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Getting pesky high school athletes to talk (just a little!)

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by ouipa, Feb 5, 2008.

  1. ouipa

    ouipa Member

    It's the unclearable hurdle. I'm always trying to get more sources into my gamers, which normally only include coach quotes/information. So, regardless of the outcome of the game, I try to talk to at least one kid on the team.

    But is there any way to actually get them to talk without thinking you're ready to spray black death on them with your recorder? To get more than half a sentence out of anyone is an achievement. I've tried everything. I try to chat for a moment with them before I begin, try to loosen them up, tell them to just act naturally, but it never works.

    What's the trick? Or is there no trick, as I fear? I just feel...sub-par with my gamers having only one source.
  2. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    What kind of questions are you asking the kids? Are you asking the kind that can be answered with one word? Few words?

    If you are, try asking questions that force them to go somewhat into detail about the game. For example, ask them what they saw that the other team was doing. They might tell you the other team's corners were giving his receivers a 10-yard cushion before every snap. They might tell you they found holes in a 2-3 zone.

    The few times I've done preps sports, I've usually not had that problem. Usually, I've been able to get one guy on the team I'm covering to give me a decent answer. I don't know if it's because I'm doing anything right or the kids I talk to just happen to be comfortable with the media.
  3. Diabeetus

    Diabeetus Active Member

    A suggestion I read awhile back on here actually really works well. Sorry I don't remember who said it, or I'd credit them. Get the person you want to talk to with one of the more boisterous members on the team. The talkative one can usually draw better stuff out of sources that don't talk much.
  4. ouipa

    ouipa Member

    I tend to start off with questions like, "What was it like to hit the game-winning shot?" or, "Why do you think you guys were able to counteract their size advantage?" or, even one kid, "What was going through your mind when you scored your 10,000th point?"

    And with that last question's interview, the kid asked me beforehand if I wanted to talk to his brother instead. I've never seen anyone so averse to reporters.

    I don't know. I try to keep it short, because they really look like they'd rather be on their way home than standing there talking to reporters. Football players tend to be better than basketball players, etc., but it's still tough.

    Is it my questions?
  5. JLawson

    JLawson Member

    In every level of sports there is always a few people that don't make good quotes, but in high school it seems that most of them have a hard time. What I've found is that once you cover a team several times you learn who to talk and who not to, that is unless you absolutely have to. I think it's just that some kids are more comfortable expressing themselves more than others, often the more outgoing ones.
    My advice is just keep trying out different people and sooner or a later you'll find a few that are go-to people for quotes.
  6. ouipa

    ouipa Member

    Never really thought of that. I should try that sometime. Thanks.

    You know what the real problem is? It seems that the leading scorers/team leaders seem to be the worst interviews. I credit that to bad luck, because I would imagine it should be the opposite everywhere else.
  7. Angola!

    Angola! Guest

    That and the kids become more comfortable around you. I'm in my second full year covering a lot of teams down here and I've noticed the kids seem to recognize who I am now and are much more comfortable with me and will open up. Of course, there are always going to be the shy kids who don't want to talk, but I generally try to joke around with them and get them to open up that way.
  8. We've got a kid in our coverage area who's big-time in three sports ... going Division I in football and basketball and will end up being a three-time state champ in the long and triple jumps.

    It's like having surgery with no anesthesia trying to get this kid to talk. Guys in our office fight over who doesn't get to do a story on the kid because he's filled with six-word answers, and they're always the same.

    We've tried the ice-breaking, casual questions, the hard ones and 90 percent of the time we get a shrug. The kid's smart -- probably going to a big, academic Division I school, but can't get anything out of him.

    He's signing tomorrow like everyone else and we might have eight total words from him spread over three quotes.
  9. PaperDoll

    PaperDoll Well-Known Member

    Have you ever tried just writing quotes down and <i>not</i> using a recorder? I've had kids who are normally quite talkative clam up when they see the tape rolling.
  10. 1. Afraid of their coaches.

    2. Afraid of their teammates making fun of them.

    Kids are super self-conscious at that age anyway and appearing in the newspaper, where their quotes, no matter what they are, will be the hoot of the hallways in the morning has to be terrifying.
  11. Angola!

    Angola! Guest

    Good point.
    I always hand write qutoes except for long feature stories and I've noticed kids open up to me more than other guys at my paper who use tape recorders. I think recorders are extremely intimidating to some people.
  12. Damaramu

    Damaramu Member

    I guess the recorder is the same concept as putting a camera in front of someone.

    You said you ask them how it feels to do something? I've learned that questions isn't good because they all just say "Great" or "Awesome".
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