So You Wanna be a Sports Writer

By Jessi Pierce

01/18/17

Maybe you grew up an athlete. Maybe you were a football/basketball/baseball/hockey fanatic. Maybe sports have been so engrained in your life that you can’t help but want to pursue a career in the sports industry.

It sounds cool. It sounds fun … It’s also A LOT of work.

Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond grateful to have a career where every day I get to watch, talk and write about sports (hockey, specifically). And while I often hear that I am so “lucky,” I know that I have created a career in the sports world thanks to a lot of hard work (and of course a little bit of luck and good timing).

So, before you decide it’s all fun and games to be a part of “the games,” here are a few pointers you should know before choosing a career in sports writing:

  1. No cheering in the press box
    It really is Rule #1 in sports journalism. While you’re in the press box, behave in the most professional manner. That can of course be challenging while covering your favorite team. It’s normal to get energized and excited—that’s even encouraged in order to bring out some of the best color in your writing. But there’s a difference in the excitement over a great play and blatantly cheering for your hometown squad. As a writer, your job is to be unbiased. Keep your enthusiasm in check and learn to silently cheer to yourself. And remember—always leave the foam finger at home.
  1. Fall in love with stats, history and research
    This is one of my favorite parts of sports writing. I love reading every article I can get my hands (or mouse) on. As a sports writer, you want to be current on records, background information on the teams and their players, and any other interesting storylines. For instance, if a hockey player is from Indiana, knowing that Indiana is a basketball state could lead to questions about how he or she got into hockey over basketball, or what it’s like to be from the “Hoosier State,” etc. … you get the idea!

  1. It takes time and hard work
    When I entered my freshman year of college, I immediately joined my university’s newspaper. I wrote for the Iowa State Daily, covering what seemed like every sport imaginable, learning as I went along. I did that while working in video production at the athletics department and as head of media relations of for the Iowa State Cyclones men’s hockey team. After, I found an internship with Fox Sports North, followed by USA Hockey Magazine. Then I took a job writing features for the Brainerd Dispatch, but always looked for ways to incorporate sports into my articles about city council meetings or school board decisions.

It wasn’t until six years after college that I landed my dream job. I never gave up, and never expected success to fall into my lap.

It’s tough to break into sports, and it’s good to know that it takes a lot of work to do it. But if you’re willing to put that work in, eventually, something will pan out. Be patient. Keep at it.

If it’s something you want bad enough, the work won’t really seem like work at all.