Hopefully she’ll get that opportunity, and if she does, she’ll nail it.”

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