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As a kid, Gil Bransford dreamed of being a sports announcer at ESPN. He watched basketball on television. “I’d hear the excitement in [the announcer’s] voice,” he says. “That’s what I was drawn to.”
Bransford did get a job at ESPN, but not as an announcer. He’s a sports statistician. His job is to tell stories with text or graphics. They appear onscreen during sports programs.
Bransford says he never imagined such a job existed: “I didn’t know there were people behind the scenes who helped enhance what sportscasters were talking about.”
In college, Bransford majored in communications. That gave him skills he could use in journalism, sports science, and media production.
In his senior year, Bransford interviewed with ESPN for a job in sports research. He didn’t have the required sports-history knowledge. But he had statistics skills. He was hired to work in statistics and analysis. “We were the last line of defense in making sure the stats on ESPN.com were accurate,” he says.
He did that job for 10 years. It gave him the knowledge he needed to become a researcher.
Now Bransford works on live broadcasts such as College GameDay. Football and basketball seasons are his busiest. He builds graphics, which often include text. (See example, top.) During the halftime show, he supplies information to the host. “A show producer might want to give viewers a look at how the first half of a game played out,” Bransford says. “They look to us to give them the best angle.”
Looking back on his early years at ESPN, Bransford sees a lesson: You might not land the job you want right away. But you can still acquire the skills you need for that job. The key is to remember what you’re aiming for. “There’s no template ,” he says. “If you’re interested in a specific job, you might have to take a different path to get there.”