Sports 3 - Tips for Better Sports Coverage
From “School Newspaper Adviser’s Survival Guide,” by Patricia Osborn
1. Look forward, not back in time.
Poor: After disappointing losses for its first four games, Tiger varsity football found a winning formula Oct. 16 with two touchdown passes from QB Joe Smith to End Bill Jones as it edged the Crosstown Lions 14-13. (Note: save the losses for a later paragraph.)
Poor: On their way to repeat the success of last year’s team, the Metro girls team shut out its first five opponents winning 2-0 against Mayfair April 11.
Better: With its 2-0 win against Mayfair April 11, the Metro girls soccer team has posted shutouts against its first five opponents and looks ready to win a second successive league championship.
2. Stick to third person, except in quotes.
Poor: Our varsity basketball team fought to the finish �
Better: The Blazer varsity basketball team fought �
3. Keep stories free of strictly one-sided reporting.
Poor: A highly deserved win over the City Knights Feb. 29 proved again that Blazer basketball is best.
Better: A 79-58 win over the City Knights Feb. 29 strengthened Blazer’s standing in the league basketball championship race.
4. Know the sports you write about.
Correctly use and spell the specialized terms of the team of each sport. Not all sports events are games – some are matches or contests.
Know the rules, the strategies, the records and the schedules, but avoid becoming too technical for less-learned readers.
Suggestion: Partner with a non-starting player on the team, or talk before the event with a scorekeeper or player’s parent to gather information.
5. Keep your writing moving forward.
Use strong verbs and precise nouns.
Avoid using trite expressions that try to be striking and colorful but only sound clichéd.
6. Seek informative quotes that tell the inside story.
Poor: When the coach was asked how he felt about future games, after the lopsided win over Mayfair, he replied, “We always try to be ready for every game we play because everyone’s aching to topple us, and as a team we know that it’s best to take it one game at a time.”
Solution: Ask follow-up questions, but if you can’t get a usable full quote, try a partial one.
Better: Looking forward to future games after the lopsided win against Mayfair, the coach said, “Everyone’s aching to topple us.” He called it “best to take it one game at a time.”
7. Look for the inside story.
Attend practices – listen, look and learn. Attending practice can help you put the team’s efforts in clear focus, make you acquainted with coaches and players, and provide material for features and profiles.
Talk with and quote athletes as well as coaches for valuable insights and telling opinions.
8. Be fair to the opposition, but show your enthusiasm.
Strive for balanced coverage that offers valid evaluation of both your team’s and your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses.
Even local, professional papers promote the home team. Don’t belittle your opponents, but remember which side your own. Putting your school first when giving scores (Prep 7, Molloy 2 or Terriers 7, Stanners 2). (Note: match up school/school or mascot/mascot.)
Concentrate on highlights for your teams and its players after a close game or win. Mention the pluses – the good moves and smart plays – after a loss. Don’t ignore the opposition or downplay their ability, but don’t downplay your own team by building up the other side.
9. Keep the game and the entire season in perspective.
Know the records and standings of the home team, its individual players and its opponents.
Evaluate and interpret key plays, strategies and the overall situation with statistics, background information and facts.
At games, remember you are a reporter, not “merely” a fan. Keep track of statistics, key plays and players. Think of your story as you watch.