In the latest edition of “Conversations with Clayton,” I talk with Keith Kokinda, who is a play-by-play announcer for the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, a Division II conference which includes teams in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Keith and I talk volleyball, the Cincinnati Garden, and the process of preparing for a broadcast, among other things.
Clayton Trutor (CT): How did you get involved in the broadcasting business?
Keith Kokinda (KK): It’s something I’ve wanted since I was a kid. I would watch games and do my own play-by-play and quickly realized I had a talent for it. The thought of making it a career really took hold in fifth grade when I messed up my knee and couldn’t play in the kickball games at recess. I started doing the play-by-play off to the side since no one knew the score, and a lot of kids would listen to me.
I went to what is now called the Ohio Media School up in Cleveland, and I got my first opportunity almost right out of school doing indoor soccer with the Canton Invaders of the National Professional Soccer League. It wasn’t glamorous as the team was terrible, but it was a good way to start in the business since I got to learn a lot about how a team operates. After that team moved, I came to Columbus and have broadcast high school and semi-professional sports on radio, TV and live webcasts until I finally got on with the Great Midwest Athletic Conference in 2015.
CT: What advice would you give to people trying to break into broadcasting?
KK: Probably the best thing is to develop good writing skills and be proficient with computer technology. Most high schools, small universities and small scale professional teams have broadcasters also doing writing for either the team website or media releases, so it’s good to have writing skills. And with everything being done with computers and online it’s important to be able to use all the computer equipment that is needed.
CT: What do you like the most about covering the Great Midwest Athletic Conference?
KK: Just the fact that I finally got the opportunity to do college sports after a long time covering high schools. It was a great break with a league that has been growing in recent years. It is an NCAA Division II league, but I’ve seen a number of players in multiple sports who have the talent for Division I. I would love to see people give more attention and support to Division II athletic programs.
CT: What are your favorite sports to cover?
KK: Soccer, hockey (wish we had that in the GMAC) and baseball.
CT: Which sport have you learned the most about by covering it as a broadcaster?
KK: Definitely volleyball. The GMAC had me doing volleyball first and I spent a lot of time studying matches to learn the terminology. I love calling volleyball matches because it’s such a high paced sport and the athleticism needed for the game rivals that of basketball and hockey.
CT: Both as an announcer and a fan, what are your favorite sports venues?
KK: For announcing I loved the Canton Civic Center. Aside from it being my first broadcasting job we had a great vantage point in an intimate building. I also liked the now-demolished Cincinnati Gardens. Terrific sightlines from the broadcast location, and since I’m a Maple Leafs fan I loved being in a building that was modeled after Maple Leaf Gardens. Columbus Crew Stadium is a great place to watch a game; I just hope the Crew doesn’t relocate after this season.
CT: Describe an afternoon or evening covering the Cincinnati Swerve or the Cincinnati Sirens.
KK: I like to get to the site early; at least two hours before kickoff. That way I can talk to people on both teams to make sure all my information is right and find out anything that I could bring up during the game. Once the equipment is set up I’ll get in my spot and go through all my paperwork and bring up the web pages I will need on my tablet. I’ll go over the teams again and make sure I have either the starters or the combinations, depending on which team I’m broadcasting. I’ll go onto the field during warmups just to watch for anything of note that I might need to know. I always pay close attention to the goalkeepers, since that’s what I was when I played. Once the game starts then I’m on! After a game, I’ll again talk to people on both teams to hear what they thought so I have something for the next game.
CT: Besides the teams that you cover professionally, which other teams do you follow?
KK: I’m a native Clevelander, so of course I’m an Indians, Cavaliers and Browns fan. I mentioned the Maple Leafs before, plus I support Rangers FC and Manchester United in European soccer.
CT: Describe your greatest sports video game victory.
KK: I’m not much of a gamer but the best one I can think of is bowling 250 in Wii Sports Resort.
CT: When you think of Cincinnati, you think of ____________.
KK: I was going to say the “Turkeys Away!” episode of WKRP In Cincinnati, but Tucker Wells and Billy Corben sort of beat me to it!
Actually, it would be soccer for me. I’ve broadcast for every professional Cincinnati soccer club in this century except for Cincinnati Riverhawks and FC Cincinnati so I’ve spent a lot of time there broadcasting soccer games.
Follow Keith Kokinda on Twitter: @KeithKokinda
While you’re at it, follow the Great Midwest Athletic Conference: @GreatMidwestAC
For more of the same, follow me on Twitter: @ClaytonTrutor