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PA Announcers Play Critical Role in Education-based Athletics

By Daniel W. Uszaki, EdD, CMAA on May 10, 2021 may Print

A public-address announcer is an individual who provides important, real-time information to an audience. Some speculate that the origin of “speaking in front of others” to inform a group can be traced back to ancient Egypt.

In the mid-1800s, sports like baseball and football started to dominate the New York scene and people would scramble looking for athletic results. At that time, Frederick William Burns jokingly started to read aloud the results that were posted on the board to an eager crowd during the Spring Games of the Staten Island Athletic Club. This was probably the birth of public-address announcing.

It is safe to state that a great deal has changed over the years, but PA announcers at modern venues still try to inform and perhaps occasionally entertain in order to promote a safe and sportsmanlike environment. The following are some guidelines that athletic administrators should use with their announcers to achieve this objective.

  • Follow the standard that “Less is More.” Bob Sheppard, a New York Yankees announcer for more than 50 years, once explained that the best PA announcers were not “cheerleader[s], a circus barker or a hometown screecher.” Simply put, they are reporters. The three Cs of proper PA announcing should always be used: Clear, Concise, Correct.
  • Review the expectations of the position. It is important for athletic administrators to remember that even though a PA announcer can be engaging, the philosophy behind high school, education-based athletics is quite different. While it is good to possess a knowledge of the sport and the signals used by the officials, it is also vital to understand the protocols that could potentially occur during an emergency and event safety management. Since the PA announcer can positively influence crisis situations, evacuations and/or crowd control, athletic administrators should provide announcers with emergency action plans for each venue. Every announcer should be very familiar with the plans and have a copy beside the microphone readily available when needed. When working to fill the role of the PA announcer, an athletic administrator should look for an individual who can be a calming and reassuring presence during an emergency. Being able to quickly analyze the situation and prevent chaos is essential.
  • Exhibit professionalism – Using tact when on the microphone means being sympathetic to the virtues of a positive environment and good sportsmanship. The announcer should never be “bigger” than the game, and athletic administrators must always emphasize respect for opposing teams.
  • Remind PA announcers to always arrive early prior to an event. This step is necessary to assess that the equipment is in proper working condition. Athletic administrators should assist in the preparation of special announcements, welcome messages and team roster templates. Before a contest, the PA announcer should review general communication notices regarding security, medical assistance areas, sportsmanship statements and other pertinent school policies. Closing messages can also be important in the maintenance of safety and sportsmanship following a high school athletic contest. At this time, announcers should remind spectators of the next event, thank fans for attending and recap safety procedures for the attendees to exit the venue.
  • Periodically meet with your PA announcer to revise and update your game announcements. All settings and circumstances change over time; they do not remain static and this means that your notices and messages have to keep pace.
  • Occasionally provide feedback to your PA announcer. This step is the same as what is done with coaches and other personnel in order to improve competency, and it should include offering suggestions, encouragement and appreciation. These aspects form the foundation of all good working relationships.
  • Always include and recognize PA announcers in all program-related events such as awards ceremonies and recognition programs. They are just like coaches, athletic trainers and clock operators – all essential contributors and part of your athletic program. Effective public-address announcing has the potential to highlight the many ideals of education-based athletics and to ensure the safety of all those involved in the event. It is critical for athletic administrators to revisit important concepts that characterize high school athletic events with those individuals entrusted with the announcing position. Establishing the expectations early will assist in the effective management of a multitude of high school athletic contests and keep these events in the proper perspective.

Valuable Resources for Athletic Administrators

The NFHS is the national leader and advocate for high school athletics as well as fine and performing arts programs. Several courses offered through the site provide ongoing professional development, including, but not limited to – PA Announcing.

The NIAAA provides a wide-range of Leadership Training Courses and LTC 725 – Athletic Administration: Management of Game and Event Announcing is one of the offerings. This course includes the role that the athletic administrator plays in hiring, training, developing expectations and evaluating announcers.

The NASPAA’s mission is to raise the level of professionalism, competency and consistency of Public Address Announcing by serving as a resource for training, education and professional development for those individuals who provide their services to sports events at all levels nationwide.

The Voice Above the Crowd
There are two editions of this book and both can be found on the NASPAA’s website or just about any other book-selling platform. The First Edition is a combination of a 64-page manual and 34-minute CD that cover the basic information of PA announcing for a limited number of sports. The Second Edition is a much more comprehensive approach to the intricacies of PA Announcing across a spectrum of potential sporting venues. Both editions include a myriad of resources for both the announcers, and the administrators connected to game management.

A complete online guide to anyone interested in PA announcing. Visitors can not only see job listings, but they can also review an in-depth history on the evolution of PA announcing, learn about the equipment associated with the position, and discover additional resources for those just entering the field.