Sports capture the imagination and fuel the passion of so many people because they create so many compelling stories. How many people are drawn to watch the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and fill out the brackets each season because of underdog teams and overlooked athletes that spring unexpected victories? A sports writer is tasked with finding the stories behind the box score that will resonate with their target audience.
Freelance sports writers can find their greatest success with an editor when they craft stories that give people the story behind a game or an athlete. Earning sports writing MVP status starts with mastering these basic elements of good sports writing:
1. Boost your sports knowledge
The idea of writing what you know sounds cliched, but with sports it is a good rule to follow. Sports fans can sniff out an imposter quickly. If you can’t tell the difference between ERA and RBI, for example, you need to gain a working knowledge of baseball before writing any articles on a baseball player or team. Become familiar with the rules and terminology of the sport you want to cover. Follow what teams and athletes are doing so you can find compelling storylines.
2. Find meaning behind statistics.
Reporting who scored a touchdown or made a layup is only the beginning. You need to go beyond the box score and delve into why certain plays or numbers matter. A touchdown matters more if it turns out to be the winning play that helps a team clinch a conference championship. It also matters more if the quarterback or receiver involved in the touchdown has just returned from a serious injury. Exploring such elements can offer added perspective to a key play or key victory.
3. Bring out the human element
People can identify with their favorite athletes and coaches better when given a peek into their lives off the field or the court. Good sports articles should bring out this human element. A standout performance from an athlete has much more impact, for example, if a reporter can share details of the athlete’s personal battles with a serious injury, the death of a close family member or some other life changing experience. Your audience will care more about an athlete or coach when they can relate to them on some level.
4. Ask better questions
Crafting a compelling story starts with the questions you ask. A reporter should do plenty of research and compose a list of possible questions to prepare for an interview. This will make it easier to ask better questions and will produce more thoughtful responses from their interview subjects than the typical canned answers.
5. Offer new information
Sports stories are most effective when they offer new information. A sports article should not simply focus on who won or played well. The stories should explore why they won and why they played well and what this means for the team, coach or athlete in question going forward. It gives added depth to a story and gives your target audience information they could not have learned simply watching a game themselves.
John C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.