1. Welcome to SportsJournalists.com, a friendly forum for discussing all things sports and journalism.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register for a free account to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Access to private conversations with other members.
    • Fewer ads.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

How to cover HS sports without seeing the games?

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by PhillyDom, Aug 27, 2015.

  1. PhillyDom

    PhillyDom New Member

    For the past two years, I've been covering HS sports for a small weekly (circ. 600) in Pennsylvania. This is my first time covering sports on a regular basis.

    The paper has only one school in its coverage area. The editor (also the publisher) doesn't have the staff or the money to send a reporter to any games except football, basketball and baseball, When he hired me, he told me I'd cover the games by calling the coach for some quotes, getting a scorecard or box score by whatever means, and writing my stories based on that. I can't get to the games because I'm disabled, and I live 90 miles from the HS and the paper.

    The editor hasn't had any issues about the quality of my work, but I do. The work has become formulaic: lede, week's scores, quote from coach, game recap, quotes, game recap, quotes, skied of the next week's games, quotes about next week's games (if space permits). The coaches have some degree of media savvy, so the quotes I get are often the types of cliches you hear at the pro level.

    Contacting the players for quotes is cumbersome. Most of the coaches won't give me players' contact info, saying they'll let the players know I want to talk to them. Many don't call, some call back after deadline.

    Writing other types of stories (profiles, etc.) if iffy. The paper is a six-page broadsheet, with only one page for sports. Most week's there wouldn't be space for extra stories.

    As a result, I'm bored, almost burnt out, and on the verge of quitting.

    Any ideas what I can do differently within the constraints that would revive my interest in the work? I need the money, and I don't want to let the editor down, who I've known since we worked together at AP in the '90s.

    Thank you.
  2. SBR

    SBR Member

    So are you covering football, baseball, basketball or are you covering what my old editor used to call "the Third World sports" like soccer, volleyball, tennis etc.? If the latter, how familiar are you with those sports?

    It's tough to remain interested for very long in anything that you don't know much about. So I would try to learn more about the sports themselves so I can ask more insightful questions.

    I'd also try to keep track of the leagues. Who are the best teams and who are the best players in the region? You want to know when a meaningful game is coming up, or a big individual matchup (can your school's sophomore goalie shut down the state's best scorer?). I know it can be HARD to gather this info without being at the games but maybe you can probe some of your coaches. Maybe you can get to the school for a practice once a season to introduce yourself, and get extra background that you can sprinkle in throughout the season.

    In my experience, some coaches who are otherwise tight-lipped can turn into chatterboxes if you ask an incisive question, especially if it puts one of their kids in a good light.

    For contacting players, one thing to try is to go through Twitter. All of these kids have Twitter accounts and it's not something I do regularly, but I have used it to reach out for a quote or contact info a few times.

    I understand that all this may already be obvious to you and you're getting burned out anyways, which is certainly possible. Either way, good luck.
  3. TyWebb

    TyWebb Well-Known Member

    I started out at a weekly that sounds a little like yours, but I was covering four schools and had about two pages to work with. That meant four different football games every Friday night. Once, when all four schools were playing at home, I tried to catch a quarter of each game and write a story about that experience. After my car was blocked in on stop three, that plan went into the toilet. But I digress.

    Obviously there were games that I just couldn't make it to but still had to write about. Like you, I relied heavily on calling coaches, stat reports and box scores. Those were never great stories, always lacked any actual flavor. So I understand what you mean.

    Honestly, I would give doing other stories like features a second look. My weekly paper came out on Wednesdays, so the news about Friday's football games was almost a week old when it came out. By the end of my two years at that paper, I started writing roundups on the games and focusing on features as my centerpiece. Those stories became the ones I was most proud of, the ones I actually enjoyed writing. I know that is easier said than done with really no page to jump to, but I think it would definitely make your job more interesting.

    I have written plenty of features from only speaking to subjects on the phone. It isn't ideal, but it is possible and it would totally fit into your situation.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page