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How To Break Into Sports Writing

Millennial Magazine - sports writing

Are you looking to break into sports writing? It is the dream of many sports fans to earn money writing about sports, but it can also be daunting and hard to know how to break into this industry. The good news is that it is easier than ever to gain experience due to the internet and there being so many online publications, but it is also fiercely competitive, and it is hard to get noticed and secure paid work. With this in mind, read on for the best ways to break into sports writing which will hopefully help you to get ahead and enjoy all the benefits that this line of work can bring.

Earn A Sports Journalism Degree Online

If you are serious about a career in sports writing, then a sports journalism degree online is an essential step to take. A sports journalism degree online will teach you all the skills needed to create engaging sports content for the news media and modern audiences. In addition to traditional journalism, a sports journalism degree online will also teach a variety of digital competencies that will allow you to stand out from the crowd and compete in today’s 24/7 news cycle. A sports journalism degree online will be a great addition to your resume when approaching companies and will help you to secure the top jobs while also building your confidence.

Start Your Own Blog

When first starting out, the best way to build experience is simply to start your own blog. Much like most other fields, practice is the most important step when starting out and your own blog will give you the freedom to practice as much as possible with no limitations. With your sports journalism degree online, you should be able to see your progression as a journalist and alter your writing to become more professional and engaging. You can start out by writing match reports, opinion pieces, previews and any other content.You can also cover any kind of sport, league or team that you wish. This blog will then act as a portfolio and help you to show what your abilities are when you start to approach different publications and organizations looking for freelance work or employment.

Approach Local Papers

Once you have some examples of work and you have earned a sports journalism degree online, the logical step to take will be to start approaching local papers and other publications in your local area looking for experience. You should take any kind of experience that you can get at this stage, even if it involves covering a minor local sporting event. This experience will teach key skills in the business side of sports writing, as well as help you to start making connections in the industry (this is hugely important in a field like sports journalism).

Contact Sports Websites

As mentioned in the intro, one of the major upsides of sports writing in today’s internet-driven age is that there are so many sports blogs, websites and organizations online. This means that it is much easier to get experience and to gain exposure within the field, so you should contact as many sports websites as possible and try to gain some experience. It is obviously ideal if this is paid, but even some unpaid experience can be useful in terms of developing your skills, getting exposure and learning how the industry works. It is best to be proactive when contacting these websites, which might involve pitching ideas to them or showcasing the work that you have so far. Crucially, try to think about the target audience of the website as every website will be slightly different and use a different style – you should learn these skills on your sports journalism degree online.

Cover Less Popular & Amateur Sports

It is also helpful if you have a niche and are able to provide content for less popular and amateur sports. Every writer wants to cover the NFL, MLB and NBA, so if you can cover less popular sports (as well as the major ones) then you are much more likely to find experience and opportunities. You should also look into the sports that are popular around the globe and rising in popularity, such as esports, mixed martial arts, women’s sports and lacrosse. It is also smart to be able to cover amateur sports as there will be fewer writers that are capable of this.

Learn How To Pitch

You could be a great sports writer with a sports journalism degree online, expert knowledge and interesting ideas, but if you cannot pitch with confidence then it will be very hard to gain any kind of experience in sports writing. Editors receive pitches every single day, so you need to find ways to make your pitches stand out and to get editors to take a chance on your stories. This will involve having self-belief, being passionate about your work, finding unique angles, using stats, storytelling and communicating efficiently. Much like an elevator pitch, you need to be able to quickly and succinctly communicate your ideas and show why it would be a successful story.

Find Unique Angles

Following on from this, you need to find unique angles when it comes to sportswriting. People often have the same ideas for a story, but if you are able to see it from a different viewpoint, tell a human story with emotion and think about the bigger picture then you are much more likely to find success. Sports writing is much more than just informing people about what happens during a match and it has the ability to inspire, engage, entertain and shock and you need to find ways to bring these emotions to your stories. Your sports journalism degree online is a great place to start practicing this skill – you are able to take risks where the consequences are limited.

Network

As in most industries, networking is incredibly important when it comes to sports writing. Developing a large professional network will improve your professional reputation, open new doors and allow you to find success with your stories. When you have positive relationships with people in the sports industry, you are much more likely to get breaking stories, key interviews and the inside scoop before anyone else. Speed is vital in sports writing as you need to be able to bring the story out as quickly as possible otherwise people will already have found out the information and will not be likely to read it twice. If you have a large and solid network within the industry you are more likely to get your stories. Your sports journalism degree online is a good place to start building a network – you can use the alumni network to contact people or simply use it to practice your social skills.

Maintain Positive Relationships

Following this point, you also need to maintain positive relationships in sports writing in addition to building a large professional network. Journalists are not always sports figures’ best friends and it is easy to see why when you see so many acting unprofessionally, being invasive and acting without integrity. This is why, as a sports writer, you should always try to maintain positive relationships, act with integrity and develop a positive professional reputation – this will help you to get ahead, get access and find new opportunities.

Share Your Work On Social Media

Social media can also be a great tool for a sports writer, especially when they are first starting out. You should be sharing your work on social media in order to get your work out there, to make connections and to get used to having your work read by the public. While social media can be a brilliant platform, there is also a dark side to it and once your work is being read by large numbers of people, it is inevitable that some will be negative and even insulting (this is something that many athletes are experiencing right now). People can be incredibly passionate about sports, but the key is to not obsess over comments and to only listen to feedback from the people that you respect.

Be Responsive To Feedback

While you should not spend time looking at every comment on social media, as any kind of writer, you do need to be responsive to feedback. You need to be able to build positive relationships with editors and take their comments, ideas and even complaints onboard. Sportswriting usually requires editing and fine-tuning, so you need to get used to receiving constructive criticism and be willing to take this onboard. The writers that find work are the ones that have flexibility and are willing to make changes without complaining.

Learn From Established Writers

Sportswriting has a long and rich history and there is a huge amount that you can learn by reading the work from famous sports writers as well as your peers. It can be smart and insightful to read work from writers covering the same stories as you; it might give you inspiration, allow you to see subjects from different viewpoints and possibly help you to find a gap in the market. Reading is a huge part of any kind of writing job, so you need to make sure that you are consuming as much content as possible, particularly when it comes to those that you admire and look up to.

Show Passion & Knowledge

Great sports writing is a combination of writing skill, passion and knowledge. It is hard to succeed without any of these attributes, so you need to be able to showcase your passion for sports with the language that you use. You also need a deep understanding of all the elements attached to sport and its wider impact on society. One of the primary roles of a sportswriter is to educate, so you need to have a high level of knowledge when it comes to multiple different sports.

Use A Variety Of Media

An important way to bring your stories to life and to engage with your readers is to use a variety of media. In today’s day and age, not many sports fans want to read a 3,000-word article on a sports match with no other media. Photography, video, infographics and podcasts can all be used to engage today’s reader. These are skills that can be developed with a sports journalism degree online and will help your stories to impress publishers and stand out from the crowd.

Market Yourself

You also need to be able to market yourself as a sportswriter. These days, sportswriters can be highly influential and many sports fans seek out work by particular writers that they enjoy. This means that you also need to be able to showcase your personality, develop a positive reputation with your readers and engage with people. You need to be confident and charismatic without coming across as arrogant. Be someone that is known to be reliable, honest and professional in their work.

Learn As You Go

Sportswriting is a learning process and you need to be able to learn from your experiences, especially when starting out. There are sure to be mistakes along the way and things that you could have done differently, but this should not knock your confidence and instead you need to be able to pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes and not dwell on them.

Look After Your Mental Health

When embarking on a career as a sportswriter, you also need to know how to look after your mental health. While there are certainly many perks to this type of work, it can also be incredibly stressful and demanding. You will often find yourself working on multiple pieces at once, working to tight deadlines, working antisocial hours and traveling along with the stress of putting your creative work out into the world. This can all lead to a significant amount of stress and burnout, so you need to prioritize your mental health by making time for yourself, enjoying your free time, leading a healthy lifestyle and finding ways to reduce stress.

Hopefully, the information in this post will help you to break into sportswriting and enjoy all the benefits that this line of work can bring. It can be hard to get your foot in the door when there are so many writers out there, but those that are serious about sports journalism and want to make a career out of it can find ways to stand out from the crowd and find good work opportunities. A sports journalism degree online is one of the most effective ways to do this, but you also need to know how to go about approaching publications, finding ways to make your stories stand out and market yourself.

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Written by Hannah Whittenly

Hannah Whittenly is a freelance writer and mother of two from Sacramento, CA. She graduated from the University of California-Sacramento with a degree in Journalism.

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