Tournament Madness

By Matthew C Wallace

I was thinking about March Madness.  The 60+ games in the dance in addition to all those conference tournaments with 7-10 games each leading up to it represent a mountain of announcing effort.  Let’s not be cavalier by leaving out the NIT, the fact there are men and women’s editions, or multiple distinct divisions plowing away.  It goes on. 

Of course, it’s not just one announcer doing it all by any means.   Believe me you though, if allowed, one announcing nutcase would be happy to do every single game, watch every bit of action up close and collect the money for the entire pile.  Oh, what a party it would be for them!  Without question, they’d collapse from exhaustion with a smile plastered on and a throat that felt like barbed-wire when they swallowed.   Doing whole tourneys, portions or several games in a row can be great fun but,  their work and wear are not to be underestimated.

Public Address Announcer Desert Spa

In a prior article, I pointed out that 80% of the PA Announcer’s work is contending with names.  Put that remark on steroids and now, you’ve got yourself tournaments and multi-game stretches.  Announcers that sign up to do a whole tournament must be mad people.  Maybe, we are but, we love it.  I do, anyhow.  Boy am I ever tired at the end and, oh by the way, sign me up for month of vocal rest at a day spa in the desert afterward, please!

But seriously, folks…I’d do a tourney the following weekend…and have before…Ha!

Public Address Announcer Pronunciations Sample Miami Dolphins

All those crazy names!!!  Pronunciations fascinate me.  I love learning to announce a wide variety of names.  The more names I do, the more articulate I get.  On the other side of it, I hate getting names wrong.  I know I irritate administrators when I constantly ask for a name check.  I don’t care.  I want to get it right.  I’m incessant about it.  Others would say I’m painful about it.  Most coaches appear happy I’m taking the trouble.  I am not one to lean on those stupid Quick Facts sheets.  I’ve discovered the phonetics are wrong more than half the time.  There IS NOTHING more reliable than an oral name check with an individual who knows their team’s names thoroughly.

Public Address Announcer Jobs

With tourneys, there are more names coming at me than raindrops from a gloomy cloud.  It’s amazing!  I’ll actually go to the trouble of building my own roster lists with room for phonetics.  I will pronounce each name at home, pre-tournament, to uncover my challenges and questions.  I do so like being prepared.  I, also, read through each roster out loud pre-game no matter what.  Even if I’ve seen that roster a hundred times, I read through it anyhow.  In a small similarity on discipline, I teach both my sons that successful studying goes like this:

  • Study it all.
  • Study it all again.
  • Study it once more.
  • When you think you’ve got it all down, study it one more time.

This is not too different for me.  I read the roster.  I read the same roster again.  When I think I have it down, I read it again.  The names tripping me up, I review once more.  I am happy to trip over speech but, not happy at all to trip over people’s names.  There are sometimes hundreds of names involved in a tournament.  Take the time to check them all out ahead of time.   Yeah, yeah, yeah, quite a bit of time gets burned away doing this.  I get it.  However, it will pay off.  I promise.

Public Address Announcer Formula One Ferrari

I spoke about needing a ton of vocal rest after tournaments.  How about getting plenty of vocal rest prior to a tourney?  Well, my recommendation is not complete vocal rest.  You can’t get the most out of a Formula One car by leaving it silently in the garage for a week up to race day.  Gotta keep the juices flowing but in a limited and controlled way.  Speak less and in a normal voice.  Do some basic warm-ups.  The concept is to keep your voice alive and going without overusing.

I mentioned my own roster sheets.  That’s a me thing.  I, also, have my sport/level-specific game sheet templates I use.  You can find some of what I use by clicking here.  It’s all free.  Take what you want.  Anyhow, I print out the number I need plus a few extra (something always goes wrong so, I have happiness to have extras).  I check out my toolkit to ensure everything I want is in there the day prior.  Keep in mind, tourneys are grueling and non-stop with little wiggle room to monkey around with what I do and don’t have.  I work it all out ahead of time.

Public Address Announcer Early Bird Gets the Worm

The early bird gets the worm.  I arrive 90 minutes prior on the first day of a tourney.  It’s just good practice.  You don’t necessarily know the setup, equipment, people, timeline or anything else that could change on you.  Best to be there well in advance so, you can tackle and overcome with plenty of buffer.   Plus, arriving early takes the pressure off.  I hate rushing.  I find it terribly stressful when I need to be as relaxed as possible to announce all day.

Public Address Announcer Clocks

OK.  Let’s do a little math.  Suppose you have five games on Day 1 and the first begins at 8am.  90 minutes ahead dictates arriving at 6:30am.  Follow along now.  If you have to drive an hour for it, your pulling out at 5:30am.  Suppose you are a bit of a slowpoke like me, the ol’ alarm clock blasts off at 4:30am.  Figure three hours from game to game.  After some addition, you’re winding up around 10pm at night (and that’s IF things go strictly to schedule).  Clean-up takes approximately a half an hour.  Drive home for an hour.  You find yourself waltzing in the door at 11:30pm.  That’s 19 hours baby!!!  Alright…NOW…let’s do this 3 days in a row.  By Day 4, you might be ready to die.  LOL!!!

Holy crapola!!!

Silly Aside:  What always makes me laugh is the schedulers of the world.  They plot out 90 minutes a game with a 30 minute buffer in between.  When they end up two and three hours behind, they sit around disappointed, vexed and confused as to how it all got so far behind.  Honestly, it cracks me up.

Fact check:  In truth, 19 hours, for the most part, is exaggerated.  15-16 is more like it…as if that is truly any less draining.  The point is planning.  I have to plan that I am going to be there all day all night with only moments to eat and use the restroom.  Oh gosh, eating.  I will get into that in a moment.  Before you even sign up, look at the schedule and think about what a tourney will do to you personally.  If you are up for it all, go for it.  If you are not, see if it’s possible to split duty.  If the entire business is too daunting, (eek!) walk away from it.

The cool part about split duty is meeting fellow announcers.  This is the opportunity to network as well as trade notes.  I like meeting people.  That’s me.  Also, knowing other announcers is what leads to other work, other people and other places.

Public Address Announcer Dollar Bill Front and Back

Walking away from money.  Boy, I got yelled at in another article about turning away money.  Varying from others I suppose, I am unafraid to walk off if my own benefits analysis does not work out right.  Do your own analysis and decide for yourself and, do NOT let others goad you into their agendas.  Tournaments are fun but punishing.  Part of being a good announcer is making good personal management decisions…for you!

Public Address Announcer Horse Grazing

Eating.  I eat breakfast…every single day.  I take a vitamin…every single day.  For tournaments, I eat more breakfast and every tourney day.  During the day, I eat, too, but quite slowly.  If you try to cram in a whole lunch in a 30 minute buffer between contests, you will struggle.  The thing about filling your tummy is your lungs will have less room to expand.  This changes how much air you have available to expel.  Me, personally?  I like to have a whole lot of breath to speak longer without taking one.  If you are determined to cram in lunch, be forewarned you will experience a shortness of breath…at least until you digest…  If I am only doing one game, I will eat well in advance and not touch anything but water until after the game ends.  Yes, a human must eat.  I suggest eating less and slowly (I believe nutritionists refer to it as grazing) during a tourney day…just my advice…

Public Address Announcer Volume Control

Monitor the box.  A tournament has me speaking and speaking and speaking.  I tend to take a nip off my volume for all those contests.  Look at the pile of copy they want from you.  If it’s a fair amount, realize your box will be worn out at day’s end.  Dial it down throughout.  If my throat has any soreness to begin with, I will certainly be leveraging the volume slider of that PA system.  Overuse of a voice can sideline an announcer for sure.  I listen to my voice the whole way through.  I tend to be naturally loud so, turning down my own knob is something I have to conscientiously do.  No voice.  No announcing.  Care is king.

Fatigue.  We all get tired.  8 hours.  12 hours.  15 hours.  19 hours.  Egads!!!  The biggest battle I face when I am tired is focus.  Announcing is highly focused job and, if I can’t focus, I’m cooked.  Let’s add the chaos of a press box or table environment to it.  So picture this:  you’re tired, chaos is all around you, you can barely hear, you have two more games to do.  Mistakes unfold when a person is tired.  From leaving the mic on to announcing errors, mistakes just happen more often when tired.  Roll with it, baby!  Keep your wits about you!  Shake it off and forge ahead!  It’s a long tournament!  It’s fun!!!

Leverage your game ops teammates as you go.  This is what I mean.  They are watching the contest, too.  If you’ve got good rapport, you can ask them if this happened or that happened and get a good quick response.  Help them when they need help or ask for it as well.  Work it back and forth so that when everyone is pooped out, you can lean on each other to make it to the end…together!

Public Address Announcer Marathon Winnder

Crossing the finish line.  I work with my sons on this all the time.  Cross the damn finish line, please!  What I hate when watching any kind of car, horse or foot race is a front runner that gives out in the last quarter mile.  Finish the gosh darn race…that means full throttle through the finish line.  In terms of my children, this means finish your school year strong.  For announcing, I don’t get sloppy in Game 19 because it is the last game.  I manage my stuff in Game 19, tired or not, the same as I did in Game 1.  It’s just professional.  It’s disciplined.

Public Address Announcer Melting Burning Candles

When the clock hits :00 or the 3rd out has occurred, the announcing game is not over.  There’s a bunch of copy to still read…of course.  Then, there’s the clean-up.  Then, there’s the drive home.  My good fellow announcing colleagues, you are tired after a tourney.  Please, drive safely home.  Consider getting a ride or Ubering if you are super tired.  Why risk getting hurt if your candle is spent?  When you are finally plopped in your chair in front of your television, only then can the announcer relax.  Myself, I kinda mutter to myself as I am passing out, in one form or another, “…wow…

Tournament types?  I could not care less.  For me, it’s just games.  Do I like to follow along with the tournament standings?  Yes.  If I lose track, do I care?  No.  I’m there to announce games.  I, truly, don’t care who wins or loses as long as I do what I am supposed to be doing.  Deep down, might I be having a favorite?  Well…  I put all that on the back-burner so, I can get the work part done.  Scores, subs, penalties, changes, copy, this, that and whatever leave little room for the announcer to worry about winners and losers so, I don’t.  I just keep smiling and move on.

Public Address Announcer Extra Dough

Tournaments are fun and arduous all in one package.  Think before you strike.  If you are clear on what you have gotten yourself into, tourneys provide fun, reward and extra dough.  The dough part attracts.  The reward part arrives in the experience of watching game after game and program after program go at it on the floor, ice, or field.  The fun?  Heck.  Announcing is fun for me so, I have fun just by showing up and grabbing that microphone.  I sure hope announcing is fun for you, too.  Tournaments or multi-game affairs burn up the time, definitely.  They are truly fun if you manage it all well.

Public Address Announcer Swim Meet

p.s. Swim meets.  My, my, my…  I’ve done some long youth swim meets.  They drain equally or more than tourneys.  Manage them like tournaments and you will be OK.  Splitting duty is not a bad plan at a swim meet.  Some of the youth swim meets are non stop heat after heat from morning to night.  Unless you split duty, there is little to no break time.

Tournaments and back-to-back games:  Fun or Madness or Both?  Give me your tournament ups and downs.  I like to hear.  Plus, you might point out stuff I missed in the article and cause this author…heaven forbid…to edit!!!

About Matthew C Wallace

Matthew C. Wallace is the owner of He is a public address announcer, writer, webmaster, historian, author as well as a former executive and musician. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and children.

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