Steve Henkle, PA announcer for Saddleback sports, has been PA announcing for almost 10 years at Saddleback College. (Photo courtesy of the Saddleback athletics department)
It’s that busy time of the year again, but for Saddleback College’s public address announcer Steve Henkle, it isn’t just about the turkey—it’s about the sports.
Henkle is an avid sports fan whose favorite sports team’s include the Green Bay Packers, the St. Louis Cardinals and to his recent dismay—UCLA football.
Henkle’s career in PA announcing began 10 years ago, starting only three days after his retirement when friend and current Saddleback Athletic Director Tony Lipold offered him the job. Two days later, Henkle came in, filled out the paperwork and was announcing for Saddleback basketball that same week.
“I started PA announcing at Saddleback, all because of Tony—if I had not run into him on that Saturday, I probably wouldn’t be here, just the way life works,” Henkle said.
However, Henkle’s path is not typical, transitioning into the world of sports announcing after 34 years of teaching English and government to the High School students of the Garden Grove Unified District. In fact, he even recounts that as a kid he would have never thought of doing a job like this.
“If you would of told me that I would be doing this as a kid, I would of said no way—I was so shy, I wouldn’t have had said three words,” Henkle said.
In Henkle’s case, his biggest weakness became his biggest strength. And by having two jobs that require speaking in front of people on a daily basis, it was clear that it was something he had to overcome.
This is something that he attributes to one of his high school teachers, whom even though wasn’t particularly his favorite, was the key to the beginning of his success in public speaking. It was in this English class which Henkle says that the teacher would randomly call on students to get up to give extemporaneous little talks, where they only had five minutes to prepare.
“I was just in eternal fear, just hoping that she wouldn’t call on me and sure enough one day it happened and she asks ‘what’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you’ and that was horrible,” Henkle said. “I just wanted to disappear and I just didn’t want to be up in front of people that I knew, but I got up and told this story and people were laughing and I got through with it.”
It was in that moment in which Henkle realized that he had feared something that he would later find to be a lot of fun.
“That’s when I realized ‘wait a minute, it wasn’t all that bad and it was kind of fun’, so from then on—as I’ve said before if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger, you realize that all that fear was misplaced,” Henkle said.
From there on Henkle embraced his fear and channeled it into a career in teaching. For him, teaching has brought personal satisfaction in the fact that he could help a student really understand a concept or have an “aha” moment. He had also loved being in the classroom as a student and cites his teachers as some of his biggest inspirations.
“I had some very good teachers that were really inspirational to me, and I thought these guys they’re doing the right thing, they’re giving something back,” Henkle said. “So that was always my thing: ‘leave it better than you found it, pay it forward’.”
While still teaching, Henkle had the opportunity to rack up experience in sports by not only coaching, but also announcing for his school’s teams. Throughout his tenure, he coached swimming, water polo, soccer and football. All while taking the time to announce for both football and basketball.
Henkle particularly enjoys PA announcing for basketball games, which he says is a bit easier to call than football.
“I like calling basketball, because you’re a lot closer to the game—it’s a lot more connection to what’s happening in front of you and basketball is an easy game to call, you just follow the ball,” Henkle said. “While football there is a rhythm to it—there’s play, there’s action, then it stops, then there’s play.”
Along with PA announcing, Henkle does radio. He says that on radio, the hardest sport to call is baseball simply because there can be a lot of dead time. However, Henkle solves this problem by adding a bit of entertainment value to it.
“The game tells a story. There’s no doubt about that. It’s about the game. It’s about the people on the field, but you have to have some fun yourself and make it more entertaining and interesting for the audience,” Henkle said.
As for PA announcing for baseball, Henkle says that it’s a lot of fun because of the players and the audience. Along with that, he receives certain perks that come with the job.
“It’s a lot of fun doing the baseball because the way the baseball thing is set up,” Henkle said. “They have a little snack set up in there, if you want to talk about perks, we get to eat the stuff that’s there and it doesn’t cost us anything, so that’s nice,”
Aside from the perks, Henkle loves announcing simply because it’s enjoyable. He also revels in the fact that he is able continue to give back to the community.
“I’m not in it for the money by any means—it’s just a good thing to be doing. I feel like I’m making a contribution,” Henkle said. “I’m putting something back and I get to be around great people, so you can’t ask for more”
For Henkle it doesn’t matter how many people are listening. He says that it could be one or a million, but for him it’s always about doing quality work and ultimately telling the story of the game.
“It doesn’t really make any difference, if there’s one person out there or there’s a million, you still have to approach it the same way,” Henkle said. “Tell the story of the game, don’t become a cheerleader, have fun and make it enjoyable, that’s what we try to do”
Henkle has taken his love for sports and has created a career for himself at Saddleback. It is his passion, character and dedication that embodies the voice behind Saddleback sports.
As a teacher, who taught young people for 34 years Henkle advises young people to go with what they love. He believes that even though money is necessary, it shouldn’t be a deciding factor in life. In his opinion, there have always been a lot more important things than a high salary.
“Follow your bliss—do what makes you happy. Think about what you would most like to be doing, where being paid or anything else doesn’t matter,” Henkle said. “Just do it because you love doing it, that’s what you are—go do it and don’t give up on that dream. It’s not always going to be smooth, but if that makes you happy, you’re going to be okay”