The best shot at working in sports television may come from behind the camera.
On-air broadcasters comprise only a small fraction of the staff necessary to telecast sporting events. Many people don’t realize that positions are available in TV that incorporate a variety of talents. From the worker with electronic skills to the individual with creative abilities, there will be a demand for producers and sophisticated technical personnel at both the local and network levels.
Producers & Directors
As the overseers of televised sports, producers coordinate the coverage, including preparing announcers, the production crew and technical staff.
While the producer pulls the entire production together, the director executes the telecasts finer elements. Directors call the shots regarding the picture and angles you see at home, the replays and, like the producer, does a good amount of troubleshooting. The skills needed to perform both of these roles proficiently include organizational and administrative skills, split-second accuracy, decision-making under pressure, extensive sports knowledge and the ability to anticipate.
In preparing for a television production career, it is important to acquire thorough knowledge of communications and mass media in addition to developing the specific technical acumen. It’s never too early to gain exposure to sporting contests and develop the necessary skills. This can be attained while attending school by volunteering or obtaining an internship or part-time job at a local station or cable company that provides sports coverage.
The men and women behind the camera are often described as “those in the trenches.” Under any conditions, hot, cold or snow, they are required to perform as if they were in a climate-controlled studio. Like producers, camera technicians have a feel for the sport and anticipate control booth commands. Even with pre-planned camera coverage, situations arise in which only the alert technician can provide in-depth coverage to the audience. It is often in these instances that award-winning film clips and videos are made, becoming trademarks of the industry.
Training is available at area technical schools and usually can be completed in a relatively short time. Some programs offer internships in which students can be hired upon completion of their education. Camera operators usually begin their careers at a local station or cable company.
Most sports photographers, many of whom are freelancers, trace their beginnings to their high school yearbook days or college newspaper experiences. It’s never too early to start providing action shots to local newspapers or other publications.
A degree in photography is a plus and it is necessary to put together a portfolio to demonstrate your abilities. Like the television technician, there is no substitute for experience or knowledge of the sport.
Being at the right place at the right time can be all you need. A fine example of this is the famed Dwight Clark catch in the end zone of the 1982 NFL playoffs to allow the San Francisco 49ers to beat the Dallas Cowboys in the waning moments. It is an example of how one shot can become iconic.
The outlook for sports photographers remains good—and the path to success requires being knowledgeable, aggressive and opportunistic.