What I Have Learned About Announcing Soccer
This article originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of “The Voice“, the official newsletter of the National Association of Sports P.A. Announcers (NASPAA). Photo credit: University of Utah Athletics.
What I Have Learned About Announcing Soccer
By Anita Y. Tsuchiya, P.A. Announcer, Salt Lake Community College/University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
When the Salt Lake Community College athletics department asked if I would like to announce their inaugural season of men’s and women’s soccer in 2016, I jumped at the opportunity. Soccer was my passion in my youth when I played in a competitive women’s league. The following year, 2017, I was hired to announce women’s soccer for the University of Utah, a member of the PAC 12. These past few seasons of being involved with my first sports love have been a joyous ride, and every year I learn something new about announcing it.
The first thing I learned was that my playing experience didn’t always carry over into announcing the game. As a player, I was close to the action; I could easily see and hear what was happening. Being tethered to the sidelines or press booth meant I had to rely on officials’ hand and flag signals and player positioning to make the right announcement. For example, turnovers such as goal kicks and throw-ins are not announced, but corner kicks are. Most infractions, including offsides, hand balls, illegal throw-ins and minor fouls are not announced; those involving yellow or red cards are.
Being physically removed from the field made it challenging to see who scored from a mob crowded in front of the goal, even using binoculars. It did not take long to figure out the official scorekeeper or timekeeper could help me out. Also, during my pre-game meeting with referees for assignments and name pronunciations, I started asking the fourth (sideline) referee for assistance in spotting goals and assists. And they were always more than happy to help. I expected a handful of in-game substitutions based on my own experience, as well as watching Olympic, World Cup and professional games. To my surprise, junior college and NCAA games involve frequent substitutions, often involving multiple players at once. There were times when the exchange resembled a line change in hockey, except I had to announce all the players. During one pre-season junior college game, I recall announcing well over 50 substitutions for one team.
I quickly learned pre-game prep was critical, especially the roster cheat sheet I used to jot down pronunciation tips using phonetic symbols and accent marks. Collegiate soccer rosters are filled with names from all over the globe. I am pretty proficient with foreign languages, but still, some names are tricky. I mean, how do you pronounce Blagoje Tokovic*? Wesley Mukerinkindi**? Brajdi Cekrezi***?
An easy-to-read roster was also vital for smoothly announcing substitutions. Some coaches would wait to see the other team’s substitutions before making a last-second player swap. I frequently was faced with announcing a dozen players (six coming out, six going in), for two teams, during one exchange, all hopefully before the ball was put into play.
In addition to announcing a one-minute warning, the soccer announcer counts down the final 10 seconds to officially end the half or game. Unlike basketball or football, there are no buzzer-beaters; the ball is immediately dead as soon as time runs out. So, the 10-second countdown and final buzzer must match the official game clock. It seemed easy enough to remember to check the clock until I experienced the chaos of teams making multiple, rapid substitutions during the closing minutes of a hotly contested, sudden-death overtime period. And by the way, keeping my eyes on the clock meant taking them off the field. So, I came up with a two-fold strategy of setting a timer alarm and also asking the official timekeeper for timing reminders.
Professionalism is something NASPAA emphasizes over and over. I can personally attest to a steadily growing announcing portfolio thanks to a professional approach to the job. At the start of each season, I like to greet the coaching and game operations staff. If I am working a new sport, I find time to ask the head coach about any specific needs or requests. This relationship-building has given me an edge over other potential candidates. In fact, a colleague reference and demo video led to an announcer’s dream situation, a preapproved invitation to work NCAA Division I soccer games.
There are always surprises on game day and I found being well prepared helped me adapt to the unexpected. Over the seasons, I built a list of short scripts for weather delays, safety announcements, overtime procedures, lost items and special guests. I make sure to wear athletics-branded apparel and avoid logos that present a sponsorship conflict. Sure enough, game-appropriate attire became relevant when a failed P.A. system sent me onto the field with a megaphone at halftime.
The most important of my announcing duties, perhaps, is highlighting our athletes’ shining moments and enhancing our fans’ enjoyment of the game. I am fortunate to announce for multiple sports and I have learned that each has a distinctive atmosphere on game day. Home games are like a neighborhood party for soccer fans, which means adding a bit of flair to international walkout-style announcements. There is something particularly satisfying about hearing fans roar after announcing a hometown favorite in the starting lineup. It only takes a quick browse of YouTube to realize everyone expects a rousing “GOAL!” call.
I love how soccer has grown deep roots within the U.S. The national women’s team owns four out of eight FIFA World Cup Championship titles, including the victory in France this summer. And through announcing, I look forward to celebrating soccer athletes for years to come.
Answers to Name Pronunciations
*Blagoje Tokovic (BLY-way TŌ-kō-vich)
**Wesley Mukerinkindi (WES-lē moo-KÊR-in-kin-dē)
***Brajdi Cekrezi (BRĀY-dē chǝ-KRÊ-zē)
Anita Y. Tsuchiya announced her first event in 2014 as a weekend substitute for Salt Lake Community College baseball, an NJCAA Division I program. When the original P.A. announcer left mid-season, she announced the remaining home games, including eight games in three-and-a-half days for the post-season championship baseball tournament. Currently, Anita is the P.A. announcer and sound-effects operator for Salt Lake Community College baseball, softball, men’s and women’s soccer, and men’s and women’s basketball. She announces and emcees the University of Utah women’s soccer, and announces Westminster College volleyball, an NCAA DII program. Her taste for athletic competition started with soccer, playing in the days when Pelé and George Best were headliners for the New York Cosmos and Los Angeles Aztecs. She feels especially blessed to have discovered announcing, which allows this slightly battered ex-jock to stay close to the game.