From Sports Fan to Pro Reporter
Cultivate and indulge your natural love of sports and especially for a sport you particularly enjoy. Get into arguments with sports fans, watch movies about favorite sports and athletes, read as many books and periodicals as you can about sports, and study both sports history and current games. Study anthologies of great sports journalism and make mental notes of reportorial techniques.
Develop the habit of checking sports statistics, reviewing the biographies of players as they stride out onto the field, and comparing today's game to previous games by a player or team. Keep a sports almanac. Have the Internet at the ready to help build and refresh the background knowledge you'd like to have on tap when you write a sports report.
When watching a game you want to report on, look for highlights, turning points, stunning highs or lows, unexpected reversals. Note especially exciting or revealing incidents: the impossible catch, the fumble at the one-yard line, grace under impossible pressure. Look for central themes too---how a stunning upset keeps a team in the playoffs, the impact of a new coach, why the tide seemed to turn after the third set.
Deadline permitting, videotape the sports contest you're reporting on so that you can double-check facts and pay extra attention to pivotal moments. But before you do that, scribble your first draft while your observations and reactions are still fresh. Then watch the game again, or at least key portions, to help you confirm your memory, recall key details, and add color and vividness to your report.
Begin with a strong lead---what Scott Reinardy and Wayne Wanta call a "clean, clear window (into) the rest of the story"---and report the essentials of the sports event early on in your report. Who won the event? What was the score? What was the shocker? What does the result mean? Not every sports report needs to be so economical in getting to the point. But always draw the reader in with distinctive details right off the bat.
Tell a story shaped by the most significant fact or facts of the game. Fashion all the details you've noted---the good plays and the bad plays, the problems with the turf or the slope, how an underdog came out of nowhere in the last 10 seconds to overcome the favorite---into a narrative of the event. Quote the reactions of athletes, coaches, fans.
Cross the finish line with an incident, statement or picturesque detail that seems to bring closure to your account, perhaps by highlighting a theme, teasing out an implication, or prefiguring the next contest.