By Luke Martin| Ball State Sports Link
Follow @LukeMartinBSU | @bsusportslink
When a young college football player gets his named called in early May, he comprehends he has made it to the National Football League, the premier football league.
The same can be said when a young high school athlete gets the all-important full-ride scholarship offer to a school of their dreams, solidifying making it to the next level.
Why are those feelings so special? It is because everyone knows making it to the NFL, MLB, NBA, or even playing D1 in college athletics is tough to accomplish. It is exclusive because if you make it to that level, there are only few — or zero — echelons higher than the one you just reached.
All of those feelings are equivalent to when a student is selected to be a part of Ball State Sports Link. Why? You are the best of the best.
When I was named to be play-by-play on TV for the Eastern Michigan Men’s Basketball game, I knew I had to make it count due to so many others deserving the same position.
I wanted to give you all a behind the scenes look at my prep for the broadcast Feb. 12. This could show you how much — or little — I actually do during the week.
My normal duties are being the play-by-play announcer for Ball State Men’s Basketball on the student radio station WCRD. “Preparing” for Ball State wasn’t going to be as difficult, because I have seen every game they have played this season. My focus really shifted towards Eastern Michigan and how I can dig up story lines but also learn their style of play.
This is where ESPN3.com and the WatchESPN app come in handy, as I pulled up old Eastern Michigan games this season (Akron, Ohio, and Western Michigan) to get a feel for their 2-3 zone and why it has been so effective.
I did play basketball when I was younger…well…Church league basketball. I believe my church league days “count”, but honestly I have never truly understood the X’s and O’s of the game. I can tell you about the basics, but after that it can be a challenge, which is why I enjoy play-by-play more than a color role.
I know I am behind the eight-ball when it comes to explaining the specifics of a play, which is why I try to do my best in watching film and learning more about how a team plays.
After watching good chunks of those games, I went back to looking over their media guide and seeing if I could find any “nuggets” on my own. Game notes and media guides are great tools to learn about the opponent, but that isn’t good enough for me.
Sunday is where I structured some emails and made phone calls to Tyson Matthews, Ball State SID, and Sean Hostetter, Eastern Michgian SID, and asked them for access to talk to coaches and players before the game on Wednesday night. Using the Sports Information Director is critical because they know the team inside and out. They travel with the team and are at every game. Never be afraid to call or email them because that is why they are there.
The other aspect I focused on were graphics with Alex Seitz and Zac Miklusak. The focus was on what we could add video-wise, such as to the “players to watch” segment in our pre-game. Normally, for an SL broadcast, we get shots of the specific players we need warming up on the court and play it back when we talk about them in our open, which is fine. I rather see highlights and WHY they are the players to watch, which is where I put together the highlight packages for Jesse Berry and Glenn Bryant in our show.
You always hear coaches talk about the “little things” that separate good teams from great teams. It also goes with a student production and what we can do from a pre-production standpoint before we even get to the game site.
Outside of something called classes, Monday was kind of my Ball State day. Coach Whitford’s press conference and one-on-one was in the afternoon, planning to watch practice after the press conference and also interview players after practice concluded.
I have been through many press conferences before and interviewed multiple players countless times, but the one thing I enjoy most is watching practice. It really allows me to see what the point of emphasis will be for the week but also learn about how Ball State likes/wants to play Wednesday night.
After practice was over, Zac Miklusak , Torey Fox and myself were able to go with Coach Whitford into the locker room and produce our coaching diagram segment, which was shown in our broadcast Wednesday. Coach was gracious with his time and worked with us on what exactly we wanted to draw up.
The reason I wanted to do this diagram with Coach Whitford is we wanted our viewers to learn something and apply it to the broadcast. No doubt we are there to tell the story of the game, but the part that gets forgotten sometimes is “educating” fans. We believed this segment in our broadcast would help us from a production value, game value, and fan value. I hope it did.
After practice, we headed back over to the Digital Sports Production center for our Sports Link class where we went over plans for Wednesday night and making sure we are all on the same page.
Once Sports Link was over, I turned my attention to my beautiful COMM322 class and attempting to prepare for the first big test the following day.
Early on I devoted my time towards class work, as COMM322 and TCOM384 take up a good chunk of my free time. Even when I am going through all the prep work for broadcasts and getting the “feeling” of like it is my real job, I have to remember the true reason of why I am still here.
After my classes were over with, I was hoping to chat with Coach Rob Murphy from Eastern when they arrived in Muncie but due to their busy schedule, our meeting got pushed to Wednesday morning. This gave me more time to prep before our conversation, but also opened up time to get in contact with another guy who knows Eastern Michigan basketball well.
I always use radio play-by-play guys as a tool in preparation, especially the great ones like Chad Bush. He fits the model and then some. When you talk to Chad, it is like you knew each other since kindergarten. He has the charisma and personality where you can easily talk to him for hours on hours, which we did.
My time with Chad was chatting about the team and specific players. I would go through players who I thought would play more, but really I wanted to make sure I knew what I was blabbering about. I would go through my research and bounce it off Chad and he would tell me if I was on to something or totally off.
The reason I knew every little factoid about the Eagles is due to the big assist from Chad Bush.
Wednesday is the day the magic happens. Most of our crew started set-up at the arena around 9 a.m. while the talent of the broadcast got their beauty sleep — if beauty sleep is a four-hour long morning class which starts at 8am.
When I was able to break free from class, Coach Murphy gave me a buzz and knocked out my last pre-game interview. Coach was so precious with his time and was open and honest through the whole conversation.
What I wanted to know from him is not so much how the team is doing this year but the rebuilding process, biggest challenges, and if he thought they were on schedule in his mind. You may be asking me why I would care about the EMU rebuilding process but the reason I asked is due to where Ball State is right now.
Coach Murphy went on to talk praise Coach Whitford, how he has known him for a long time and admired his talent of evaluating players.
The coaching community may seem big, but it is small. Coaches have great respect for one another, especially those like Whitford and Murphy who have similar backgrounds. Both were assistants in the MAC (Miami and Kent), assistants at national-championship contending programs (Arizona and Syracuse), and now are in the process of turning programs into something they are used to…winning.
After our lengthy conversation, I thanked Coach for his time and went back to finish off my Eastern Michigan notes for the broadcast.
It is about 1:30 p.m. when I finished the notes, as now I headed over to Worthen Arena to watch pre-game shoot-around for Ball State.
This was extremely helpful come the broadcast because they run nearly everything you need to know or need to look for during the game. I always make a block on my notes, which is tagged in this post, dedicated to shoot around. It is designed to set off red flags in my head when I am calling the game and be aware on WHY Ball State is running a specific play.
Once shoot around was over, headed back to my apartment and printed off my final games notes (pictured below) for the broadcast.
Total Team Effort
This is far from the BEST way to prepare for a broadcast but the key for me is to be as comfortable and ready as possible. What truly helped me get through the game and broadcast is the support from the Sports Link family.
We truly are a family and the feeling after a great broadcast is one you can’t match in any other student organizations in the country.
The one thing I always make clear is Wednesday was a team effort. It is about Alex Seitz directing all the camera shots and Drew Adamson bringing the shots to life as Technical Director. It is about our producer, Zach Hughes, making sure everything runs smoothly and keeping the talent in line. It is about graphics with Emily Barker in keeping our audience aware of the score and storylines, Ryan Bickford giving us all the replays on EVS and Zac Miklusak running audio to hear all the action. Guess what? I am not done yet.
We all know Aaron Hepp makes plays on the football gridiron at Scheumann Stadium, but the young man makes plays running “hero” and “slash” cams during a basketball remote. Then Alexis Williams, Matt Organ and Nick Ewing running cameras for the first time or close to it, and a veteran like Andrew Bultemeier setting the tone running Cam 1, which holds “the” production value to a basketball broadcast.
There are so many more who play a part in this but we have a great group this semester, the best group during my time at Ball State. This is why if you aren’t thinking about coming to Ball State, you should.
Give credit where credit is due….Chris Taylor, Alex Kartman and Brad Dailey have Sports Link rollin’!