There's not enough writing about Announcing strategy in roller derby, so we're very pleased to be able to host this guest post from the very experienced King Crazy.
Hey all! I'm King Crazy, an announcer and bench coach. I've been involved in derby for about 9 years, announced around 300 games and benched around 80. I've been lucky enough to work 4 World Cups (1 as co-tournament head announcer), WFTDA playoffs, MRDA playoffs, ECDX, British Champs Playoffs, amongst others.
This is my guide to what I do to prepare to announce BEFORE the whistle goes.
For this example, I am going to say it's a single game between 2 teams I'm not familiar with, and a solo call.
I'll start by asking for the roster 7-14 days in advance. I don't need the exact 15, the full charter will do. Once I have this, I'll read through it a few times, before writing it out in a way that I like, which is numerical order (1, 2, 9, 10 ...) rather than derby order (1, 10, 12, 1997, 2 ...). My reason for this is that when I see someone do something on the track, I find it easier to look their name up to give them the credit they deserve. Writing the names and numbers also helps me to learn them, and bring to my attention any pronunciation issues that I may have.
Next, I'll scroll through YouTube and Facebook to try and find footage, which helps me identify who are the main jammers, who are the high rotation players and what tactics they use. this may not be available, so I'll have a look at their website and Facebook pages to try and put faces to names. I'll also try and find pictures from previous games to look through. All of this is to help me recognise and identify skaters quickly and accurately on track.
So now it's game day.
I'll make sure I have what I need to keep me going (food, water, pen ...) before I set off, as it means I don't have to rush trying to find a shop or relying on the venue.
I'll get there nice and early, find out if I have a wireless mic (fingers crossed) or if it's wired, where am I going to be. Announcers tend to prefer turn 4, so the jammers have their backs to them at the start of the jam, makes them easier to identify. I'll do a little sound check, work out which is the best way to speak in to this particular mic because they can vary massively, adjust volumes etc. I'll use this time to find out if there is anything I need to promote (raffle, sponsors, after party, next game etc) and write that down. I also try and get a list of the officiating crew, so I can give them the recognition they deserve.
I then speak to the head ref to find out how Official Reviews are being communicated: Are they going to speak in to the mic? Is someone going to come over and tell me? Can I go in and listen? I'll be honest, I want to go and listen to what the team is asking for and what the outcome is, makes it easier for me to explain to the crowd.
Now it's time for warm ups.
If you don't know the teams, WATCH THE WARM UPS!!! This is key. I'll be looking to see who the jammers are firstly, but I'll also be looking for ways to identify skaters.
As an example, I've heard many announcers make mistakes with London Roller Derby, getting Esther Arocha, Gaz, Shaolynn Scarlett and Trisha Smackenawa confused, as they all look similar from a distance. When I was fortunate enough to announce them, watching their warm up gave me ways to tell then apart e.g. Arocha had pink Skates, Gaz was wearing shorts, Shaolynn had leggings, Trisha wore shin pads. All little things that helped know who was who! This is why I watch the warm ups, little things like that can stand out and the difference between correctly naming a skater instantly, or having to umm and err your way through until you see a number.
I will also try to speak to a member of the coaching team, to see who will be jamming, but more importantly to check names/numbers/pronunciations/pronouns. This is also very important. The skater may have family and friends in the audience, and it would suck to hear their name pronounced wrong throughout the game!
At around 4 minutes to derby, I'll start. I'll introduce myself, say where we are, talk about the game ahead, run through the rosters, talk about the raffle/after party etc, and then it's time to switch on and focus on that first whistle!