Posts Tagged ‘sports writing’

Football team ‘night out,’ a pre-game ritual that costs colleges

October 27, 2009

College football coaches can sure be selfish, at times. And misguided.

The recent Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics reveals that spending at many college sports programs is out of control. A group that represents athletic directors will present some cost-cutting measures to the NCAA in the next few weeks.

Among the cost-cutting measures – Asking schools to eliminate housing teams off-campus before home games, a practice where teams check into a local hotel. Some football coaches are opposed to this cost-cutting measure, believing the hotel minimizes distractions for players who, presumably, can’t stay out of trouble.

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Put final score in all stories

October 19, 2009

Nice lead on Florida’s 23-20 football win over Arkansas by the Independent Alligator. But the final score is not included.

Here are some excuses I’ve heard for leaving it out. But it’s in the mainbar, main graphic, cutline – and, everybody knows the score! That’s ridiculous. Not every reader knows the final result. Online, readers don’t see these print visuals. So insert final scores in every story.

Here are some other stories on the game. (more…)

What the heck’s a balaclava?

October 18, 2009

Love how George Vecsey explains the history of the balaclava in today’s column. He also takes a swipe at night baseball.

That’s right, kids, they used to play World Series games in the sunlight, which is why those times are called the Good Old Days.

I also lament that baseball is now played in frigid temperatures late at night.

Make the most of your four years

August 26, 2009

I wish I had a time machine so I could do it all over again. Entering my senior year at the University of Florida, I know I’m a little behind the curve and I have ground to make up. I can think of many things I should have done earlier in my college career, but didn’t. So I’m going to share some of those things with you. This will be my blueprint to college success aimed at incoming freshmen who are thinking of being journalism majors. If you are such a freshman then you should be well prepared to find a job after school by following these guidelines.
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Learn new media skills ASAP

June 24, 2009

Storytelling and reporting are still the heart of sports journalism. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn other skills as well. As I’ve mentioned before, all sports journalists should start a blog to learn new media skills. Shoot, edit and post both video and audio. You might even sign up for Facebook and Twitter. (more…)

Thanks for Title IX, coaches, sports journalists, and (yup) umpires

November 27, 2008

turkey_joe-blakeAt times, I cannot believe I get paid to teach and write about sports. I’m no longer the kid impressed by big events and star athletes. (That ended after I interviewed Earl Anthony so many years ago.) Now, I’m more impressed by smaller events, athletes fighting hard against all odds, and about private acts of kindness.

I’m thankful …

that I could spend time with the wild, passionate fans who attended the NCAA Cross Country Championships last weekend in Terre Haute, Ind. In high school, I ran cross country but I was never talented enough to reach a major event like this, where fans were so excited that they ran across the course to catch a fleeting glimpse of athletes straining and pushing themselves just a little beyond what they should, even the runners at the back of the packs. This is a must-see event for any true sports fan.

that I was able to coach a travel softball team filled with hard-working and fun-loving kids. We did not spend 500 bucks a month on pitching or hitting coaches like some of the bigger teams in Chicago and Indianapolis, nor did we have an indoor facility like the big-time teams, but our girls fought hard every game – fouling off high fastballs, running full bore around the bases, diving for balls – and laughing at their coach’s stupid puns and jokes. I look forward to another season with an equally goofy, determined group of middle schoolers. (more…)

Explaining those tasty blocks

October 21, 2008

Kris Knowlton focuses on an aspect of football in the Daily Nebraskan that is not familiar to all fans – the pancake block (as opposed to cockroach and rodeo blocks.) The pancake is essentially a block where the opponent is forcefully knocked back and flattened like a Bisquick flapjack. Blocks like this give line coaches warm fuzzies.

When writing stories about unfamiliar topics, take extra time to clearly describe, or define, them. Even better, break down plays like the pancake block. How does one execute this block? You can ask someone to explain the technique for readers. The best resource for this? Coaches who know far more about football than players or reporters. Asking coaches to break down technical aspects of their sports serves several purposes. First, it educates a reporter who can then better explain to fans. Second, it can initiate a wonderful conversation with a regular source on your beat. Third, these stories can be further developed into multimedia presentations – perhaps, a video showing a pancake block executed perfectly (and which can even be narrated by an offensive line coach.)

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Create good sports reporting habits early

August 21, 2008

Sports journalists are returning to campus ahead of the rest of the student body in order to publish that first week’s newspaper. Many college athletes have also returned to campus, preparing for lengthy seasons of soccer, cross country, football, and volleyball, among other sports. (And some teachers, like myself, are also gearing up for an exciting academic year.) That first issue can be a challenge. Here are some tips for preparing that first issue.

First, do something as simple as heading out to a practice. Introduce yourself to coaches, trainers, and managers and watch the players work out. Many times, the managers and trainers are your best sources. They are there for every pass, corner kick, and ankle sprain. You can get a lot of background from these folks, information that can lead to news stories and features. But also watch the practices. Don’t write; just observe. Get accustomed to these practice sessions. Afterward, you can jot down a few thoughts and observations. Make sure the players see you at these practices so they know you are working as hard as they are, credibility that can lead to better working relationships and conversations. Attending practices is one of the most important things a sportswriter can do. Make this a habit. Not that you should blow off that afternoon calculus class. (Only kidding. I know sportswriters like myself can spell calculus much, much better than they can quantify derivatives and integrals.)

Make sure you also write a season preview story. This can be done the second week, but try to publish it before your conference schedule begins. You’ll need to get some background information first, determining, for example, the top players who return to each team. You’ll also want to determine which teams have the toughest schedules in and out of the conference. Check these websites frequently, if not daily. This is another habit that will yield great news and feature stories. You will also write much more informed game stories as well. One more thing – check if your conference schedules a weekly press conference by phone. If so, ask to be included so you can learn more about your sport and so you can ask questions for notebooks, features and game previews.

One more suggestion for preview stories – interview opposing coaches and players as much as you cite your own players in order to get a fuller, more balanced look at your team’s chances this season. This also yields a much more impressive clip.

We’ll talk about this some more later, but start blogging on your team’s practices even if only to offer a short note or a few observations. This can be especially helpful at newspapers that do not publish daily (but dailies should do this as well.) And file these dispatches right after practice. Eventually, you should start posting game stories as soon as they are completed. A more developed version can be published in the print editions or updated after you interview players and coaches.

Finally, make sure you introduce yourself to your school’s sports information directors, athletic directors and coaches – even if only to pop in their offices for a few minutes. Reporting is about developing relationships.

Also, check this blog for more information on reporting through the school year. Now that school is back in session, I will be posting at least two to three times a week. You can also contact me at jgisondi@gmail.com if you have questions or suggestions.

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