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Advice re: prep basketball coach

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by luckyducky, Mar 6, 2007.

  1. luckyducky

    luckyducky Guest

    I just got off the phone with a coach and I'm not quite sure what to even think after that conversation, so I thought I'd lay a few things out and seek advice.

    So I'm working on a story as a basketball playoff preview about middle school/feeder teams and my original intent was to kind of feature one program that's done it well. The program's seen a "quick" climb to success in the past four years and, as can be expected, has gotten the recruiting criticisms. I've covered the program for the past year-plus (I'm at a metro, so we have lots of schools, but I probably know this team the best of any reporter in our area/competitors) and have a good relationship with the coach and the girls.

    So last week I went to one of their practices and talked to two of the girls and, for about 10-15 minutes, the coach about how he started the program and how it's helped their success, and I'd laid out my idea for the story when we'd talked. There had been no hesitations or verbal concerns. I've covered two of their games since and nothing.

    So today, I e-mailed questions to the guy basically in charge of the middle school part of it. (No comments on the e-mail interview, please.) About 30 minutes later, I got a call from the HS coach and, apparently, a couple of the questions I'd emailed had concerned the other guy enough to call my coach and voice these concerns. The phone call with the coach (oh, about 20 minutes) was mostly just me saying "yeah" and "uh huh" as he kind of went off on how he doesn't want people to suddenly start copying everything they do and, you know, they've dealt with some people trying to transfer in, but they haven't had anyone transfer in and they've had people transfer out once they've gotten into the HS aspect of the program and how integral this feeder program is to their success and how there was a story last year (in another paper) that laid out some of the details of their program, more than he wished they had. I'd been pretty straightforward with this coach from the beginning and he knew I wasn't going to do that. I'd like to believe that he's just being reassured because this other guy, with whom I have no history of interactions/trust, put doubts in his head. But he was so persistent in the phone call that something about it just rubs me the wrong way.

    Sorry, this is a really long post, I just had to kind of get it out there and see if anyone had feedback for me. I'm still a kid in this world, so I haven't dealt with some of these scenarios before. (edited a couple typos)
  2. MC Sports Guy

    MC Sports Guy Member

    Sounds to me like maybe he doesn't want the spotlight shining too brightly on his program. You have a right to be suspicious.

    Sorry, but a comment is necessary: Don't do e-mail interviews. You said you're still a kid in this world, so there's a piece of advice for you. Take the time to talk to people in person or over the phone. Mostly because it's imperative with any feature story (or any other story) to be able to ask follow-up questions. E-mail interviews don't allow for that.
  3. spnited

    spnited Active Member

    Playing off MC's followup...call the middle school coach, because you need some things in his e-mail clarified.
    Then try to feel him out about what his reservations were that he went to the head coach.

    If the point of the piece is why they have become successful and the main answer is the feeder program, they should both be comfortable with that. If they're not, maybe they are hiding something.

    I'd also go back at the HS coach, to "clarify" a few things.. and see how he reacts this time.
    Either way, if you've got solid stuff from both of them, write it regardless of their reservations. The coach will not blow you off after it appears...believe me.
  4. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    Check with your state association: is there anything against the rules in how this program is being run?

    In my state, high school coaches are not supposed to have direct control over junior high programs (this rule is tiptoed-around all the time), and there are all sorts of limits to how much involvement they're supposed to have in club teams (AAU, Jr. Pro, etc.), which again is tiptoed-around constantly by the powerhouse programs.

    If what the coach is doing is against some kind of rule, well you know right there why he might be concerned about the story appearing (and an even better reason why it ought to run).

    If it's not against any rule, if all he's worried about is somebody else is going to see his successful formula and copy it, well, that's his problem.
  5. leo1

    leo1 Active Member

    it's just like interviewing someone and then you get a call 15 minutes later from the flack. the middle school guy is not used to dealing with the press. so he panicked. just do the story you intended. but as starman suggested, keep an eye out for anything illegal.
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