3 Sports writers must know … the rules and basics of playing and scoring the sport they are coveringwho are the key players on the team(star seniors, up-and-coming underclassmen, returning individual winners from last year, etc.)how the team did last yearwhat statistics are typically kept for this sport and what they mean
4 Sports writers must know … the schedules for the teams they cover (update with results throughout the season)when is the perfect time to reach players and coaches for featuresthe coacheswhat other resources are available: stats, videos, other info online?Lesson 7 in the News Gathering strand provides excellent background and information for planning sports coverage. These lessons may be given together for your sports writing team.
5 In school sportswinning isn’t everythingplayers = storiesnon-players = storiesand sometimes coaches = stories, toolosing = tasteful stories
6 Types of sports news stories advance or previewgame coveragebriefsnews featuresMost of the stories you write will NOT be game stories … why?
7 Why game stories aren’t so great Timeliness: The outcome of the game is known, so it’s not news because it’s not that interesting anymore.Another game might have already happened, changing stats reported in a previous game story.Remind students that even in sports news, news has to be interesting, informative and factual.
8 Why game stories are helpful On the other hand, there is nothing like reporting on a significant game to sharpen your sports writing skills.Beginners, particularly, can learn a lot from covering a game. It’s GREAT practice — and awesome for keeping websites up to date.
9 Covering games Plan and prepare before the game. Talk to the coach and let him/her know you’ll be covering a game. Ask what to expect, who to watch, any trends developing.Get a team roster with player names and jersey numbers.Know the stats and find out who will be the statistician for the game. Make arrangements ahead to get the end-of-game stats when the game ends.Use or social media to contact the coach of the opposing team to get a roster.See Lesson 7 in the News Gathering strand for more details on game coverage.
10 Covering games During the game ... Watch carefully. Note the big plays and scores.Tweet results or big plays as they happen, using players’ names (you have the roster with you!).Observe the opposing team, too. You should know who their key players are, and have the roster of that team as well.Do not express your opinion in tweets or coverage. You are acting as an outside observer, not a fan.See Lesson 7 in the News Gathering strand for more details on game coverage.
11 Covering games After the game ... Get the end-of-game stats from the statistician and get to the locker room to gather quotes from the players while the emotion is still running high.Use your notes and your tweets to help you organize a chronology of the game.Take a deep breath. What was the most important thing that happened? After you have your notes and quotes, stop and think about what the lead is.Write quickly. Your goal should be to have the game story online within 12 to 24 hours of the game ending.See Lesson 7 in the News Gathering strand for more details on game coverage.
12 What’s (often) better than sports game stories If something extraordinary happened in a game that everyone is talking about, such as an injury or an unexpected rout of a favored team, write the most up-to-date information — looking forward, not back.Write about an individual player or group (offense, defense, offensive line, etc).
13 Better than game stories Look for trends across several games. A strong offense, challenges on the defense, injuries, stars or outstanding players, recurrent problems or issues?Find out who keeps the team’s stats and get to know that person. The statistician is your new best friend.Always know where the team ranks in the district, region and state.
14 Know the statsKeep up with team statistics and use them in your stories. This is especially important in game stories, but you need it for all sports stories.If a player or team breaks or ties a school or local record, you need to make that a big part of your story. It’s probably your lead.If a player or team makes it to regional or state competition, that’s a news story too.
15 Watch the team practice, play You cannot write a good sports story from someone else’s memory.You must be present to know what happened. Take notes and make photos while you are watching.Spend time after games to speak to the players and coaches. It’s best to get them while they are still thinking about the game.
16 You cannot write a good sports story from someone else’s memory. Worth saying againYou cannot write a good sports story from someone else’s memory.You have to be there.
17 Identify players in the story Don’t just say “Joe Smith”Say “tackle Joe Smith”Identify the player’s position. In captions, use the jersey number, too.Don’t use numbers for grade or year of graduation — sports have plenty of other numbers already.Make every attempt to identify the other team’s players, too.
18 Use AP Style for scoresScores are numerals separated by hyphens (12-6, not 12 to 6).Records are numerals separated by hyphens (8-2, not 8 and 2).The winning score always comes first, even if your school didn’t win.
19 Do not editorializeEven in sports writing, a clear distinction must exist between reporting the news and expressing an opinion.If you are writing an article about how the team is doing or a profile of an athlete, you must remain objective.If you are writing what you think about the team, the players, the sport or the game, that’s a commentary, not news.
20 Do not be a cheerleader editorializing Don’t write “our” team, write about “the” team.Never congratulate a team on its win in your story, or say it was a good try if the team lost.What’s the word for this?editorializing
21 Story ideasathletes and health (conditioning during the season or off season; prevention and care of injuries)what it’s like to: warm the bench, lose eligibility, be injured the whole season, lose in the finals, be scoutedrecreational and “extreme” sportsnon-school sports students play, such as equestrian, water skiing, bicycle racing,figure skatinghow and why coaches become coaches
22 Story ideas how much it costs to play a sport how much it costs the school to run the athletic programswhat happens in the weight roomgenerations of athletes in the same familyathletic booster clubmultiple-sport athletes; students who play school sports in all three seasonsstudents who play club sports during their sport’s off-season
23 Story ideasmaintaining the athletic fields, courts, playing surfaces, scoreboardshow athletes prepare for the final game of their high school careercoping with sports injuriesthe college recruiting processalumni who are playing sports in college on scholarship
24 Assignment 1: story ideas Working with a partner, brainstorm five sports story ideas for your newspaper or yearbook. Use specific examples:• sport• athlete• angleTurn in your ideas by the end of class.This is Option 1, if you mainly need students to think of fresh story ideas. Use the READER WHEEL or the STORY PATHS from Unit 4 to help expand the brainstorming if the students have already been introduced to these processes.
25 Assignment 1 extension Write your story Using the list of ideas you brainstormed with a partner, choose one idea that you can write.Use the Story Prep Worksheet to plan your story.
26 Assignment 2: sports coverage Using other student media, previous issues of your publication, or prep sports coverage from local professionals, find a well-written school sports news story. Summarize the story. Be sure to include:- headline- byline- date published- name of publication- the 5W’s and HIf students seem stuck on how to write sports, this assignment makes them read prep sports coverage by other students and by the pros who cover high school sports.
27 Assignment, continued ...Next, write a half-page reaction to the story.Discuss the following:• the way the story was written and reported; what the reporter had to do to get this story• why this story is news (news values) • why you are sure this is news, not opinion• what was not included and could or should have been in the story• how a similar story might be written for your publication• other thoughts, opinions, insights or reactionsRule of 8 is discussed in Lesson 1 (timeliness, proximity, impact, conflict, prominence, oddity, currency, human interest)