High School sports coverage

Despite what some readers believe, we do not take sides while covering local rivalry games

Three years ago, I created a sports website (along with ancillary social media) to provide coverage of local athletics after the local daily newspaper decided to stop writing game reports for most local sports events – a decision that still boggles the mind.

Prep sports coverage is one of the best ways to connect to a local audience, even more so against the backdrop of partisan political views and an unfair disdain for journalistic coverage. Anybody who studies the topic knows communities that do not have a strong newspaper presence incur far more problems (and higher costs) from their local governments.

Sports coverage, of course, does not have the same biting impact, but it can bring residents together and enable a news organization to connect more deeply with the community.

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Posnanski’s ‘Baseball 100’ is among the best books written on the sport

If you want to learn how to report, write and tell stories, check out Joe Posnanski’s The Baseball 100, a series that initiated on The Athletic’s media platform. (While you’re at it, might want to subscribe to America’s best sports writing site.)

Since Christmas Eve, I have already read chapters on about 20 of these players. Can’t really compare this to another of his books that I love, The Soul of Baseball, but I am reading it at the same pace as that book on Buck O’Neil. Want to become a better sports journalist? Then read what are essentially 100 feature stories on baseball’s best players.

If you’re looking for another terrific baseball book, check out Tyler Kepner’s K: A history of Baseball in Ten Pitches as well.

No matter what else you do, read as much as you can to learn how to report, write and tell stories. Here a few other books to consider – Thomas Boswell’s Why Time Begins on Opening Day, Edward Achorn’s Fifty-nine in ’84, Chris Ballard’s One Shot at Forever, Frank Deford’s The Old Ball Game, Dan Barry’s Bottom of the 33rd – or anything from the Best American Sports Writing series.

Here’s my thread on Twitter on The Baseball 100.

Sports Reporting

Local sports coverage should be the heart & soul of every news organization

In a large city, a story about a junior college women’s basketball team going to the national finals would likely not get covered, or, at the least, would get overwhelmed by stories about the NFL Draft, NBA playoff runs, a dozen or so daily MLB games, and, of course, college football in the South.

In Orlando, we paid very little attention to local community college feats because our resources were spent on these other sports, along with pro golf and auto racing over in Daytona Beach. Orlando is really a collective of many cities that blend into one another that often don’t have a clear identity. You likely won’t find JUCO coverage in New York or Chicago sports media either. It’s just the nature of having so many things going on. In a smaller town, there are fewer distractions. 

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Teaching sports journalism

Hey, every writer sucks at first. So let’s nurture, not torture

No matter how good you are today as a writer, you once sucked at some level.

And, nonetheless, someone likely told you a story or essay was OK, encouraging you to improve.

That’s our jobs as editors and – even more so – as teachers.

Accentuate the positive, denote the negative and offer advice for improvement.

Here are some comments I just sent to a student who just published his first sports story.

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Covering Games, Teaching sports journalism

Remaining active is essential to teaching sportswriting

Covering sports is often both humbling and gratifying, more so at the prep and small college level where not as much information is readily available. As a journalism teacher, I find these reporting experiences essential to teaching, serving as a reminder what students endure each time they head to a gym or ball field.

I once had a journalism professor who was out of touch, arguing that my approach to covering a game the night before for a local newspaper had been all kinds of wrong – perhaps if viewed through his mindset, which had clearly calcified a few decades earlier. I walked over to the college counselors after class to switch my major to English. If I was going to learn about older writing, I might as well read Hawthorne, Dickens and Whitman whose words still resonate.

On this assignment, I sought to model several behaviors:

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Sports Features, Teaching sports journalism

We need to constantly emphasize the process for developing stories

I teach processes more than anything. Today, I sent students an assignment that involves them taking the first step toward developing and writing a sports feature. Along with observation and interviews, research is essential — perhaps even more so in the germination process.

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Covering Games, education

Using cross country to introduce ways to write about sports

I’m addressing ways to cover live sports events today, focusing more on cross country after having hit golf last week. We are reviewing sports that are currently still taking place in here in east central Illinois so they can better prepare for their own live coverage assignments. I like to start this class with cross country because the rules are simpler: The runners who cross the finish line the fastest win. No doubt, the sport requires strategy and nuance, but there’s no need to address baffling pass interference rules or reactionary match-up zones in basketball.

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Covering Games, education

Here’s some quick golf coverage exercises

Fewer sports are being played here in central Illinois and around the country, but outdoor activities that enable students to be more socially distant during competition, such as golf, tennis and cross country, have been allowed in Illinois.

That means more coverage of these three prep sports than usual.

Coaches send me screen shots of school matches for our local sports news website where I post short stories, which, of course, are longer for big events or for those that we cover in person.

As a primer for teaching golf coverage, though, these two shorter exercises work well.


It’s going to be a challenge teaching sports writing, but here’s how I’ll start

It’s going to be a different, and likely more difficult, semester for many who are teaching sports writing courses across the country. Few, if any, sports might be available in some states – and even where they will be competing, interviewing athletes and coaches will be more challenging. Nobody yet has many answers, but we’re all trying. To that end, I have shared syllabi for several courses below – Writing for Sports Media, Advanced Reporting and News Writing. Would love to see yours, as well.