Sports writing can take the form of a news piece that reports on a recent game or a feature article that profiles a team or player. By appealing to both sports fans and other readers, sports articles capture emotions and action through interviews and descriptions while also presenting objective statistics about the subject. Regardless of the topic, good sports writing combines strong research with vivid detail to bring the personalities and drama of athletics to life.
Craft an Eyecatching Opening
Your lead paragraph should grab the audience's attention and reveal the article's genre to readers. If you're writing a feature article about a team or player, you might open with a sentence that reveals something about the subject's accomplishments or personality. For example, you can give a physical description of the person, use a quote from the coach or player or paint a picture of what it's like to watch the team play. By contrast, a news article about a sporting event might use the inverted pyramid structure, where the piece opens by telling readers who won the game, then gives highlights and details in subsequent paragraphs.
Find the Story
While the majority of your readers probably will be sports fans, a good sports article offers a human interest link that will draw in other readers as well. Look for a narrative that will appeal to readers' emotions. If the team you're profiling is experiencing their first season after the loss of a star player, for example, the story might be how they're forging a new identity for themselves. Similarly, a news article about a game might use vivid detail to describe the most significant moments. Although readers may know key pieces of information, such as who won and why the star player left, clear description and emotion will nonetheless hook readers' interests.
Use Direct Quotes
Some of the most important research you'll do for your sports article will be the interviews you conduct with the players and coaches. Poignant, well-placed quotes from a variety of sources can create a fuller, richer portrait of the team and illustrate their personalities for readers. To gain specific, detailed responses rather than brief answers, ask your subject questions that begin or end with "why," such as why the coach called a particular play, or why he believes his team is better than last season. Building trust and rapport with your interview subjects also is vital to gaining honest responses. Try holding the interview in a quiet place where you can have a one-on-one conversation rather than around other players or coaches.
Using cliche expressions instead of original, vivid language can drain a powerful sports story of its energy and lose readers' interests. Rather than resorting to tired expressions like "gave it their all, "blazing speed" and words like "athleticism," come up with fresh ways to showcase the team's perseverance and skill. The use of certain verbs also can be cliche in sports writing, such as "slam-dunk" for basketball and "scored" for soccer. Instead of using the action words readers expect, bring new life to your piece by finding verbs that vividly capture the game's activity.
While audiences read sports articles for the inside story behind a game or the details of a player's life, they'll also expect concrete data about their favorite teams' scores and records. If you're writing a feature article about a soccer player, for example, you'll want to present the average number of goals he scores per game, while a recap of a track meet might include the winners as well as their racing times. At the same time, avoid using complex jargon related to a particular sport that might confuse readers who aren't well-versed in its vocabulary. Be as specific as possible while still making the information accessible to all readers.