Becoming a Sports Commentator

On February 25th & 26th I joined the Big Ten Network team as a color commentator (aka analyst) for the 2022 Indoor Big Ten Track & Field Championships.

I was brought on to offer my expertise and insight into the sport and specifically commentate on the field events. Yes, you read that right. Not the hurdles, sprints, relays, and long jump: all of which I could comfortably analyze without thinking twice. But I was asked to join in on the field stream, which covered the pole vault, high jump, shot put, weight throw, triple jump, long jump, and multi-event field events. And we are not talking about play-by-play (like announcing who’s up and their season’s bests) but I was asked to analyze each attempt and give a breakdown on technique and marks.

Now, let me be the first to say that I was tremendously grateful for the opportunity to join the team, in whatever capacity I could. But that gratitude and appreciation didn’t prevent the uncertainty and doubt from creeping in.

So when I spoke to the Senior Vice President, Mark Hulsey, at the Big Ten Network, who was so gracious to give me this incredible opportunity, there was no way I was going to pass it up. Now, I did mention that the field events, with the exception of long jump, were not my areas of expertise, and he understood. He had faith in my ability to contribute to the success of the stream, and his confidence in me was very encouraging. I fed off of that positivity and began a very long preparation process.

What my prep looked like

I started from the ground up, researching the basics of each event and taking the time to learn the foundations of them. For example, did you know that the angle of the sector in shot put is 34.92°? Or that the optimal release angle for the weight throw is between 42°and 45°? Yeah. I spent a lot of time researching information that I eventually didn’t even use during the broadcast. Rookie mistake, but I did find comfort in feeling “over prepared” for the stream. The irony is that despite the weeks of prep, I actually never felt 100% “ready” and had to just take the plunge. It was a steep learning curve, but I am happy to say the broadcast went well in the end.

I am a self-proclaimed perfectionist and generally my own worst critic so I have begun my process of self-reflection on ways to improve for next time. With that, however, I am also taking the positive feedback I’ve received as small wins for my debut performance as a color commentator.

Even though I never really quite felt like an expert in some of the technical aspects of the events, I knew I could offer a unique and useful perspective having been a world class athlete. I can confidently speak about the mindset of the athlete, which is universal regardless of which event you do in track & field. So I relied on that and pulled confidence knowing that may be insight that the listeners at home would find interesting.

At the request of the network, the stream ended up being very conversational between me and my cohost, Connor Onion. This relaxed (yet professional) approach helped ease the pressure and stress I carried into the weekend. Connor has a wealth of experience doing sports commentating, and I was able to learn so much from him. For example, apparently listeners tend to be more drawn to broadcasters with a lower tone. When you stop to think about it, that makes sense right? This is an area in particular that I happily listened to Connor on because it seems like God specifically crafted his voice to be a commentator. Go check out his website to hear exactly what I mean.

All in all, his insight was useful, and he made my job so much easier. Pro tip: a good teammate naturally elevates the level of the whole group.

Thanks to Declan Murry, Jeff Surmin, Kevin Brellenthin and Sara Kroll who took the time to offer tips and were very welcoming. The whole Big Ten Network team was a pleasure to work with, and I can’t wait for our next opportunity to work together again.

How did I get here?

Similar to the on-field presenting I did on February 6th (check out this blog about it) I knew I wanted to stay connected to the sport in a meaningful way. Although I am normally keenly aware of my strengths and weaknesses, I wanted to see if commentating would be something that I would like, and be good at. I reached out to some friends I made during my track career for advice on how to get started, who to talk to, and ways to do a good job. Massive thanks to Ato Bolden who has offered me invaluable advice, and has been a very helpful sounding board thus far. Life continues to remind me to never sleep on the power of good relationships.

A few lessons I’ve learned from this experience:

1) if it’s on your heart to try something, do it. Even if you’re a little hesitant or uncertain, don’t be guided by fear.
2) preparation is key no matter what job or task you have in front of you.
3) figure out what you bring to the table, trust it, and appreciate it’s value.
4) “closed mouths don’t get fed”. In other words, the answer will always be no if you never ask.
5) don’t be scared to fail, especially when it’s your first time doing something.

I made a promise to myself in 2022 that I’m coming for every single blessing that has my name on it. I vowed to dead the fear, silence the doubt, embrace the uncertainty, and trust the process.

This is what my “life after track” looks like. I’m on a journey of continual self improvement, and I’m committed to elevating in every single aspect of my life. And I am passionate about encouraging others to do the same. Thanks for being a part of my journey.


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