Nothing beats the thrill of watching a game-winning touchdown from the sideline or seeing a player throw down a dunk in a noisy arena. A sports writer’s job is to recreate this window on the game action for their readers.
Writing about sports can be one of the most exciting things a writer does. It is also one of the most challenging. Freelance sports writers must master writing high quality articles under strict deadlines. Readers want to know the story behind the game and glance into the lives and personalities of their favorite coaches and athletes.
Sports editors have high standards when hiring a freelance sports writer. If you prove you can consistently craft quality sports stories, you will create a steady source of freelance income.
You can master sports writing by following these guidelines:
Look Beyond the Box Score
Sports writing involves more than rehashing a few plays and the final score. A sports writer delves into the statistics and game action to explain why it turned out that way.
If a basketball team uses a 12-2 run to take control of a game, for example, a sports writer must do more than simply note the run. They should paint a picture to show why that run turned out so decisive. What adjustments did the winning team make on offense and defense? What series of plays influenced the run? Which players sparked the run? Was it a typical performance for those players?
Thinking about everything that goes into game-changing plays and scores opens up exciting storylines that will grab a reader’s attention.
Nothing will drive your editor nuts faster than seeing an article riddled with the standard sports cliches like “taking it one game at a time” or “giving 110 percent.” It is a hallmark of lazy writing. Good sports writers find a way to break that habit.
Avoiding cliches starts with good research and note-taking skills. If you profile an athlete for a feature article, for example, listen carefully to their answers in your interview. Jot down things that catch your ear or pique your interest. Following up on those items will give you building blocks for your story.
Crafting a compelling story is a perfect antidote to cliched writing. Sports writers who take time to research, ask good questions and engage their audience with original information aren’t snared by cliche traps.
Ask the Right Questions
A sports article is only as good as the questions you ask. Coaches and athletes sometimes give canned responses as a defense mechanism around the media. If you want to take your sports writing to a higher level, it starts with asking better questions.
You can create better questions through doing your homework. Pay attention to what an athlete or coach has done in the past and compare it with the present. Is the athlete dealing with trade rumors or recovering from an injury? Is the coach trying to build on past successes or coaching to save their job? Knowing this type of information can help you formulate questions that evoke more thoughtful and insightful responses.
Good questions can help you bring out the human element of a coach or athlete. Asking the right questions can make it easier to learn things about them that will make them more accessible to your audience.
John C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.