February 28, 2015 – Victoria, BC – ISN’s Lachlan Ross crosses the Camosun College score table to meet Chargers Announcer, Ian Lahay.
Written by Lachlan Ross (ISN) / Photos by Kevin Light (Kevin Light Photography)
Students, parents, and fans squeeze shoulder to shoulder on the royal blue bleachers. November 14 in Victoria, B.C. marks Camosun College’s first home games of the 2014-15 PACWEST basketball season. The heavy bass line of Alt J’s “Fitzpleasure” bounces off the backboards and vibrates through the nets.
And now, the starting lineup for your Camosun Charrrgers. Repping Oak Bay, number five, Evan W-w-w-w-Woodson. Dishing the dimes, the Kazmanian Devil, number six, Kaz Kobayishiii.
Ian Lahay, better known to those around Camosun’s basketball and volleyball communities as the “Chargers Announcer” sits behind the score bench in black suspenders and a white dress shirt. His left hand adjusts music and mic levels on a small silver box, while his right rests a thin microphone against his beard.
From the mean streets of Esquimalt, wearing number eight, James Giuuuu-ffre. Out of the Peg, wearing the one-two, A to the J Beaudry. And prescribing T-three’s, the Lach Doctor, number twenty-one, Lachlan Rossss.
Lahay has been at the gym since early in the afternoon as part of the events staff, dragging out bleachers, setting up the score table and players’ benches, and completing a sound check. But for the Chargers Announcer, Friday night and Saturday afternoon games start days prior.
“Everything he’s involved in, he’s just one of the most enthusiastic guys around,” says Chargers men’s basketball coach, Scot Cuachon. “You ask him to put fifteen hours of work in, he’ll put in thirty, and won’t ask for anything back.”
As a kid in Campbell River, three hours north of Victoria, Lahay snuck down the street to watch hockey on a friend’s TV. His parents didn’t have cable and didn’t care much for sports. Now two decades later, with a childhood of road hockey, ice hockey and soccer, teenage years hauling cameras through caves shooting short films, a business diploma from Malaspina College, a radio broadcasting diploma from BCIT, and creative writing stints for radio stations in Cranbrook, B.C., and Victoria’s The Zone FM, 32-year-old Lahay is about to complete his Bachelor of Sport and Fitness Leadership at Camosun.
Being the “Chargers Announcer” is just a part-time job that turned to an obsession en route to a career in sports marketing. But when Lahay was first asked to take the job in 2012, he declined.
After a year studying at Camosun, word had gotten around that Lahay had radio experience, and the Chargers needed a new game announcer. With plans to move on from a media based career, he politely turned them down until continual persistence convinced him to take the bench for a game. He was handed the mic and from that volleyball set on, Lahay realized the gig was for him.
“In my eyes, I have the greatest job in the world because I have creative freedom,” he says. Where many college sports programs across North America have different employees in charge of media, social media, announcing, music, and photography, during games, he tweets updates for fans, Facebooks and Instagrams highlights, Photoshops athlete pictures ready for player of the game shout outs, chops up iMovie videos, and uploads them to YouTube – all from an 11-inch MacBook sporting a Chargers-blue keyboard. “For me it’s just all part of the job,” he says with a smile.
Lahay remembers hearing the Seattle Supersonics announcer, Kevin Calabro’s go-to line, “Get on that magic carpet and soar, baby,” when Shawn Kemp took off for big dunks. He respected Canucks announcers Jim Hughson and Jim Robson because they were “real”, and now looks to put his own twist on both their styles.
“You have to make sure people remember you,” he says, adding that his goal is for fans and families to come back the next game. “It’s all about marketing and selling the event.”
What most people who watch the Chargers Announcer in action don’t see are the hours of volunteer work. Maintaining the program’s social media presence by tweeting at fans and opposing players, uploading photos on Facebook with captions like, “Is that love in the air? Or Vitor Macedo’s cologne?” Giving out Chargers t-shirts at George Jay elementary during a school visit by players, and making a guest appearance to announce volleyball games at Central Middle School one Monday night.
“He’s invested in [the Chargers] personally and professionally,” says volleyball senior, Jeremy Finn, “and the combination of those two things sets him apart and sets our program apart.”
One of the biggest things Lahay has done to market the Chargers is add each team’s athletes on social media. While most schools and programs shy away from player’s personal lives, he uses the platforms to engage with their friends and families. The extra time he puts into player interactions, in person and online, are what makes his relationships with the Chargers so strong. Giving Finn a flower for his mother at their game on Valentine’s Day; renaming women’s volleyball fifth year, Hilary Graham, “Killary Graham” as she leads her team in kills; tweeting at my Dad in Australia so he feels a part of the Chargers family.
“I’ve lost my husband to the Chargers,” jokes Lahay’s wife, Maggie. “I’m trying to tell him about my day and he’s like, ‘which filter should I use on this Instagram photo for the girls volleyball team?’”
Lahay says the marketing behind his online work isn’t to pump up the players; it’s to pump up their friends and family. Excited support groups around the athletes equals more fans at games.
Last weekend, Lahay announced back-to-back basketball and volleyball games for seniors’ night, and brought Maggie to sit by his side. Watching him in action helps the late night tweets and hours at the gym make sense.
“It’s really great to see the person you love in a role that really fits them,” she says. “This is exactly where he needs to be, it just combines all of the stuff that he loves.”
When the Chargers earn a victory, Lahay is one of the first people to shake players’ and coaches’ hands with a smile or a hug. When the teams lose, he says he goes home devastated.
“I want to do whatever I can to help the players win,” he says. “If that means playing good music and pumping them up with announcements, so be it, that’s what I’m trying to do.”
As a man that describes his job as, “getting to watch basketball and volleyball for free,” there are two plays that keep him coming back to the court: seeing the Chargers bench in chaos after a late game three-pointer to take the lead; and the crowd rising off the royal blue bleachers as one when Camosun’s front line swats down a big-time kill or block at the net in volleyball.
“I could just sit there on the mic and announce that play forever.”
For a chance to catch Lahay in action, he will be announcing his final games of the season at the 2015 PACWEST Volleyball Provincial Championships today at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence (PISE). In the gold medal games, the Chargers women take on VIU at 6p.m., and the Chargers men face Douglas College at 8p.m.
Lachlan Ross is a graduate of the University of Victoria’s writing program, an intern with Independent Sports News, and a member of Camosun College’s basketball team. More of his work can be found at lachlanross.org.
Follow Lachlan Ross, @LachlanRoss89