Stephen Bardo, former collegiate and professional athlete is currently a rising sports broadcaster. He talked to PPD Mag and gave his thoughts on the current state of college basketball, the sports broadcasting business and of course Personal Player Development.
Dr. Mark: Its been many years since you competed in college basketball at Illinois, how much has the game changed?
Mr. Bardo: The college basketball game that I played over 25 years ago is much different than the game now. First, the top players leave after their freshman year for the NBA. This causes a tremendous talent drain on college basketball. During my last two years at the University of Illinois, the Big Ten Conference had 17 first and second round NBA draft picks. Most of the top players stayed at least until their junior year. The skill level and knowledge of the game was much higher then, because you had guys with 90-100 career games under their belt entering their senior years. That’s not the case today.
Second, the game is officiated much closer now than when I played. Some of my colleagues (Jay Bilas, Mike DeCourcy) would argue, but I know the game is called much tighter now than ever. One of the reasons the officiating has changed is the lack of skill development among the players overall. Scoring is at historic lows right now and the NCAA is trying to legislate the lack of passing and shooting. Players are more athletic now than when I played but far less skilled in the areas of passing and shooting which leads to more scoring and a more appealing game.
Dr. Mark: What made you decide to become a Basketball Analyst?
Mr. Bardo: Basketball is my family’s business. My father played at Southern Illinois University in the late 50’s and early 60’s. My older brother started at Indiana University and transferred to the Citadel to finish his career. My sister played junior college basketball. I’m the youngest and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t involved in sports and basketball in particular. I wanted to be an electrical engineer until I took Chemistry in high school, it was a foreign language to me. My Dad told me I like to run my mouth and I love basketball, why not look into broadcast journalism as a major. Some of the best advice I’ve ever received.
Dr. Mark: In our current society, do you believe the sport media are held to the same stand regarding social media?
Mr. Bardo: Social media is the game-changer! We follow athlete sites to gain inside information about them. It’s rare that athletes even hold press conferences any longer, they just make announcements on social media. The immediate nature of social media challenges the older established media companies and the way they conduct business now.
Dr. Mark: What mistakes if any have you made as a basketball analyst (on or off air) and what could you have done differently?
Mr. Bardo: I’ve had my issues with social media. I’m outspoken and say what’s on my mind. The immediacy of social media allows people to give their opinion. I’ve made my opinion known, even before thinking of the consequences. For example, I was very disappointed in the way my alma mater, the University of Illinois, was running their athletic program. I went on Twitter and shared my disappointment and specifically spoke about the leadership of the program. I work with the Big Ten Network, so I was essentially biting the hand that feeds me. I didn’t see it that way since this is my alma mater yet, the University of Illinois and the Big Ten Network are business partners. This incident affected the amount of work I will receive this season and it’s a great reminder of how NOT to use social media.
Dr. Mark: How important is Personal Player Development for the athlete?
Mr. Bardo: Personal development is key for everyone, yet it’s crucial for student-athletes (SA). There is so much pressure to win at the elite level. So a student athlete’s primary job is to help their team be successful. Getting a degree comes second to winning. I know this is contrary to popular belief, but this is the way it is at the elite level. SA’s are viewed more as a commodity, rather than a student. If a team (like mine did) reaches the Final Four you have legendary status among classmates, alumni, and fans. So the work that you do is crucial for SA’s to have a productive life after sports instead of being used by sports.
If done properly, SA’s have some of the most sought after intangibles of any potential graduates in the workplace.
The ability to work in teams, produce under pressure, handle time constraints, sacrifice for the team, and many more, make former athletes very attractive to companies. Yet Personal Player development is needed to connect the dots for athletes.
Dr. Mark: What can colleges do better to help personally develop their athletes?
Mr. Bardo: Universities can bring in former athletes that have made successful transitions into the workplace. Success leaves footprints and former athletes can cut the learning time for current athletes by years with their advice and specific examples. I know programs like yours are much needed and are long overdue. It’s not enough to give a full scholarship without proper support. Athletes from challenged backgrounds have to play catch-up for the skills that were either under-developed or not addressed at all before stepping foot on a university campus. These Personal Player Development programs are crucial to the total success of the student-athlete.
Dr. Mark: What advice can you give to people who are pursuing a career as a sports analyst?
Mr. Bardo: With technology as accessible and most times free there are a number of outlets people can use to attract opportunities. If I were starting out right now, I would start a podcast. Podcasting is on-demand content. They are easy to start, easy to post online, and gives podcasters a forum to get their reps in! Just like when we started playing basketball, we had to get a certain amount of shots up if we wanted to improve. Getting into sports commentating is no different. You must get your reps up and Podcasting is the most efficient and cost effective way to get started. If your Podcast is good networks will find you.
Dr. Mark: What are your career and professional goals moving forward?
Mr. Bardo: I love being a basketball analyst and I will continue to improve and become one of the best in the nation. However, my passion is seeing young people develop and reach their potential. I love being a professional speaker and I’ve really started to build this area of my business. I’m the “Point Guard that assists student-athletes and their parents maximize the sports experience”. I speak to the youth, college, and association/corporate markets. I specialize in leadership and improving culture (teamwork). Check me out at www.stephenbardo.com.