Share this article on Facebook
How To Break Into Sportswriting
by Chuck Bednar
Can you explain the infield fly rule? Do you
know who has the lowest score in Masters' history? Can you name the winner of
the 1979 Indy 500, or how many All-Americans came from the Big East last season?
If not, then you have no place writing about sports. Right?
As a popular ESPN broadcaster would say, "Not so
fast, my friend!"
Clearly, possessing a strong working knowledge
of sports doesn't hurt, but a writer doesn't have to be a sports genius or a
trivia whiz to gain a decent paycheck and valuable clips from reporting on
athletic competition. The fact is that, with a bit of knowledge about the basic
blueprints about a sports feature and some determination, you too can score a
goal in the field of sportswriting.
IN THE ON-DECK CIRCLE:
This article assumes that you already have a
firm grasp on nonfiction and/or journalistic writing. If not, you're fighting an
uphill battle when it comes to covering sports, because in essence sportswriting
is a mix of journalism and creative nonfiction. Your writing needs to tell a
story, just a like a feature, but it also has to have a solid foundation of
reporting and fact. Usually, the lead is creative in nature and sets up the
central theme or slant of the story. Support that lead with details from the
game, statistical performance information, and quotes obtained from players and
coaches during a post-event interview.
STEPPING UP TO THE PLATE:
If you're not at least a casual sports fan, then
you need to do a little research before diving into the action. Instructional
books, such as Joe Morgan's excellent "Baseball for Dummies", are available at
most bookstores and libraries. They do an excellent job of breaking down the
game. The Internet can also be a valuable too. Many sports sites, including
those at About.com (www.about.com), offer short instructional articles covering
the basics of their sport, and are willing to answer any additional questions
you might have. You don't need to be an expert, but make sure that you at least
understand the basic concepts and terminology of the sport or sports you plan to
GETTING ON BASE:
The next step is to find a potential market. As
a rookie, you probably won't have the know-how, the contacts, or the clips to
land a top-notch assignment right off the bat. If you're serious about becoming
successful in the field of sportswriting, your first step should be to contact
your local newspapers about becoming a stringer. A stringer is a correspondent
hired by a paper to cover events (in this case, sporting events) on a by-article
basis. You won't get rich and famous by being a stringer, but the knowledge and
clips you gain will be invaluable for the future.
BREAKING FOR SECOND:
Covering your first game can be overwhelming.
The important thing to remember is that your readers don't just want to know
what happened during the event. They want to know who or what makes it worth the
time they'll need to read it. If you're unsure, listen to the other reporters
and announcers in the press box. What are they discussing? Who are they
impressed with? Why do they think one team or athlete is performing better than
the other? Listen carefully, and use these comments during your postgame
When working on a sports feature article or an
interview piece, prepare much the same as you would any other writing
assignment. Do your homework. Find a contact within the school, team, or
organization whose teams or athletes you plan to profile. Check out past stories
on the individual or team, noting things such as winning streaks or performance
trends. Also, mix your style of questions. If you know what you're looking for,
feel free to be specific. But be sure to mix in a good amount of open-ended
questions, especially if you're new or not quite sure what to ask. It never
hurts to give a coach or player free reign, and sometimes this type of question
produces the best answers or explains something you might not have been clear
HEADED FOR HOME:
When you're ready to make the break and try for
the big markets, build on your experience as a stringer. As nice as it would be
to instantly land an interview with Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, it's
unrealistic. Most editors welcome human interest stories and short, lesser-known
features -- things like local sports heroes doing amazing things on and off the
field, or overcoming the odds to achieve greatness. If you know where to look
and who to ask, odds are you can find these kind of stories right in your own
backyard. Turn to the contacts you made while stringing. With their assistance,
you should be on the road to a lucrative career in the sportswriting
© Copyright 2001, Chuck Bednar
Check out the latest articles in
How to Promote Your Book BLOG
Find out what works.
Join the Writing for DOLLARS! group on Facebook.
Writing for DOLLARS!
is a publication of