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The Cult of The Coach

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Starman, Apr 13, 2007.

  1. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    Just a random journalistic rant:

    It's certainly true at our shop, but how many others have writers on your staff who turn every single prep story into a manifesto on the coach?

    We have one particular guy, and every single story is all about the coach. Preview stories: What the coach expects from the upcoming game. Gamers: The coach explains why the game did or didn't go according to his plans -- with some player quotes thrown in, usually relating what the coach told them before, during and after the game. Followup stories and columns: what the team needs to do to perform the way the coach wants. Then, of course, features: Coach reflects on how the season is going, compares to other teams he's coached, yadda yadda. Feature stories on players: the coach goes into an extended soliloquoy on what he thinks of the player.

    And it isn't just ONE coach. It's almost EVERY coach. Every team, in every sport, it's the same thing -- talk to the coach, and the story is written from his or her perspective.

    Of course, I know in high school sports especially, the coach is the point man (or woman) for anyone covering the team -- if you want info on the team, you have to go through them. And of course on most call-in games (away games), the coach is going to be the only person you talk to, so obviously the quotes are going to be from him.

    But at least from my perspective, that means that when you can, you need to consciously go against that grain -- talk to some players, not only star players -- get some other voices besides Ole Coachy. The players are the ones who actually play the games.

    I'm always reminded of the line from "Good Will Hunting": "It's not about YOU, you mathematical dick!!"
  2. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    We have successfully transitioned away from that on the high school side, thankfully.
  3. John

    John Well-Known Member

    I've made a conscious effort to avoid this as much as possible because it's an easy habit to get into.
  4. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    Agreed. I've gone to many games this year where the first person I've caught off the floor is a player, not the coach. Usually, it's both coaches and a player from the winning team.
  5. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Having, ahh, dealt with a few asshole prep coaches before, I have no trouble avoiding this formula of writing.

    Had a prep football coach who was hired at a local school, having one year as a head coach on his resume. He went 1-9 at the other school (which shows you the incompetence of the local admins who hired him ::)). He comes in and tries to lay down the law, forbids all of our reporters from talking to his players without his permission.

    First thing I do, of course: Call up two returning players for reax quotes after his hiring. Write the story. Then I go to the fieldhouse, and talk to the coach, where he jumps on my ass for talking to his players. Tries to ban me from his practice field.

    "OK, Coach, I get the message. Let me have your home/office numbers so I can make sure that I'll be able to talk to you then." He gives them to me. "OK, Coach, here's what I'll do. If you don't want me to talk to your players, then I can't write a story. And if I can't write a story, then I'm going to get complaints. And when I get those complaints, I'm going to tell them why I can't write a story. And I'm going to direct those complaints to you, because you don't want me to talk to the players. Just want to give you a heads-up about that, if you happen to get any phone calls.

    "But to save us both a lot of trouble, I'm going to talk to your players this season, and I'm going to write my stories. And you won't have to listen to any complaints about my stories and you won't have to take any of those phone calls. And you'll be happy, because you can concentrate on coaching, and I'll be happy, because I can concentrate on writing. So that's the way we're going to handle that. Thanks for your time, Coach. Look forward to working with you this season."

    He wasn't too happy about it. But that's the way it went. I talked to his players. I wrote my stories. And his team went 3-7. Karma's a bitch, asshole.
  6. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    I don't know if you can tell, but this isn't Buckweaver's first rodeo.
  7. KnuteRockne

    KnuteRockne Member

    You can watch Dick Vitale do a college basketball game and never realize that anybody except Mike Krzyzewski and Skip Prosser/Roy Williams/Paul Hewitt/etc., etc. are involved in the outcome.
  8. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Hey, I can't help having a little personal satisfaction that the guy got his ass handed to him. ;)

    Sometimes, it's just fun to tell a story like that.
  9. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    Ever have a star quarterback who can't speak in complete sentences? Ever have a center so shy he will change in his car to avoid talking to the media? Ever have a kid who refuses to be quoted or have her picture taken because she's at the center of a custody dispute and doesn't want her name out there?

    I'm not saying that every story should cite only the coach, but it's not always as simple as choosing to talk to the players rather than the coach.

    I've tried to write around the problem kid, sometimes quoting Adam Receiver on Johnny Quarterback's performance, and of course there are other kids who will never shut up.

    And as Starman pointed out, the coach is often your only source for call-ins, for getting stats, for asking about the kid who left the team, etc.

    One admission I will make as to why I talk to coaches: when covering sports I know little about, I will often start with the coach because s/he can point out highlights I may have missed or give me more insight. If I'm unfamiliar with a sport, I often don't know the right questions to ask the kids.
  10. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    It's a battle. I've dropped some subtle hints to a couple of guys -- tried the good-cop routine, "that was some really interesting stuff that kid, Jimmy Jockstrap, said in your story," then the bad-cop routine, chopping out all the coach quotes except for the truly significant ones -- but with a lot of the stories, if you chop out all the hot-air horn-honking coach quotes, you're left with about 3 inches of copy.
  11. loveyabye

    loveyabye Guest

    i know someone who quotes the manager first in EVERY SINGLE ONE of his game stories. without fail. it drives me insane.
  12. chazp

    chazp Active Member

    Tommy Tuberville uses that line every year at SEC Media Days, about himself of course.
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