Female Sports P.A. Announcers: A Rare Breed
This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of “The Voice“, the official newsletter of the National Association of Sports P.A. Announcers (NASPAA). Photo credits: (left) Jonathan Okanes, (right) University of Washington Recreation.
Female Sports P.A. Announcers: A Rare Breed
By Anita Y. Tsuchiya, CPAA
Salt Lake Community College and University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
In the world of Sports P.A. Announcing, it is common knowledge that there are far fewer females behind the mic than males. An informal poll1 of PAC12 schools revealed that only about one announcer in 10 is a female.
Sports announcing veteran Julie Myers has nearly two decades of experience and recently celebrated her 10th year with Cal Bears women’s soccer. She believes there are two reasons why we hear so few female announcers.
“Women don’t see women doing it. Wherever we go, there’s a man doing it, so we don’t think it could be a women’s job,” Myers said. “And the second thing is that when people think of an announcer, they think of a male voice in their heads.”
Julie Gillespie, who has been announcing men’s and women’s soccer for the University of Washington since 2011, voices a similar observation. She observed that sports-minded women aspire to do broadcast or TV work, and overlook announcing as an option.
“It’s just something that’s not on a lot of women’s radars. Just like myself, I just sort of fell into it. So it’s not like a lot of women are thinking, ‘Oh, I would like to be a P.A. Announcer,’” said Gillespie.
The two women come from backgrounds in sports operations and event management, and both have years of experience announcing multiple sports. However, their journeys to the announcing booth couldn’t have been more different.
Myers got started announcing sports events at a high school where she worked as an activities director. One night the announcer failed to show up for a football game, so she volunteered to announce the game. A former stand-up comedian who loves being the center of attention and “anything to do with a microphone,” Myers fell head-over-heels in love with announcing. She did as many high school games as possible and eventually got hired to announce for the Bay Area CyberRays, a professional team in the Women’s United Soccer Association. Unfortunately, the gig quickly fell apart after she was given the wrong instructions by the announcer who was assigned to train her.
Undaunted, Myers kept looking for more opportunities. Eventually, she landed the announcer’s job for women’s soccer and women’s softball at Santa Clara University and later became a fill-in for women’s basketball and women’s volleyball. After four years at Santa Clara, Myers moved on to the University of California, Berkeley, to announce for Cal Bears women’s soccer.
Before long, she added men’s soccer and women’s water polo. In addition to being the lead announcer for these three sports, Myers is a fill-in for women’s field hockey, women’s volleyball, men’s baseball, women’s basketball, men’s water polo and women’s softball. She also spent one year announcing women’s softball, men’s baseball and women’s water polo at Cal State Hayward. The seven-year NASPAA member even gets the occasional chance to be an emcee in her current position as an event coordinator for the City of Sausalito.
In contrast to Myers’s love of the spotlight, Gillespie, confesses to feeling “terrified” at the idea of standing up in front of an audience. Put her behind the mic and out of sight, though, and she feels right at home.
“I like the camaraderie between myself and the [scorer’s] table,” said Gillespie. “I really enjoy going to the games, talking to all my co-workers, we have a good relationship. And I think it’s exciting. I mean, I was a college athlete, so I just want to make the experience really good for the college athletes that are playing on the pitch.”
Gillespie started announcing 14 years ago at Harvard University. One day, the soccer announcer was a no-show and the event management staff asked their sports-savvy intern to give it a shot. Following her internship, Gillespie stayed as a full-time hire and announced all the home games for women’s and men’s soccer, women’s basketball, and subbed in for women’s softball. Thanks to a roommate attending Boston College, Gillespie added announcing for their men’s and women’s soccer and women’s field hockey.
After a few years in New England, the Spokane native moved back to the west coast, working for University of Washington Recreation. Harvard’s former soccer head coach was now leading the men’s team at Washington and made a special request to have Gillespie announce for them. In addition to announcing Huskies men’s and women’s soccer, Gillespie fills in for women’s gymnastics, women’s basketball and women’s softball.
Although it was serendipity that created the opportunity, hard work and attention to detail are what have made her the coach’s choice. She believes the hallmarks of a good announcer are showing up early, being prepared and, especially, getting people’s names right. To avoid mistakes, she hunts down a coach, sports information director, trainer, pronunciation guide, or communications staff to double-check athletes’ names.
The former soccer defender for the Gonzaga Zags remembers a teammate whose name was routinely mispronounced by their home P.A. Announcer.
“Her name was never pronounced correctly at our home matches and it really bothered me,” said Gillespie. “And it wasn’t even my name. It was my teammate’s.”
Myers has a similar philosophy about what it takes to be a good announcer, “These kids and their parents need someone to put a good frame on the picture of the game. They deserve it. And the away kids need it just as much as the home kids.”
“I feel very strongly and think all the time about the parents sitting in the stands, and how they would want to hear their kids’ names said.”
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- A short survey was sent to the athletics departments of the 12 members of the PAC12 Conference. The survey asked which PAC12 sports the school offered, how many total announcers they used for PAC12 sports, how many announcers were male, how many announcers were female and how many announcers were other. Seven out of 12 surveys were completed and returned. Out of 33 announcers working across 117 men’s and women’s PAC12 sports, four were reported to be female. Washington State uses a combination two non-student male announcers and a variety of student announcers who change each year. None of the student announcers were counted in these results.
Anita Y. Tsuchiya announced her first event in 2014 as a weekend substitute for the Salt Lake Community College baseball team. Today, she announces for three colleges: 1) Salt Lake Community College (NJCAA DI), baseball, softball, men’s and women’s soccer and men’s and women’s basketball (backup); 2) University of Utah (PAC12, NCAA DI) women’s soccer, men’s and women’s alpine skiing and women’s basketball (backup); 3) Westminster College (NCAA DII) women’s volleyball.