What does a sports commentator do?
Sports commentators may work for TV or radio and commentate on anything from local football and rugby fixtures to athletics or gymnastics competitions at large events such as the Olympic Games. They can specialise in just one sport or cover a number of different areas.
During a working day, commentators will typically:
- prepare for the event or fixture by researching clubs or players
- work with the production team to plan the event or game commentary
- take direction from an on-site producer at the event or fixture
- work with the on-site production team, such as sound engineers
- interview other sports professionals, such as coaches, players and managers
- commentate on events before, during and after the fixture
- work with a ‘summariser’ who gives their expert opinion or statistics in between periods of play
- update website, blog or social media feeds
During the fixture or event, commentators keep audiences engaged by commentating with excitement, enthusiasm and passion. They help to add colour and interest by talking about the atmosphere and what is happening in the crowd as well as on the field of play. It's also important that they know when to stop talking and let the action speak for itself.
For radio, commentators need to ‘say what they see’ and paint a picture of what is happening for listeners. For example, team line-ups, who's leading in a race or which horse is coming up on the rails.Even when a commentator personally supports one of the teams or professionals they are watching, they will need to stay impartial and give a balanced commentary.
What do I need to do to become a sports commentator?
There is more than one way you can gain the qualifications and experience you need to get into this job.
As a new sports commentator you can follow the journalism route into this job and once you’ve gained some experience you can choose to specialise in sports journalism.
With the right skills and experience you may also work your way up from commentating at a local level without a degree or background in journalism. You will need to demonstrate to broadcasters that you have the sports knowledge and commentating skills that they are looking for. Competition for jobs is very strong and very few jobs are advertised. Building up a network of industry contacts can help you find out about vacancies.
As a sports professional you can also consider moving into a career in commentating after a successful career in your chosen sport. Even then, you may start off as a co-commentator or summariser, offering a specialist opinion on the action and tactical insights, before progressing to lead commentator.
Whatever your qualifications, employers will expect you to have a commitment to sports commentating and also have some paid or unpaid experience of working in the industry. This will help you to develop an understanding of the commentating process and to build a network of contacts. Try the following options to get some work experience:
- volunteer to commentate on charity events, such as fun runs
- commentate for amateur matches at schools, college or for local teams
- record commentary for websites or internet radio stations
- volunteer for community, hospital or student radio or TV
- find work experience placements or internships
Where to find out more
Where could I be working?
As a sports commentator you may work for local, national and satellite TV stations, and radio networks, international sports news agencies or internet sports-news services.