A spotting board can be a tremendous resource for broadcasters of any sport. One of the core concepts we drove home in our discussion about broadcast structure was organizing and consolidating as much information into as few sheets of paper as possible. The more you consolidate in advance, the less time you’ll spend looking for the information during the actual broadcast. Spotting boards might be the poster child for structure and consolidation in sports broadcasting.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a “spotting board” is essentially a hyper-detailed version of a team’s roster. A spotting board includes relevant statistical and biographical information for each player in addition to the “names and numbers” found on a traditional roster. By consolidating information for every player on a single sheet, spotting boards assist the broadcaster in delivering high-quality information to the listener in a timely manner. They are especially useful in sports like football, hockey, and basketball where the players on the field/ice/court are often in motion at the same time and moving in different directions. Football spotting boards usually resemble a traditional “formation,” and organize the players by position. This helps the broadcaster visualize the location of a player on the field, and really comes in handy when trying to identify who executed a key block or tackle. Hockey spotting boards are generally organized by line or defensive pairing, and as a result, are commonly referred to as “line charts.” Below is an example of a football spotting board.
Interestingly, there are very few spotting boards designed for baseball. I’m not sure if this has to do with the natural pace of the game versus other sports (baseball lends more time in between plays to consult non-spotting board resources), the fact that the players generally stay in the same area versus other sports, or the mere presence of a scorebook (baseball is the only sport where the broadcaster can sequentially document every play while still calling the game, so a scorebook serves as something of a “real time” spotting board). I’ve seen plenty of baseball broadcasters utilize portions of the game notes pertaining to the starting pitchers, the hitters, or the bullpens. They serve the same purpose, but aren’t necessarily true spotting boards, because they span multiple pages.
In part two of our series on keeping score, we’ll take a closer look at ways to enhance your actual scoring system.
As mentioned in the first post, the suggested methods throughout this series were designed to fit my own personal system, and will be introduced as such for ease of explanation. By no means, however, am I trying to force you to adopt my scoring system. Our hope is that you find value in one or two (or more) of the “hacks,” and manage to incorporate them into the system you’re already using.
Below is a filled in scorecard and pitcher’s card from August 21st, 2016 in which the Winnipeg Goldeyes beat the Sioux City Explorers 6-1 on the road.
(Note: to get the most out of this post, I recommend opening the photo in a separate tab or window so that you can flip back and forth as each section is discussed)
Direct Link to the above photo: https://growcasting.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/full-scorebook-filled-in-e14904674408071.jpg
We’re mostly going to focus on the scorecard portion on the right side of the photo (please disregard the four plays that are highlighted in yellow. The highlighting earmarks the audio clips played back during our postgame show, and is not part of my actual scoring system).
The top of the lineup column indicates this is Winnipeg’s side of the scorecard (you would find Sioux City’s scorecard if you flipped the page over). The players’ jersey numbers are listed on the left-hand side, while the players’ defensive positions are listed on the right-hand side. I highly recommend writing both the position AND the jersey number of each player (it doesn’t matter where, but write both). It will help you spot a pinch hitter (in the on-deck circle, or even in the batter’s box if it really sneaks up on you) or defensive replacement more quickly, especially for an opposing team that you’re not as familiar with.
Our next few posts will cover several techniques you can use to enhance your scorekeeping. Keeping a basic scorebook should be a given for every baseball broadcaster, but the more details you can capture on a regular basis, the greater the quality of information you will pass on to the listener.
There is no right way to keep score. As long as you can retrieve a previous game and easily recreate what happened, then use whatever method you are most comfortable with. With that being said, specific emphasis is placed on “easily” and “recreate.” If it takes more than a couple of seconds to decipher what you wrote down (I’m referring to penmanship and not the mechanics of your scoring system), then you should probably make a concerted effort to improve your handwriting. You may not have more than a few seconds to locate and interpret a piece of information from a previous scoresheet, which runs the risk of time-sensitive information expiring.
Additionally, I used the phrase “recreate what happened” as opposed to “understand what happened,” because utilizing a scoring system that captures as many details as possible will pay major dividends on future broadcasts. If you’re reading this, then you probably have a fairly sophisticated system already in place, but can you pluck any game from last year’s scorebook and know exactly how many times a runner went from first to third? Are you able to compare the total number of line drives versus the total number of popups? If not, these next few posts can help.
Our scorekeeping “hacks” were designed to fit my own personal system, so they will be introduced as such for ease of explanation. By no means, however, am I trying to force you to adopt my scoring system. Our hope is that you find value in one or two (or more) of the hacks, and manage to incorporate them into the system you’re already using.
Let’s start with the most basic element of keeping score–your scoresheet or scorebook.
Like your scoring system, the type of sheet or book you use is entirely up to you. Pick whatever you are most comfortable with. I do recommend customizing and printing your own scoresheets instead of purchasing a pre-made book. Designing your own template allows you to tailor the scoresheet to your own specific system. Pre-printed books might be convenient, but force you–at least to some degree–to conform your scoring style to the layout of the book.
I promise this isn’t meant to be a crusade against pre-made scorebooks, but another limitation of a ready made book is the finite number of individual sheets. I’ve witnessed broadcasters run out of sheets due to rainouts, making a mistake when filling out a lineup, or simply buying a book that didn’t have enough pages for the entire season. They were forced to purchase a second book to finish the summer. Since it’s highly advisable to have every game from that season handy, it meant they had to lug around two full-sized scorebooks over the final couple of weeks. Sure, you could purchase a pre-made book with enough pages to afford you some mistakes (say 125 sheets for a 100-game season), but then you’re leaving (and paying for) blank pages that eventually go to waste. And if you’re thinking, “well, I’ll just use the remaining blank pages to start the following season,” you will undoubtedly run into the same dilemma of having to carry around two books (and for a much longer period of time than described in the original scenario).