More Practical Sports Reporting Lessons Not Taught in the Classroom.

*Gasp as I try to catch my breath*

I can’t believe how quickly the past sixteen weeks have flown by. It was exhausting being away nearly every weekend. I don’t know how the players handled their longer hauls. But, it was a fantastic experience, and I learnt so much. So, as a follow-on from my previous blog about the lessons I have learnt as a sports reporter, please allow me to further impart my wisdom:

  • Keep it professional

This isn’t something I experienced but was a cautionary tale I heard during the past three months, so felt that it was relevant. Regularly interviewing players and talking to the same personnel each week can begin to feel comfortable and you may sense comradery. But, remember, many sporting codes have strict guidelines which media need to abide by. Blurring the lines between professionalism and friendship, particularly with the athletes, may be viewed as an abuse of your position and see you lose your media accreditation.

Interviewing Giants Netball Coach, Julie Fitzgerald, after her team's loss to the Queensland Firebird's in Round 11 of Suncorp Super Netball on 15 July 2018. Photo courtesy of Simon Leonard, Netball Scoop
  • Get a comfortable stance for the interviews

I used an app on my phone to record my interviews. My phone weighs approximately 200gms but after 3:30 minutes, it begins to feel much heavier, particularly when I am holding it under the athlete’s chin while also trying to stay out of the video camera’s view. After a game where we interviewed four team members, I complained about my shoulder hurting. One of my fellow journalists told me that’s why he sidles up to the interviewee and tucks his other arm under the one holding the recorder. He found this stance the most comfortable for extended interviews.

  • Catchy headings and killer quotes

I am the author of one of Netball Scoop’s most read match reports from the 2018 home and away season. I am proud of this because Scoop has many talented writers who could just as easily have the accolade. I credit the success of the article to the killer quote I was able to use for the heading.

The quote came after a particularly rough loss for the Queensland Firebirds. Team captain, Gabi Simpson, was visibly disheartened by the loss and was giving us the usual spiel about the ways the game could have been won. We (my fellow journalist and I) knew we could get more from her, so asked a simple question: “will this streak of close losses break your team?” That’s when we got out killer quote.

So, the lesson is, push for the quote. This is simply achieved by listening to the answers, without letting your mind wander to the next question before the first is answered. Doing this will allow you to read the interviewee to know when/if they are on the cusp of saying something quotable. And, do your research and know your subject. We knew this athlete was a passionate player and would be hurting from the loss, so we knew that we could get a more emotional, less generic, response from her if we asked the right question.

Interviewing the charming Sharni Layton in one of her last games of professional netball. Clearly I hadn't found my comfortable stance yet. Photo courtesy of Marcela Massey, Netball Scoop
  • Watch what is happening behind play

This is something which I picked up late in the season after a particularly heated exchange between two athletes. Something happened on court when they struggled for the ball, but then when the ball returned down the other end, the mental battle between the subjects continued. It made for an interesting inclusion in my report and was something which readers weren’t going to know about if they were watching the game on T.V.

Also, watch what happens when games are paused, either in breaks or time-outs. The body language, or discussions between players, officials and coaches makes for interesting storytelling as well.

So many lessons for a three-month stint as a match reporter, and it isn’t over yet: I still have the international game on 9 October to come and, hopefully, many more years of writing the Super Netball reports for Netball Scoop.

You can read my Suncorp Super Netball match reports on Netball Scoop.

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