Before the age of ESPN, the Internet, and instant replay, it was the reporter in the stands writing up the game for the local paper, and, okay, also the guy covering it live on radio, who made fans feel like they were right there, cheering on their favorite team, game after game. If you're a rabid fan yourself, and want to try writing sports articles,
step up to the plate. Even if you aren't a sports nut, in a
sports-crazy society, having the ability to write a solid sports article
can be an asset for any freelance writer. To write a sports article, you will use general journalism "tricks of the trade" and also some specific sportswriting techniques.
Here are some ideas to help you learn how to write a sports article and a few tips for article writing in general.
- Have a strong lead. Like any article, you want to start your sports article out with a strong lead, one that encapsulates the available information on "who, what, where, when, why and how." This is basic for how to write articles of any topic. Look at the articles in the Sports section of nearly any newspaper to see how the author introduces the game or event he is covering with his lead paragraph. Good sports articles get the reader's attention with a strong but concise summary of the story to follow.
Also, note that a lead always places emphasis on an important or interesting aspect of the story. For instance, a specific Boston Celtics loss may, in itself, not be as significant or interesting as the fact it is the fifteenth loss the team experienced in a row. The article would tell the story of the game, but the lead would introduce the game with the most important or interesting fact about it, that it's continuing a horrible streak, and would expand on that fact in the article.
- Write clearly and concisely. If you've ever read Sports Illustrated, you know that some sports articles can be what you might call "literary non-fiction:" lengthy, poetic, filled with metaphor and digressions into back story. If your particular assignment requires that kind of writing, go for it. But if you read the daily sports section of your city paper, you will also notice that most of the articles reporting on the sporting events of the past day are concisely written. Yes, these articles include context and metaphor and technical sports terms, -- but they're also to the point and generally stick to basic vocabulary. Being specific is one of the more basic tips for article writing.
- Know the context. You need to have a basic working knowledge of the universe on which you're reporting. This may mean not only knowing all about the current players, coaches and standings but knowing some history, as well. This may be common knowledge to you, but if not, you may need to do some research.
You will also need to know about specific sports including rules, history, league standings, current controversies and other information. You may already know much of this if you're a sports enthusiast--but be aware that a journalist may need more in-depth knowledge than a casual fan. Be sure to have a solid grasp on the sport you're covering before you start to cover it.
Also, keep in mind that many sports teams have press departments that will provide journalists with extensive information about their organizations including current players and team history.
- Give the major play-by-play. Obviously, there are hundreds of plays in any match or game, and no article will include them all. Your job as a reporter is to report the basic chronology--beginning, middle, and end, of the sporting event--with details about the major moments: turning points, big plays, big mistakes, momentum-builders. In other word, you're providing something of a verbal highlight reel. This will mean you need to pay careful attention to who does what, when during the event. You then must figure out which moments to include and which to leave out. You have the advantage of hindsight when putting these events together: "That shot turned out to be the fatal blow..." Your thorough understanding of the game and how it's played will also be important when you are evaluating what events are key. You will also need to connect the events smoothly as you help your audience to create a mental picture of what happened.
- Use quotes as often as possible. Most sports news articles, no matter the subject, include quotes from people involved. Most pro sports teams hold post-game news conferences or speak to reporters in the locker room after the game which gives you good information for writing sports articles. Asking good questions and collecting answers from players and coaches is an important part of writing your article. Be prepared when approaching your interview subject. Know what you're going to ask and listen to the answer--it may not be what you expected to hear--and be conversant enough in the subject to have a good follow-up question, no matter what the answer ends up being. Incorporate these quotes into the body of your article.
- Check your facts. Again, like regular news articles an article about a sporting event or a newsworthy event in the world of sports must correctly present the facts. Sporting events usually generate a lot of statistics. They can also be very fast-paced, involve tons of different players, and follow rules you might need to double-check if you're going to reference them. A clean, concise sports article will have its facts straight.
After you have a firm grasp on how to write articles, then write specifically for sporting events; your articles could provide vital information and insight to rabid and casual fans alike.