Develop a sports syllabus that meets your students’ needs


You would assume that most students who sign up for a sports reporting class would like sports. That’s not always the case. Sometimes, students sign up for this class in order to fit in another writing course, because they always wanted to learn about sports or because they cannot get into another class. Students who think this will be a blow-off class quickly drop it, mostly because they find the class requires a considerable amount of writing. After all, that is how one learns about reporting and writing — by doing it. (Something that is complemented by assessment and analysis). That is how I set up my syllabus. I do not give tests or quizzes. Each writing assignment is essentially a test on how much students have learned in class.

I also do not assume that even my most senior and experienced students understand all about sports. As a sports editor, I used to read copy from some reporters who did not know enough about the sports they were paid to cover, so I know college students will not know everything either. Fans believe they are experts on all sports when, in fact, very few are. (Head out to a high school football game or Little League game. You’ll see this right away.) That’s why I educate students on as many sports as I can, offering rules, key stats and strategies. In many cases, I invite college coaches and athletic administrators to class, whose expertise into their respective sports surpasses most any sportswriter. The coaches at Eastern Illinois University have always been engaging, informative and prepared. You should check with coaches at your own schools or communities to recruit similar experts. As the instructor, I then integrate this information with the more technical or general ways to cover these sports.

Writing and reacting is the key to any writing course, whether that is Composition I, Intro to News Reporting, or Sportswriting. Encourage your students to report frequently, and be prepared to offer as much feedback as possible.

I have cited my syllabus below but will add a link later so you can read it in its original form. Let me know if I can help anybody in any way. I’d also suggest posting comments below so you can converse with others who are teaching similar courses. Good luck.

Fall 2007

OFFICE/HOURS Buzzard Hall, room 1831
MW 11 a.m. – noon
TR 1-2 p.m.
PHONE 581-6016
TEXTS The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual
Best Sports Writing 2007

General Goal: To give students the fundamentals of gathering, organizing, evaluating and writing objective reports in accepted journalistic style and to provide them with an understanding of what a career in journalism entails.

By the conclusion of JOU 3706, students will:
1. Prepare for and conduct an interview to gather facts for a sports news or sports feature story.
2. Take notes effectively in conducting interviews.
3. Organize facts and quotes into the traditional inverted pyramid structure.
4. Create an effective lead that accurately summarizes the story and attracts the reader.
5. Create a lead that grabs readers who already have basic information supplied by other media.
6. Compose stories on a computer using a word-processing program.
7. Explain the basic legal rights of and constraints on the free press: the laws of libel, privacy, and obscenity, Freedom of Information Act and Sunshine laws.
8. Become better editors by recognizing superfluous wordiness including redundancies, pretentious diction, jargon, slang, euphemisms, and editorializing – and how to smoothly and clearly avoid such problems.
9. Recognize the differences in style and organization between journalistic writing and subjective academic rhetoric.
10. Understand the importance of understanding and reporting on diverse populations and of writing for equally diverse readers.
11. Recognize the presence or absence of fundamental News Values and Reader Interests in potential stories.
12. Use reference tools such as dictionary, directories, almanacs, thesaurus, stylebook, atlas, reference and bibliographic databases.
13. Explain the major principles of journalistic ethics as practiced and enunciated by professional news organizations.
14. Learn to look outside the lines for stories that can impact communities.
15. Understand when to write with attitude and when to report just the facts.
16. Develop visual elements that complement sports stories.
17. Plan sports packages on season advances, social issues and individual teams and players.
18. Understand the importance of perspective in stories and sections.

Plagiarism is the unpardonable sin of journalism, an act that essentially ends a journalist’s career. Check out Janet Cooke and others who have falsified information or taken others work as their own. Plagiarism could also end a student’s career. There is nothing wrong with using information from another source so long as it is clearly credited within the story. If you take a quote or information from another publication, cite it within the story. An assignment determined to be plagiarized will be give a grade of “0” and the responsible student will receive an “F” for the course. Plus, this student will be referred to the appropriate EIU board for discipline. According to the university’s policy, students who plagiarize are eligible for dismissal from EIU.


Contact the Office of Disability Services (581-6583) for answers regarding accommodations, auxiliary learning aids and physical accessibility. Diagnostic information regarding the disability must be submitted so the most appropriate accommodations can be arranged. Refer to the Undergraduate Catalog for more information.

Students are expected to be in class on time and remain until the dismissal. Students may not make up quizzes or assignments missed for tardiness or an unexcused absence. If you miss class when an assignment is due, you will receive a “0” for that assignment. When absent, please contact a fellow student to find out what was missed; if important notes were given, please get those from a fellow student. Therefore, it is important for you to become well acquainted with someone in this class. You are responsible for all material covered or assigned during classes.

In addition, cell phones should be turned off before entering class – if you must bring them at all. Ringing phones are rude to the other students trying to concentrate in class. Be responsible and keep them turned off.

Game stories (4)/40
Attendance 10
In-depth, enterprise story/20

ATTENDANCE – Attendance is essential to your success in this class. This is when we discuss important issues, techniques, and strategies to covering sports. This is also when we critique stories and talk with coaches and other sports professionals. You will lose one percentage point from your overall score for every missed class. The first missed class, though, will not cost you a point.
WEEKLY ASSIGNMENTS – Students are required to cover at least four of the six sporting events scheduled in the syllabus, each of which is worth 10 points. Failure to cover four results in a ‘0’ for each uncovered event. Students covering more than the required number of sports events can substitute these for their lowest graded game stories. All weekly game coverage assignments must be e-mailed to me by 8 a.m. the following day. That means, you would email me your story by 8 a.m. on Wednesday if you had covered a game on Tuesday night. Late assignments will NOT be accepted. So, please, make sure you know how to file and send Word attachments properly.
DEADLINES – Making deadline is essential in journalism. In this class, missing deadline will mean a full letter-grade (10%) will be deducted each day that assignment is missing. Late assignments, those not submitted at the start of class, will also be reduced the full-letter grade. In-class assignments and quizzes may not be made up. All assignments are required to be typed and double-spaced with the proper headings. If they are not typed, they won’t be accepted and will be considered late.
PROFILE STORY – Students are required to develop and write a 500-plus word profile story on someone connected to sports at Eastern Illinois University. This story needs to include at least three excellent primary sources. Make sure you read as much as you can about any person before interviewing him or her – and try to include some observations about this person either on or away from the athletic fields. These stories and observations can reveal another, perhaps unknown side, to the person profiled.
ENTERPRISE STORY – Students will develop an in-depth sports story on a topic directly related to Eastern Illinois University. This story does not have to revolve around EIU athletics, but it should be a story that interests readers in Charleston or on campus. Check with me if you are unsure. The story is due Nov. 30. This in-depth story must be at least 800 words and include a minimum of five excellent primary sources. Failure to meet the length and source requirement will result in a ‘0’ grade for this assignment.

A – 90 to 100%
B – 80 to 89.9%
C – 70 to 79.9%
D – 60 to 69.9%
F – below 60%

This course qualifies as a writing-centered course in the Electronic Writing Portfolio (EWP) program. So an assignment from this course may be submitted to the EWP to fulfill part of your graduation requirement, Information is available online at

This syllabus may be changed at any time during the semester by announcement of the instructor.

Aug. 20-24
Monday Overview of class
Review syllabus
Read Sports Guidelines in AP Stylebook
Wednesday Writing sports leads. (Read my posting at
and at

Aug. 27-31
Monday Interviewing, Sources & Using Quotes
(Read my posting on interviewing and using quotes at
Wednesday Keeping score: Compiling the basics for a game story
(Read my posting at

Sept. 3-7
Labor Day
Wednesday Covering CROSS COUNTRY
Cross country essentials – rules, statistics, interviewing (Read my posting at
Critique cross country game stories
Guest speaker: EIU coach Geoff Masanet
Story Assignment – Cover EIU Panther Open at 5 p.m. Sept. 14 (Lakeside Field)

Sept. 10-14
Monday Writing game stories: Taking a closer look at how sports events are covered
in print and online
Wednesday Covering RUGBY
Rugby essentials – rules, statistics, interviewing (Read my posting at
Critique rugby game stories
Guest speaker: EIU coach Frank Graziano
Story Assignment – Cover first-ever NCAA rugby match against West Chester at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 15

Sept. 17-21
Monday Writing profile stories
Read, critique story in Best Sportswriting text. Will be assigned.
Wednesday Covering VOLLEYBALL
Rugby essentials – rules, statistics, interviewing (Read my posting at
Critique volleyball stories
Guest speaker: EIU coach Lori Bennett
Story Assignment – Cover volleyball match Sept. 18, 21, or 29

Sept. 24-28
Monday Developing, compiling notebooks
Wednesday Covering FOOTBALL
Football essentials – rules, statistics, interviewing (Read my blog posting at
Critique football game stories
Guest speaker: NFL referee Ken Baker
Story assignment – Cover EIU football vs. E Kentucky at 1:30 p.m., Oct. 6 (O’Brien Stadium)

Oct. 1-5
Monday Online coverage: Writing Blogs and Glogs
Wednesday Covering SOCCER
Soccer essentials – rules, statistics, interviewing (Read my blog posting at
Critique soccer game stories
Guest Speaker: EIU soccer coach Tim Nowak
Story Assignment – Cover women’s soccer match vs. Tenn Tech at 3 p.m., Oct. 5, or the match vs. Austin Peay at 1 p.m., Oct. 7 at Lakeside Field

Oct. 8-12
Monday Developing in-depth stories
Read, critique story in Best Sportswriting text. Will be assigned.
Wednesday Critique Profile Stories

Oct. 15-19
Monday Writing worthy sports columns
Read, critique column in Best Sportswriting text. Will be assigned.
Wednesday Covering the NCAA
Guest Speaker: Dr. Gail Richards
Assignment – Profile story due Oct. 19

Oct. 22-26
Monday Using precise language
Eliminating clichés from your writing
Wednesday Work on in-depth sports story

Oct. 29-Nov. 2
Monday In-depth story updates due. Type summary of your reporting to date that includes people interviewed, key details and angles uncovered through research and visual elements considered. This will enable you to hear suggestions from an editorial group in class. Afterwards, we will address issues related to your in-depth stories with the entire class. Submit this typed report to me at the end of class.
Wednesday Covering BASKETBALL
Basketball essentials – rules, statistics, interviewing (Read my blog posting at
Critique basketball game stories
Guest speaker: Women’s basketball coach Brady Sallee
Story assignment – Cover women’s basketball game vs. Truman State at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1 in Lantz
Class assignment – Sports column due Oct. 31

Nov. 5-9
Work on in-depth, enterprise stories that are due Nov. 12

Nov. 12-16
Critique in-depth stories
Wednesday Critique in-depth stories

Nov. 19-23
Thanksgiving break

Nov. 26-30
Online sports reporting essentials
Wednesday Covering BASEBALL
Baseball essentials – rules, statistics, interviewing (Read my posting at
Softball essentials – rules, statistics, interviewing (Read my posting at
Guest speaker: EIU coach
Class assignment – In-depth stories due Nov. 30

Dec. 3-7
Monday Covering TRACK & FIELD
Track & Field essentials – rules, statistics, interviewing
(Read my posting at
Guest speaker: EIU coach
Wednesday Review of sports coverage


2 Responses to “Develop a sports syllabus that meets your students’ needs”

  1. Assistive technology Says:

    There are some great tips in here. In the cases of certain learning disabilities it can be so hard to make sure that they continue to get a well-balanced education, to include sports.

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